Playing with dolls develops children’s empathy

Doll and empathy

Barbie and a team of neuroscientists from Cardiff University have published the latest results from a multi-year study investigating the short- and long-term impact of doll play on children’s development and development of empathy.

During the second year of the study, the researchers studied the words of children playing alone with dolls. They found that children use a language full of thoughts and feelings.

This research showed that children talked more about the thoughts and feelings of others, a concept known as an angel internal status, the fact of talking about oneself, but also about the state of the other. This research showed that this language was stronger when playing with dolls than with games on a digital tablet.

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Social skills

Talking about the internal states of others allows children to practice social skills they can use when interacting with people in the real world. These skills can potentially be useful for children’s general emotional development.

When children create imaginary worlds and play with dolls, they first communicate out loud. They then internalize the message about other people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. That’s what the researchers found in this study from July 2021. Enough to create long-term positive effects on children. These skills will then increase what is called an emotional quotient and the empathy that comes with it.

Doll and brain activity

By observing the babies, the researchers found increased brain activity in the posterior superior temporal sulcus region when they talked as if their dolls had thoughts and feelings. This brain region is heavily involved in the development of social and emotional processing skills. This confirms the conclusions of the first year’s study, which is that even when children play alone with dolls, they can help develop vital social skills, such as empathy.

To measure this brain activity, no, be sure there was no trepanation. The study used functional spectroscopy equipment similar to infrared to measure brain activation while the children played with dolls and on tablets, alone or with another person. The researchers found that playing with dolls, compared to tablet games, elicited more internal state language. And the use of this internal state language was associated with greater activation of the famous posterior superior temporal sulcus.

Internal language and empathy

Internal state languages ​​may indicate that a child is invested in the thoughts and feelings of others while playing with dolls. These skills are really important for interacting with other people, learning from others and navigating a variety of social situations. An important activity for creating and maintaining friendships. But also to promote their learning at school and with their parents.

We won’t hide it. Empathy and social skills are essentialas children continue to grow emotionally, academically and socially.

In 2020, Barbie, yes, the famous doll, necessarily commissioned an independent global survey in 22 countries with 15,000 parents of children aged 3 to 10 years. The results suggest this 91% of parents consider empathy a basic social skill that they want their child to develop. Yet only 26% knew that playing with dolls could help their child develop these crucial skills.

An important role in the child’s development

Truly educational support, the doll allows the child to express his feelings, to take a step back from a situation, to enrich his language, to confirm his personality, but also to develop his motor skills. ” The child repeats his daily life or events from a different point of view: he may put himself in the place of the parent who comforts or scolds in order to better understand the situation or to better ‘digest’ it. The doll or soft toy, when the child does not feel authorized to play with a doll, represents the child. Let’s talk about the cathartic effect, as catharsis is an outlet for tension. More simply, the child expresses feelings, takes a step back from a situation to understand it better, but above all he has made it develop as he sees fit: He decides to give his child fries or soup. The child has the power and that is what he likes “.

In addition to play, dolls allow children to discover the world in a different way and develop their fine motor skills.

The doll: also for the little ones

Just like girlsto Boys likes to feed, wash, walk… a doll from an early age. Development experts also believe that a variety of experiences should be offered to the child, without pressure for stereotypical behavior in relation to their gender. But for boys, does playing with dolls offer the same developmental benefits as girls? Yes, of course, because” all children, girls and boys, need to put themselves in the place of adults (father, mother, nanny …), to have the power, to relive their everyday life from a different point of view to make it develop according to their wish . and his imagination “. Regarding the concern that some early childhood professionals may have in front of a little boy playing with a doll, the psychologist wants to be reassuring ” there is absolutely nothing to worry about, in fact it is very healthy. In kindergartens, girls and boys play with children, it is the image of the game in our contemporary society that defines it as a “girl’s game”. It is advisable to let the child play and to reassure the parents if they ask”.

The importance of props for symbolic play

Pram, baby carrier, clothes, changing pad… The many accessories that come with the doll are important because they enrich the child’s play. The latter thus has the feeling of imitating “the greats” as faithfully as possible. But when can we introduce this or that accessory? ” The first baby doll that we offer the child must e.g. can be connected to a cot. The young player, who still has predominantly sensorimotor intelligence, will be able to put the doll in the cradle, take it out, turn over objects … For the older ones, accessories suggest roles or events, the player then deepens his game and remains in played longer. For example, a doll with a dinette invites the player to feed or wash dishes. We can provide some duplicate accessories for children to imitate each other. It is necessary to make sure that the accessories and furniture are of suitable size and of good quality: it is not easy to play with a kitchen that is too small, in front of which you have to kneel, or if the oven door keeps on fall down. “.

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