3 Reasons Children benefit from playing with dolls throughout their childhood.

Which one would you choose?

I have been part of an engaging discussion recently in which we were talking about children’s play, and more specifically play with dolls.

There are many more than 3 reasons why children benefit from playing with dolls and that it should not stop because school starts.

Doll play helps children to learn nurturing skills such as recognising empathy towards others. By considering routines such as feeding and sleeping it allows a child to learn that every individual has specific needs and wants beyond their own.

Playing with dolls can increase language and communication skills and develops children’s imagination and creativity. Assuming the roles of both ‘baby’ and ‘parent’ children work out the intricacies and nuances of communication ; and perhaps most importantly that it is a two way exchange.

Role play also invites opportunities for learning about personal self regulation and comfort. Playing with dolls in the years beyond preschool may encourage children to work out some of the ‘issues’ they may be facing in the class room or school yard without the fear of confrontation or rejection in safety, so that when they do return to they may feel more empowered to manage those relationships with more ease.

It may not be a doll in particular that children play with, but any toy that helps them to feel secure and connected to themselves. The familiarity of toys can allow children to feel that they have a friend who will always support them, whilst they learn to give this to themselves as they emotionally mature, and may continue to develop in their relationships with others.

Why is play and creativity considered to be juvenile?

A couple of times recently I have heard play referred to as juvenile and/or childish, which to me brings up a slightly negative connotation; now that is not how I think it should be though.

I recall that a cutting remark as a child is to be called a baby, which as a primary aged school child is one of the highest insults you could give or get….

Why is something SO valuable to human development portrayed as something small or insignificant?

I would like to challenge this notion because


Without play, there would not be invention, discovery or problem solving – nor the magical connections that are made between people, young or old when they happen..

blue jeans
Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

When did you last post a letter?

I am asking because I am an advocate for ‘old school learning’ whilst living in a modern world. Don’t get me wrong, because without the ease the digital age brings us, I am such a fan of the written word.

I think that handwriting tells the reader a lot about the author’s unique personality and style.

Cursive or print, all words upper case or a mix of the two, cramped, tiny, large, slanted, messy or neat it is a wonder to me how our feelings and thoughts transpire from our minds to the page in their own way.

Hand written notes can take us back to previous times and places in our memories and make us feel special when the words are meant to be shared between writer and reader, evoking a range of emotions.

Perhaps it is because I enjoy receiving handwritten notes and messages to decode by young children (at a stage of emerging mark making) that is given meaning by them that it is so special to me.

Maybe because it is that it opens up a new world of communication for children that I enjoy it so much…whatever it is – it is a joy to be a part of!

Today I was part of an excursion in which we walked to the post box to send a letter to ourselves and to understand the process the letter takes through the mail to children who may never in their young lives received from a loved one which was addressed to them. Since I recall the pleasure of writing and receiving letters as a child it is something I see much value in, which encourages time to slow down, just for a little while, to enjoy the rest of life around us.

pile of envelopes
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com


The power of connection

Like it or loathe it, Australian (Aussie rules) Rules football is here to stay. Another season has ended with the Tigers defeating the Giants for the year just three days ago. In the interests of an unbiased view, I should declare now that I have been a Richmond supporter all my life. Not a die hard fan, but nevertheless I was born into a Tiger family.

Winning the second premiership inside of two years was just unthinkable a few years back. The laughing stock and at the bottom of the ladder, it was often easier not to discuss footy teams at all given the ribbing fans would cop.

Everyone has an opinion of a player, a team or a coach, but one thing certainly unites us as people collectively, and that is connection. Stadiums fill to the brim and the roar of support and heart is ear splitting as thousands of people unite in their passion for music, sport or live theatre.

The power of connection unites us all - Jo Harris Play Specialist

It seems we all want to belong somewhere or to someone whether it is driven by sport or not. It’s what makes us human and without it we would not survive. The draw card for the moment at the gallery is an exhibition by American artist KAWS, (Cause) aka Brian Donelly who uses art combined with pop culture icons to reflect the perils of modern living and the associated disconnection in an age of 24/7 modern living.

Incredibly it was reported that the gift shop merchandise assigned to the Exhibition was selling out faster than it was being stocked onto the shelves to keep up with the demand for it. I believe this encapsulates my belief that being part of an ideal, an artist’s dream, a player’s talent, a musician’s message moves us all to want to share it together to feel a sense of unity.




What is the difference between children’s friendships and adults?

A few weeks ago I was asked a genuine question by one of my very enthusiastic and vocal 4 year old students.  She had been closely observing my interactions with a co-worker and asked ” Are you two best friends?” You would not think that such a simple question would generate so much overthinking before replying…

Given that we are colleagues we have become good friends due to the very nature of the work we do, but I wanted to reply with an honest answer that did not take away anything from either of the two parties involved.

It got me thinking how children imagine and perceive the interactions of those people around them, and how important it is to be genuine and authentic with the queries children have.

The only way to have a friend is to be one - Ralph Waldo Emerson.jpg

However, it also got me thinking about the differences between children’s and adults friendships in general. Yes there are some obvious differences, but apart from that why should they be considered this way?

I suppose there is a level of formality that may exist in professional work relationships to those of many years and by deliberate choice that is opposite to the freedom children seem to have when learning who they have a connection with.

But isn’t the same true for children whose teachers may expect them to be friends with everyone? I absolutely see the sense in this way of thinking but with caution as it is a bit of an unfair standard to set that we all get along famously. Perhaps it is more realistic to consider granting a healthy level of respect for others knowing that not every one will last outside the year or group level.

It is okay to be able to draw a line to know that there are people who we have instant  connections with and then there are those who we don’t and may never have.

Instead of having expectations that might be too hard to achieve and apply undue pressure onto others, we can encourage children to be friends with themselves first.

This can have tremendous emotional benefits to all parties involved. Much of the conflict that is generated by children getting to know each other is to due in part to knowing who they are as a player so that they can teach others how they ‘work’.

With this is mind then children can have a greater sense of freedom to enjoy interacting with a range of people who they choose to spend time with and decide whats sort of friendship they want to have.

I feel this is similar to how adults can also get most enjoyment and quality out of who they choose to spend their time with – helping them become much better grounded individuals who have a diverse range of friends from all parts of our lives.

I am glad I was prompted with this question to which I responded to with an easy smile and sense of warmth: “Yes we are friends who like to make each other smile and laugh!”

We can be  quick to forget the pain and tears that we may have endured through our own childhood navigating the social highways. What a special gift to help children empower themselves to make their own choices and to be fortunate to have their world filled with other people who make the world go around!

My hope is that the children in my care feel free to know that there are lots of friendships possible with the many people they will encounter along the way. Some may be life long friends, others passing, but all important in one way or another to help solidify that friendship is really no different whatever your age and stage of life.