Dolls - A toy, an artifact for every generation

Toys are an essential part of the development of children and these are designed for engaging and entertaining the kids. Among these, some toys have been played with, for many centuries and passed on from one generation to another. One of the oldest toys in history, which goes back to the 21st century BC is- Dolls! Made from easily available materials like clay, wood, fur, and cloth, they replicate human and animal forms.

The earliest toys for children were made from materials found in nature, such as rocks, sticks, and clay. Thousands of years ago, Egyptian children played with dolls with wigs and movable limbs which were made from stone, pottery, and wood.

In Ancient civilizations like Greece, children played with dolls made of wax or terra cotta, sticks, bows and arrows, and yo-yos. When Greek children came of age it was customary for them to sacrifice the toys of their childhood to the gods.

From being mere playthings to being used in religious traditions, dolls have been people's companions from time immemorial, and it is still rare for children to grow up without owning or wanting to own a doll. 

This highlights the universal appeal dolls have across cultures and time and it is for a reason. 

Skill development through dolls

Dolls are some of the oldest toys that children have ever played with. From Baby dolls made with soft material, Wooden dolls, Fashion dolls, Paper dolls, Action figures, and Traditional dolls, the list is endless. It's no wonder dolls have been for so long considering dolls can provide a great opportunity for child development.

Social skills

Playing with dolls can provide a safe space for children to explore and experiment with different ways of expressing themselves and interacting with others. Dolls provide an environment for kids to improve their language and social skills which are essential in a child’s early developmental years. Playing with dolls and stuffed animals helps children become socially aware of many situations and to be kind towards others. By taking care of a doll, they learn how to take care of each other.


Dolls can be a helpful tool for children to improve their emotional skills because they allow children to act out different scenarios and emotions. By playing with dolls, children can learn to identify and express their own emotions, as well as empathize with others. This can be especially beneficial for children who have difficulty understanding and managing their emotions.

When they are playing with a doll, they learn to take ownership of their actions. Like if they are mean to the doll, the doll will be upset and they have to make amends to make them happy again. This teaches them about the consequences of mean behavior and encourages them to be emotionally intelligent.


Along with improving social skills, playing with dolls makes kids more responsible as they take care of the doll, like feeding them, changing, and dressing the doll, as well as making sure the doll is safe and healthy. Caring for a doll can teach a child about the importance of taking care of others and providing for their needs. Playing with dolls can help children develop important life skills, such as problem-solving and decision-making, which can help them be more responsible in their everyday lives.

Language and Imagination

Acting out different scenarios with their dolls and friends, help them improve their creativity and imagination. Playing with dolls gives them an environment to explore their imagination and dive into a world made out of their creativity and imagination. Pretend play with dolls is an essential skill that enriches their world of creativity.

Communicating with the doll improves their vocabulary and makes them equipped with language skills that go a long way in their growth and education. Talking to other children lets them get to know about routines that are different from theirs and explore new ways to express and interact.

Other than play

Waldorf dolls- Education and creativity

Dolls are of many different types made of clay or plastic or wood or cloth. Out of these, certain types of dolls are designed following the Waldorf methodology which are generally made from natural materials and are designed with minimal or no expressions allowing the child to explore their emotions. Many Waldorf schools include these dolls in their curriculum as they are thought to be beneficial and enriching toys for children, promoting imaginative play, fine motor skill development, self-expression, and sustainable practices.


Doll Museums- Along with being amazing play companions, Dolls also are cherished as beautiful collectibles by many all around the world. The Shankar's International Dolls Museum in New Delhi is one of the most renowned museums which has a huge collection of dolls from across the globe. The renowned political cartoonist, K. Shankar Pillai (1902–1989) founded this museum in 1965 with thousands of dolls depicting different cultures, traditions, attires, and ornaments.

The Tradition of Golu Dolls

There is the tradition of 'golu', the festive display of dolls and figurines on a steps-like set-up, in South India during the Navratri festival which depicts scenes from ancient times - celebrated Indian stories like the Ramayana, Puranas, and the Dashavataram. The steps may also be interpreted as the evolution ladder that we are all traversing in the journey of life.

These displays are typically thematic, narrating a legend, weddings, everyday scenes, and miniature kitchen utensils or simply enacting a scene from everyday life. These displays are great conversation starters for families visiting each other in the festive season to socialize.

Worry Dolls

Worry Dolls are small, mostly hand-made dolls that originate from the highland indigenous people of Guatemala and these dolls have a legend associated with them. 

The sun god gave a Mayan princess a gift — the ability to solve any problem. Kids can whisper their fears or worries to the dolls and put them under their pillows at night. The dolls either take the worries away or give the child courage to face the problem. In any case, the child can move forward refreshed the next day. Worry dolls have also played a role in modern pediatrics and child psychiatry.

The Most Expensive Dollhouse

On one hand, there are simple dolls made from easily available materials and then there is Astolat Castle, which is the most valuable dollhouse in the world, with an estimated value of $8.5 million with as many as 10,000 miniature items. The 29-room "Astolat Dollhouse Castle" was constructed over a period of 13 years (between 1974 and 1987) by American artist Elaine Diehl.

In summary:

In some cultures, toys are used as a way to enhance a child's skill set within the traditional boundaries of their future roles in the community. The value is placed on a realistic version of development in preparing a child for the future they are likely to grow up into. This allows the child to imagine and create a personal interpretation of how they view the adult world.

However, in other cultures, toys are used to expand the development of a child's cognition in an idealistic fashion. These toys give way to a unique world in which children's play is isolated and independent of the social constraints placed on society leaving the children free to delve into the imaginary and idealized version of what their development in life could be.

While the gender bias promotes dolls only as a girl's toy, it is equally necessary for boys to play with dolls for their social and emotional growth given the huge no. of benefits a doll provides for child development. When parents wish to provide everything beneficial for their child's skill development, they have to be conscious enough to not label a toy just for "any specific gender" and deprive them of the opportunity to excel in all stages of their life.

The purpose, tradition, shapes, and types may differ but Dolls have always been around for a long time because of their educational value, their popularity among children as a toy, and as collectibles for their nostalgic value, beauty, historical importance, or financial value. 

These gender-neutral toys are a representation of the child themselves and allow a child to gain a greater understanding of themselves as well as those around them.

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