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Doll play and children’s development

We can’t shout enough about the many developmental benefits of doll play! When your little one is playing with their Baby Annabell, take a minute to really watch what’s playing out in front of you. You’re witness to their young mind’s acting out what they understand of the world so far, of your relationship with them. They’re learning how to feel empathy and beginning to piece together an understanding of how people interact. This type of play is so much more than simply ‘fun’ – it’s helping to lay the foundation of the people they’ll become.

Let’s ask the expert

As part of our latest campaign, we’ve teamed up with some of the country’s leading children’s toy, feeding and play experts to offer support and advice as we spend more time at home with our little ones. Play and development expert Danielle Manton-Kelly was first up in our ‘Ask the Experts’ campaign – a series of Q&A sessions hosted on Baby Annabell’s Instagram Stories. Danielle, a childcare practitioner with more than 16 years’ experience and a fully qualified teacher, runs The Enchanted Nanny and supports children in their education and families in their ‘playtime’.

Mum of three (almost four) Danielle is a huge advocate of doll play in children of all ages. She explains: “When a toddler is presented with a doll, often instinctively they will hold their arms out, rock the doll and coo softly. They are mimicking behaviour they’ve seen displayed by those around them. Already at a young age, they’ve observed the behaviour of people when faced with a baby, processed it and acted it out in their play – further stretching their understanding by replicating what they see, and embedding their own nurturing attributes.”

Danielle remembers her own relationship with dolls and reflects on just how much of her development was sculpted by her love of dolls. She recalls: “There was one in particular – my Baby Annabell. I was six when I received her – my favourite ever gift from Santa. “Decades later she still holds a special place in my heart, and my children’s. The responsibility I felt towards her and the way I learned to care for her as though she was real, not only shaped me as a mother but also guided me towards my career as a childcare practitioner. It’s a career that has travelled through 16 years (and counting).”

Developing an understanding of the world

As children immerse themselves in doll play, they’re developing social skills and learning how to interact. They’re learning about cooperation and problem solving and they begin to process cause and effect.

“The Baby Annabell range not only holds a place within real world role play, it extends and develops the huge developmental impact of doll play,” Danielle explains. “The cause and effect nature of these stunning dolls deepens children’s understanding of real babies within their play. My favourite example is the way Baby Annabell senses movement. When she cries, a simple rock or cuddle will quickly calm her. My girls (aged four and seven) when playing with her realised quickly that Baby Annabell has needs, and that meeting them would settle her.

“In my four year old, this has already had a huge impact in the way that she processes empathy. Quite simply put, playing with Baby Annabell has helped my youngest daughter to understand that her actions have consequences that can impact how others feel – a hugely abstract concept and a giant leap in her development.”

Dolls play a big role in empowering children to imagine all kinds of scenarios – some based on re-enactment of real-life occurrences and conversations and some so far-fetched they astound us. But this fantastic play is actually shaping the person your little one will become and laying the foundations for their successes in later life. Next time, listen a little harder to their play…

If you missed Danielle’s Q&A, you can catch up over on our highlights on Instagram and get her top tips for encouraging play. Alternatively, discover more about the benefits of doll play in young children.