A Change Of Heart About Dolls

Confession time.

I have a hard time admitting this as a toy store owner, but until recently I didn’t truly get dolls.

I remember loving dolls as a kid, and yearning for Barbie and Cabbage Patch Kid dolls.

But as I got older, I became suspicious of dolls. What lessons do they teach? Do they reinforce traditional gender norms? Why aren’t there more diverse dolls available? Are they just a vehicle for manufacturers to sell doll accessories? Why don’t more boys play with dolls?

When we opened Ruckus & Glee, initially my co-owner and I agreed on one thing: NO DOLLS.

That’s right, no dolls in a toy store (even though we had many goofy plush items and puppets…somehow we missed the irony at the time).

All this changed recently as a result of attending a conference and hearing Phil Wrzesinski speak passionately about the value of dolls.

He essentially said that dolls are creative tools that only come alive when there is a child to animate them. Dolls require a child to create an imaginary world, to populate the imaginary world with characters, and to build a story. These stories relate everyday life, and they relate conflict and resolution.

The voice, name, and character of a doll come right from a kid’s heart.

Cue our Homer Simpson “Doh!” moment when it finally dawns on us that dolls have immense play value. Perhaps equal only to blocks and other completely open-ended toys.

Dolls help kids be social, work out their hopes and sadnesses, and figure out this thing called human interaction. Dolls allow kids to be kingdom-makers, authors of their own stories, and important characters in the stories of others. That’s why kids love their dolls and yearn for dolls.

To conclude, we get it now. We have dolls on our shelves at the store. They have worked their way into our hearts. And we hope they, or other dolls, work their way into your hearts, too, and the hearts of your kids.

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