Post written in partnership with Barbie®
Let’s face it: It’s really hard to limit our kids’ screen time these days. From remote learning, apps, and an endless stream of new TV shows, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens. While some screen use is certainly necessary from an educational and entertainment standpoint, taking play offline, specifically playing with dolls, like Barbie®, has been shown to have scientific benefits for childhood development that you can’t get from looking at a screen. Barbie and neuroscientists from Cardiff University have collaborated on a new study that shows how doll play activates brain regions that allow kids to develop social skills like empathy, indicating that doll play enables children to rehearse, use and perform these skills. Additionally, the findings also show that doll play allows children to develop empathy and social processing skills more so than solo tablet play, even when playing by themselves. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why doll play beats the screen when it comes to your child’s development. Oh, and you know, keeping your own sanity because that’s important too.
Doll Play Helps Develop Conflict Resolution Skills
You may have noticed that with everyone home all the time, things can sometimes get a bit testy. Shows and games can provide a welcome distraction, but in most cases, they don’t teach us much. However, by playing with dolls like Barbie, kids can develop empathy that serves them not only in these uncertain times, but also helps to set them up for future success as they grow and develop in life. For example, if your child isn’t getting along with one of their siblings, they can use dolls to role-play and figure out a fun, playful way to work out their problems. So when Mom and Dad don’t have the bandwidth to settle another dispute, see if Barbie dolls can help your kids come to an agreement through the power of play!
Dolls Help Kids Feel Connected
Recess and playdates have certainly taken on a different form in 2020 and for kids that can be a major bummer. When your kid is feeling isolated, the whole family feels the strain. Barbie dolls can be a great tool to replicate real-world play patterns when the option of doing it in-person isn’t always on the table. According to Dr. Sarah Gerson, the neuroscientist who led the study at Cardiff University, “This play allows them to think about how their friend could be feeling (perhaps sad they can’t see each other) and how they might react (comforting that friend).” In the age of social distancing, Barbie dolls can help kids develop key skills they could be missing out on.
Dolls Can Give Parents A Welcome Break Too!
Who said kids should have all the fun? Parenting is a constant juggling act these days, and sometimes you just need to feel like a kid again. When you’re sick of virtual meetings and tired of having your work face on all day, take a play break with your little one. Get down on the floor, get creative, and let your imagination run free! Doll play is an especially fun way for parents and kids to bond because so much of it is created by the two of you in the moment: You and your kid can steer the session towards the interests and inside jokes that are most important to the two of you.
Did Somebody Say No Buttons and Passwords?
Even with parental controls, there’s no surefire way to make sure your screens are totally kid-proof. Doll play, however, is totally offline and carries no risk of your child ordering 100 packs of crayons with the click of a button. Your credit score will certainly be happy. Seriously though, by playing with Barbie dolls, young ones can unplug and let their inner kid run wild as they activate the regions in their developing minds that develop empathy.
Dolls Give Us A Look Inside Our Child’s Mind
The brain region related to empathy development is even activated when kids play with dolls by themselves, so encourage kids to play solo too! When kids play by themselves, they often voice different characters in role-play scenarios. We’re not saying you should spy on your kids, but listen in a little bit and see what kinds of things they like (or dislike) when their mind roams free with Barbie dolls. Staring at a screen is a passive activity, but doll play is the opposite. It can give parents valuable insight into the minds of their kids.
Whether it’s working on more serious matters like conflict resolution or just taking a play break yourself, doll play carries numerous benefits that you can’t get when the screen is shining bright in your kid’s face. By playing with Barbie dolls, kids can become even more empathetic than previous generations and that might just be the biggest benefit of all.
You can check out more findings from the Cardiff University and Barbie study here.
Study was commissioned by Barbie (2020). Study was conducted with 42 children (20 boys and 22 girls) ages 4-8 years old with full data captured from 33 children.