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If you're a millennial mom like me who grew up with a brother, I'll bet a hundred dollars in Monopoly play money that you heard this phrase at some point during your childhood. It was a different time back then, when playing with dolls (plus play kitchens and all things pink or polka dotted) was frowned upon when it came to our male counterparts. When all we wanted was our big bro to be the Huckleberry Finn to our Strawberry Shortcake, our brothers and best boy buds didn't always have the green light to play with dollies, easy bake ovens and tea sets. On the flip side, we girls could ride a Big Wheel and play with trains, as long as they were available in a pretty shade of pink.
Fast forward a few decades later and it's now the norm to see a Daddy with a baby strapped to his chest. Little Billy tending to his baby doll in public is too cool for preschool because we now know that playing with dolls is a crucial element in child development, for the boys as well as the girls. Pretend doll play benefits all areas of development, from the fine-motor skills that are enhanced by little fingers feeding, dressing and diapering to the nurturing socio-emotional skills that come from caring for them. Not to mention the cognitive, language and role-playing skills that receive an extra boost. Children learn through imitation. Why shouldn't boys today get a head start on good parenting while following our lead?
When I was eight months pregnant, I received a beautiful real life baby doll for my soon-to-be born daughter. Rather than keep this pretty baby packed away until my little girl was old enough to appreciate her, I handed her off to my two and half year old son to prepare him for siblinghood. Much to my surprise, he didn't poke her, permanent marker her face or put her head in the toilet. Instead, he picked up one of his spoons and pretended to feed her his yogurt.
In the remaining weeks of my pregnancy, it would melt my heart to see him cuddle her, read his old board books by her side and replace her little pink baby cap on her head because he'd suddenly declare with all certainty that Baby Carly was cold. Once his real baby sister arrived, Baby Carly was still part of his everyday toddler play rotation as he'd mimic me changing her, burping her and rocking her to sleep. I totally believe Baby C helped him become a sweeter, gentler, and more understanding big brother, all while earning me some free one on one time to cuddle and tend to my newborn while he was cuddling and tending to his. At the end of the play date we all just want our kids to be happy, and if playing with a baby doll makes my boy smile more than a matchbox car or a bucket of green army men, so be it. What do you think? Comment below!
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