When I was working in foster care, I would make sure the children I was working with (male or female) had their own baby doll. I supported the foster carers to support the child’s play with the doll, allowing the child to play out his own experience as a young child, and offering gentle role modelling about how one should care for a baby.
Now I work in the community. At playgroup, it is the boys who clammer for the baby dolls and prams. They love home corner. Their mothers admit that they can’t get their boys a baby doll because their husbands fear it will make their sons gay. I suggest “they may be fathers themselves one day”.
I offer play in the expressive arts group I facilitate. Many boys enjoy home corner and the opportunity to play out family life. A few of the boys experiencing family violence or grief make a bee line for the dolls house where they can play out family dynamics. I have ordered another dolls house, because our only dolls house gets rather crowded and rowdy at times.
At home, my boys have always had a baby doll of their own to play with. They have a fantastic-plastic baby care centre where they can bathe and feed their babies. There is a kitchen. And they have a dolls house.
One of their friends commented “it’s weird for boys to have a dolls house”. I told him bluntly that there is no gender stereotyping in our house. He now plays with it more than my boys do.
My two eldest boys were playing at the dolls house the other day. There has been a lot of coverage on the television of the devastating floods hitting the east coast of Australia. The boys haven’t watched a lot of it, they know how much they can handle. This is how the play ended up (WARNING: may be distressing for some people)…
People and their posessions displaced. A policeman attends (bottom left corner). The boys included dragons in their play, dragons are affected by floods too.
Some people and a crocodile lay on the bottom floor of the house. A fork lift is on hand (heavy machines have been brought into the flood damaged areas to help clean up, but I don’t know if this is what the boys intended).
The entire scene.
I’ll leave the play scene for about a week, then see what the boys want to do with it. They may feel that they have finished with it. They may feel the need to clean it all away. We’ll see how it plays out.
“Play permits the child to resolve in symbolic form unsolved problems of the past and to cope directly or symbolically with present concerns. It is also his most significant tool for preparing himself for the future and its tasks.” Bruno Bettelheim, child psychologist