Eleven Twelve Months Old
Give Every Young Child A Doll – A Second Self
Intelligence is limited, Imagination is limitless. Albert Einstein
You can make a doll for a child by folding up an old napkin, making two corners into legs, the other two corners into arms, a knot for the head, and painting eyes, nose and mouth with blots of ink (or often we do not draw on a face at all). Or else you can buy the child what they call a “pretty” doll, with synthetic hair and painted cheeks…If the child has before him the folded napkin, he has to fill in from his own imagination all that is needed to make it real and human. The brain unfolds as the muscles of the hand unfold, when they do the work for which they are fitted. Give the child the so-called pretty doll, and the brain has nothing to do.” Rudolph Steiner, The Education of a Child
Beginning in the first year of life an infant can be given a doll/a second self. It is recommended that it be made of soft natural material, handmade as described by Rudolph Steiner above. The corner knots offer comfort to the teething infant. We sometimes dip the knots in water or chamomile tea and even, on occasion, freeze them to then soothe sore gums.
For toddlers a soft bunting doll without legs is recommended. The dolls do not have any little removable parts, no buttons that can be sucked or bitten off or any hair that can be chewed and swallowed. The doll’s facial features are simply the eyes and mouth at an equilateral triangle distance from one another. These features are deliberately just a few simple stitches or small pencil marks to give the doll a neutral appearance. This undefined appearance will allow children to transfer emotions, experiences and details depending upon whether the child wants a sad, angry, healthy or ill “baby”. The children are not rushed beyond their age and developmental stage with detailed dolls. This rushes young children out of their dreamy early life, away from how the being is supposed to be developing and of course, discourages their imagination.
For young children ages 3-6 they become ready for the formed doll at this critical time for the development of lifelong creativity through free play and fantasy. The traditional doll will now have hair to style, clothes to change and a blanket. As before, the doll is made of natural fibers such as cotton, silk and wool which holds the comforting warmth from the child’s snuggle within as opposed to the cool of a commercially produced plastic dolls of unnatural dimension and form. An ideal doll would be handmade doll about 16-20 inches tall. The materials chosen should not only be of natural fibers but also be of lighter colors. 3 and 4 year old children will swaddle their doll in a blanket for a rest in a basket or bed. 5 and 6 year old children distinguish a baby doll from a child doll and dress the doll accordingly.
Children’s play with their own doll will imitate their own experience. Thereby, the mother or father models beautiful love and caring for the doll so that gesture rises within the child and is imitated.
Through early childhood (age 6) the more simple the doll the greater the expansion of the child’s imagination including the variety of human experience the child will attribute to it. Their doll will further their creative play. They will care for their doll as an extension of themselves, as they are cared for and as they are learning to care for and love others. Their doll will provide comfort in their arms when they are upset. Also, they will practice language, improve fine and gross motor skills, interact socially and develop compassion and empathy.
A Word About Boys and Having a Doll as a Second Self: An age appropriate doll is as important for boys, as it is for the nurturance and support of girls’ growth and development. There is no research to suggest that playing with a doll as a young boy will produce a more feminine boy than playing with a truck will result in a more masculine girl. A boy is nurtured and supported by his own doll provided both parents interact with the doll, as if it is real, with warmth and acceptance. The boys who care for a doll learn life skills for looking after younger siblings and have nurturing, warmth experiences for when they one day are fathers as play benefits the adults children become.
Note: Since the 1990’s there seems to be a gradual decrease in children’s creativity. We have dolls that wet, close their eyes, grow hair, talk, have anatomically gender-specific details and who knows what will be next – these dolls not only diminish imagination, but also, consequently, quickly become boring and push children’s demands for whatever is the next greatest thing.