7 Ways how Playing with Dolls Encourages Language Acquisition

By Julia Solovieva – Language teacher with more than 10 years of experience in teaching English as a second language. You can follow her on FB on Random English.

Dolls are great toys for young children – and they are an amazing tool for language development as well.

There are countless ways how playing with dolls can encourage language acquisition, and we’ll take a look at 7 of them in this article.

The importance of play for language development

Babies, toddlers, and pre-school children learn almost exclusively through play. This involves, among other things, mastering their mother tongue and learning foreign languages.

Playing with toys, with other children, with their parents creates various situations that encourage young children to speak.

When they are playing with an adult, it is also a great opportunity to be exposed to language, native or foreign, in a variety of fun settings.

Dolls are particularly good for learning languages through play – let’s now take a look at a few reasons, why.

What are the 7 ways playing with dolls encourages language acquisition?

Playing with dolls is not just ‘child’s play’ – it is a powerful learning tool. 

A doll is an open-ended toy

Open-ended toys do not have one particular function and can be played with in many different ways.

Close-ended toys, like puzzles or shape-sorters, are useful, too, but ways of playing with them – and the things they can teach – are usually fairly limited.

With even just one doll, you can re-enact lots of real-life and imaginary situations.

That will give your child many opportunities to be exposed to and practice a language.

Dolls are extremely versatile toys

Dolls aren’t just open-ended toys, they are very versatile ones.

A stick can be considered an open-ended toy, too. It can be a shovel, a sword, or even a horse.

But there are still many more things a doll can be or do, from dancing to climbing a mountain to going to space.

And if you add a few accessories, like tea sets or strollers for dolls, the variety of social situations you can re-enact (and practice speaking in) becomes almost endless.

Dolls encourage interaction

When children play with dolls, there is usually a lot of interaction going on.

Dolls ‘talk to’ and ‘interact’ with each other, children communicate a lot when they play dolls together.

This creates multiple opportunities for language acquisition as well as developing social skills.

It is important to remember that skills don’t develop simply because the opportunity is there, especially when it comes to foreign language learning: you need to expose your children to good examples before they can repeat them themselves. 

Dolls promote creativity and develop imagination

A doll-house or a single doll may come with instructions on how to assemble it – but there are no instructions on how to play with it.

And with dolls being such versatile open-ended toys, the options are endless!

When playing with dolls, a child has to come up with many different things:

  • the doll’s name and background story
  • what it is doing
  • what it is going to do
  • where it lives
  • who are its friends, and so on.

Such type of play develops children’s imagination and creativity.

This is crucial for their overall development and also important for language acquisition, in particular.

Playing with dolls creates unique situations

Repetition is key in language learning.

However, repeating one and the same conversation or story over and over again would hardly help your child learn new vocabulary and develop their language skills.

What is great about playing with dolls is that no situation is exactly the same.

Even if the general scenario is similar, say, a tea party, there are always new things to say and to do.

This allows children to practice the language through meaningful repetitions in a variety of situations.

If they are playing with others, it also exposes them to a lot of language, which is equally important.

Dolls are just fun

With their cute faces, bright clothes, and various accessories, dolls are just a fun type of toy to play with. Just take a look at these top baby dolls, for instance!

This doesn’t just make for enjoyable play. Having fun also makes for better learning: studies show that adults and children alike learn much more effectively when they are enjoying the process.

This shouldn’t, however, be forced.

If your child doesn’t enjoy playing with dolls, no matter how great they are, try out other types of toys.

There are great dolls for different ages

When playing with young kids, whether you have language acquisition in mind or not, it is essential to use age-appropriate toys.

There is a lot of difference between a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, what they need, and what toys they enjoy.

Luckily, there are great dolls for different ages out there!

As an example, check out this dolls list – there is a suitable one available for everyone.

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