The girls’ classic doll universe
As shown in the model, the girls’ classic doll universe can be divided into four spheres, depending on the age and stage of development of the girl(s) concerned. Through play and experimentation with these universes, girls gain experience of the social interaction they can see around them and of which they themselves are part.
- 0-2 year olds: Experience of her mother’s body and play with her own body form the basis of the little girl’s understandingof the initial simple and primitive play with dolls and play with another person. A baby or very small child sees a soft toy, a bedtime pal, a security blanket or a rag doll as part of himself. A floppy rag doll or teddy bear is expected to do the same and to be in the same situation as the child himself, i.e. sleep, eat, take a bath, go visiting and generally go anywhere the child himself goes.
- 2-3 year olds: The baby doll(which may well be of a certain sex and not “just” an unspecified “baby”) gains special significance in the social universe and simple games played by 2-3 year old girls. This is because the many familiar everyday functions in the immediate social environment create a microcosmic social history and these text play. The girls often play that the dolls have dolls in order to experiment with social positions and to manipulate them within play. At this age, very primitive functional inventory items associated with the dolls (e.g. a small wardrobe, a doll’s bed, the doll’s doll and the doll’s own mirror and hairbrush) begin to play an important role in doll play. The little girl transfers or very literally transforms her realistic day-to-day life into the doll’s world in which situations and actions are imitated.
- 2-4 year olds: During these years girls play very simple dolls’ house play. The dolls are given functions as parents who have children, visitors, familypets which need to be trained, etc. The Wendy house or dolls’ corner with all its accessories is popular. The girls spend a great deal of time discussing their own mutual and family relationships.
4-6 (8) year olds: At the age of 4-6 (sometimes even up to the age of 8) the classic dolls’ house is central to girls’ play. At this age girls play and experiment with a wide variety of family values. Roles and ethical and moral norms are tested out and discussed (see later paragraphs covering universal value systems). Many different forms and types of families and family situations and episodes are acted out almost like theatrical drama but the universe is still motivated by everyday life and routines as they occur in the girls’ social and cultural environment. The dolls are children, the girls themselves are parents, friends and grandparents and they play out life within the family unit - day-to-day events/episodes, parties and holidays, work and interactive processes in all kinds of realistic guises.
On the toy market we find these doll universes in countless different, sophisticated variations.
The following graphic model illustrates many of the text variations covered by play with baby dolls and dolls (partly after Brougère:1993).