Can Boys Play With Dolls?

Can boys play with dolls

For many people this might seem like a silly question. Boys can play with dolls, just like girls can play with diggers and dinosaurs. Right? And yet there is still a lot of gender stereotyping that is attached to different toys, and still plenty of people who might give you a funny look or even make a comment if they see your little boy playing with a doll.

Dolls are all about role play and playing pretend. Little girls and boys playing with dolls are acting out being parents and learning valuable life skills in the process. From the fine motor skills needed to button a shirt to learning empathy and how to care for others. Playing with dolls uses the imagination and it’s fun so why would we not give little boys this opportunity as well as little girls. We firmly believe that parents should encourage all children to play with whatever toy they wish to play with- even if that is a baby doll! Perhaps your little boy playing with dolls is excited to be a dad one day!

Despite the fact that seeing a man carrying their baby, pushing a pram or playing with their kids in the park is about as manly as it gets, dolls and prams are still seen as somewhat girly toys. But why?

Is it because there’s an excess of pink and we’re somehow programmed to think of that as a girly colour? Is it that most baby dolls are girls? Although thankfully that’s beginning to change. Is it that little boys get told dolls are for girls and so, therefore, see them as girly toys? And why then are stuffed animals deemed acceptable for a female child and not a male?

Although your son will never give birth you need a man and a woman to make a baby so your son is just as likely to become a parent. In fact, they are much more likely to become a parent than they are a race driver, carpenter or astronaut which should mean that playing with dolls is about as gender-neutral as it gets.

So how can we change this perspective?


  • Learning though play. Kids learn when they play. Playing with dolls can teach about caring for another person, great if you have a new sibling on the way, as well as social skills and practical skills like doing up buttons or getting trousers on the right way round.

  • Role playing situations. Playing with dolls can be a great way for children to act out challenging or new situations. You can talk to them about sharing, looking after each other, what to do if they encounter bullying and all sorts of other things.

  • Comfort. Children will often talk to dolls and soft toys as if they are their best friends. They’ll take them with them on adventures and cuddle up with them at night. A doll can help a child get through their first day at nursery, give them comfort when they are feeling poorly, or just keep them occupied on a long car journey.

And if you are worried what other people might say to your child to respectfully say that there is nothing girly about holding a baby- perhaps your son will have a family of his own one day, after all. It's time that we as a society stopped pigeon holing women in to nurturing roles and men in to positions of authority- these messages about stereotypical male and female interests/aspirations are presented from kids very early on- when it should just be about playing with whatever toy is the most fun!

These kinds of gender stereotypes are incredibly harmful, and, sadly are drummed in to children every time we expect girls to play dolls at their play kitchen and boys to stick to dinosaurs, mud pies and tool benches. Many parents will hear comments about how their son shouldn't push a pink stroller or enjoy dress up or playing with play kitchens; but what are we afraid of?

Do we really believe that boys don't have the nurturing skills to become good fathers one day? What harm can playing with toys do, and why does society care so much? Do we really believe that the toys we hand our children will affect their gender identity?

Thankfully, slowly, things are changing and the world is moving on from telling young children that a girl should play house while a boy child races around with toy cars. Doing so will only reduce your child's creativity an deprive them of lots of fun activities! Girl toys and boy toys will hopefully be a thing of the past one day so that no child has to miss out.

If you’re keen to give your child the opportunity to play with dolls from a young age before possible outside influences have a look at some of the best dolls for babies.

Baby Boy Dolls

If you have a little boy, you might want to give him a doll that's a boy too. Our Ruben's Barn Dolls are by far our most popular dolls, amongst both boys and girls. These are empathy dolls, designed to spark imaginative play and emotional development. They are also anatomically correct, meaning that they have the appropriate body parts. This sends the message to your son that there is nothing wrong with these parts, they are not to be hidden/censored.

These are a soft doll, and one of the most popular reasons parents buy a baby doll is to encourage nurturing skills and 'gentle hands" ahead of the birth of a new sibling. They are also a great aid in settling young children in to school . Your little boy will just love to play dad with his own baby, re enacting what he sees at home. It's no bad thing for boys to be taught these vital skills-if they decide to have their own family one day, they need as much prep to be fathers as a little girl does.

Is it okay for boys to play with American Girl dolls?

Some boys prefer to play with dolls that look like older kids and can be dressed up, and, again, our advice would be to let your kids play with dolls if they wish to, regardless of gender. Boys playing with dolls seems to be seen as strange, but in reality, boys playing with dolls get the same enjoyment as girls do- they are learning about the world around them and engaging in imaginative play. And there's nothing wrong with that!

It's a good thing to teach kids to do what makes them happy in life- after all, they are only kids for a short time. In no time at all, your son won't even remember that he used to play with dolls.

The Bottom Line

The idea of boys playing with dolls might raise some eyebrows, but if your little boy wants to play with dolls, we can't think of any reason why they shouldn't! Play is how kids learn, and often the best way to learn is through toys that will be played with and enjoyed for hours on end.

So if your boy has a doll on his Santa list this year, don't waste your money on cars that will gather dust- get your son the doll that he really wants and will enjoy and grow with. 

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