The Paper Doll Debate

Whatever happened to paper dolls?

Yes, I know they still exist, but why are they not marketed to little girls in the same way that they once were?

This has come up because Ane is completely in love with her Little House paper dolls. “Mommy, I really LOVE my new paper dolls,” she told me. “I even like them better than my Princess ones!”

“Why is that?” I asked. I was genuinely curious, especially since she has loved playing with her Princess paper dolls.

“Because they are a family,” she replied. “They can play together.”

And she’s right. Ane is able to re-enact all the Little House stories with her paper dolls, but her Princess paper dolls just have pretty outfits. Since the Princesses all belong to different stories, and no other characters come with the six princesses, she can’t re-create the movies with the paper dolls. They can interact with each other, but it’s not quite the same thing.

I’m glad that she has a toy that has afforded her such a play of imagination. But I wonder when we got to the point where all kids’ toys had to be indestructible. There are probably multiple reasons – the continued expense of toys, for example. There are certain things that should be unbreakable (I am looking at YOU, people who make the Star Wars Transformers), but paper dolls, by their very nature, are fragile. They are not meant for three-year-olds. They are meant for older girls who can understand and respect the fact that paper can tear and being rough can destroy a paper doll. I have always tried to find age-appropriate toys for my kids, and sometimes the recommended age for toys is right, and sometimes it’s not. I try to use my best judgment in making those decisions (like, will Tad swallow these LEGO pieces?).

And there are hardier alternatives – most notably the magnetic “paper” dolls that don’t require cutting out and won’t ever tear. Ane does still play with hers, but the last time she did, she was playing with Little Cousin. She would much rather be playing with her “real” Little House characters than the ballerina, princess, and everyday girl magnetic dolls.

So, what do you think? Are paper dolls due for a comeback? Or are they just obsolete, vintage toys that Ane won’t even be able to find for her own daughter someday?

3 Responses to “The Paper Doll Debate”

  1. Ressis
    January 7th, 2010 07:53

    Toys like paper dolls, that require imagination, are overdue for a comeback, but sadly I doubt that they will. Kids are too enamored and bombarded with electronic-based toys that do all the imagining for them (sound effects, dialogue, lights, interactive-Elmo, etc.). Fantastic toys like regular baby dolls, blocks, and matchbox cars simply are not “in” anymore. There are ten-year-olds with cell phone for crying out loud! And it’s only going to get worse.

    The machines are taking over!

  2. Nana
    January 7th, 2010 18:27

    There will always be some kids who love paper dolls. But they have lost popularity. I like Ane’s magnetic ones. Good idea to make the dolls more durable, because of little sisters making sport of tearing off heads. I won’t mention any names.

  3. Aunt Mary
    January 8th, 2010 15:49

    I would never mention a name, either. I can remember our parents’ bed covered with paper dolls and wallpaper books, for creating one-of-a-kind outfits. It kept us happily busy all day! I’m all for toys that bring back creativity in our little ones. Bring back paperdolls!