Boys Who Play With Dolls

I have never and won’t ever understand why people discourage their sons from playing with dolls, playing house, or being tender and affectionate. So many of these sons grow up to be fathers, a role where “tender and affectionate” is part of the job description.

This evening I fell asleep with my daughter while snuggling her at bedtime and woke up to the sounds of my son choking on his vomit as he tried to call my name while he was getting sick. I jumped off the top bunk, reached for my son and cleared his throat in time for him to continue throwing up all over me as I picked him up and raced him towards the bathroom. We collided with my husband who had come running from the kitchen because he heard the commotion while he was doing dishes.

I stayed with our little boy while my husband went into the bedroom to start stripping the bedding and take everything down to the washing machine. He scrubbed the mattress and carried it outside to air out. He then sat holding our son while I, and I’ll spare you the details, did damage control to the pillow, bed sheet, and stuffed animals that were hit the worst. We made a new bed for our little guy on the couch and my husband sat on the floor and stroked our son’s hair and quietly sang to him while I went upstairs to change my clothes.

I’m hugely grateful that my husband doesn’t see family life as having a male and female side. He doesn’t see dishes, laundry, and sick kids as “mom’s territory”, he sees it as “our territory”. He isn’t afraid to sing to our son and tell him he loves him and that it is okay to be sad when you throw up, especially when you throw up all over your stuffed puppy.

If a little boy were doing all of this while playing some would worry he might think he is a girl or that he might grow up to be gay. I’d argue back that there is nothing to worry about, the little boy will grow up to be a terrific father someday, should he so choose.

And I don’t see terrific fathers as anything to be scared of, do you?

In our family, being a father and uncle is celebrated.

In our family, being a father and uncle is celebrated.

Ben's 1st Bottle

If you love when your husband does this, why not let your son play at doing this?

E&L 027

This is my brother, teaching my brand new son how to be a man.

Tio Meets Ben

In my family, men show their love. That is what my son will learn about being a man.

There is some really important learning that takes place during doll play, and since all kids’ brains need to learn the same things my recommendation is to make sure the play center in your home or preschool that offers dolls, baby items, play kitchen, etc is open to all children rather than one gender.

This concept may not go over immediately in all families, and to those who feel boys playing with dolls is unnatural I want you to think about this: Being a father, if he so chooses, is the most important thing he will ever do with his life. When you allow your son to play with dolls (which is essentially family role play) you are allowing him to role play the people he values and looks up to the most in the world. One of those people is you. YOU. 

When you watch him play this way you get to see yourself through your son’s eyes. You will see what it is you model for him. And what you learn from that is how you will teach him to be a man. Allow him the space to act that out and process it, whether he is being a daddy to a doll/stuffed animal or leaping off your swing set as a super hero. Let him understand there are many ways to be a boy and man, caring for others is just one of those ways.

My kids would be missing out on so much if their father wasn't interested in being a "dad".

My kids would be missing out on so much if their father wasn’t interested in being a “dad”.


  1. Beautiful Melissa! As usual, everything you said here is spot-on. I’m lucky enough to have a husband who would do exactly as yours did in this situation. It is so important for boys to have that role model and for them to be able to mimic that behaviour in their play.

  2. First off: wonderful post! It’s lovely to hear about a father who knows how to be a father in all aspects. It is also good to be reminded that dolls can be a great way for both girls and boys to practice nurturing.
    One thing I do get a bit disappointed about, though, is just about every parenting blog that talks about boys playing with dolls immediately goes toward the nurturing aspect, and tends to ignore the fact that some boys simply like dolls and it has nothing to do with nurturing. It can be an interest just like any other they have.
    I’m actually in the doll hobby. I’m a female, but there are many, many men in the hobby too. One of the saddest things is that many of them have the same story: growing up they wanted to play with dolls, but it wasn’t manly enough, so they were given a GI Joe or superhero as a consolation prize. Even as adults they tend to be frustrated at the memories of wanting a Barbie to dress up but being forced to play soldier. A lot of them, married with children and good careers, are still afraid to tell their parents that they now collect dolls.
    I know that it’s not a point that would have gone with your story, but when I read the title I got excited thinking that someone was finally pointing out the other side of boys playing with dolls. Sorry for the small amount of venting. Even though your post didn’t go where I thought it was, you do make an excellent point, as always, that there are many ways to be a boy! (and girl- obviously!)


  1. […] If you find your boy playing with dolls and stuffed toys, there’s no reason to be worrying he would grow up gay. Melissa Atkins Wardy (a mother of two) believes that boys playing with dolls are learning about care and affection, things that would essentially help them as good fathers. She recalls how these values come to fore in one incident when her sick boy threw up in bed and her husband came and shared in the tasks of comforting the boy while cleaning up his bed. She marvels that her husband never sees these tasks as simply “mom’s territory”. Allowing kids, especially boys, to engage in role play with dolls and toys would help them model the important values they learn from their parents. Watch how the kids engage in their dolls and toys to see how it reflects the way they are nurtured. To read more of Melissa’s article, click here… […]

Speak Your Mind