Q: My eight-year-old thinks her dolls and stuffed animals have feelings. I worry that her friends may make fun of her. Shouldn’t she have outgrown this by now?
A: Not at all. It’s quite normal at this age to still use dolls and stuffed animals in this way. Your daughter might be attributing feelings she feels to the dolls and animals. I suspect she is well aware that her toys do not really have feelings and uses pretend play as a safe way to express her real and imagined experiences. While some of her peers may not play this way, most children her age likely still do, especially in the privacy of their own families.
It’s important to allow this kind of pretend play to continue because it provides your daughter with the opportunity to be in control and to make choices about roles and outcomes of situations. It can also help her to learn effective communication, problem-solving and negotiation skills. And it can increase her capacity to learn by strengthening her storytelling and visual imagination skills.