When considering gifts to give to children, we always want to come up with something that they can enjoy now and treasure for years to come.
Nesting dolls are that type of gift. The stackable figures have been a long standing tradition in Russia and have gained popularity around the world during the last couple of decades.
These delightful dolls can be wonderful tools for education as well as imaginative recreation.
However, one concern most parents have about nesting dolls is whether or not they are safe for play.
Traditional Matryoshkas: Not Ideal Toys
While the traditional, hand-painted wooden nesting dolls crafted in Russia are beautiful, they are usually not suitable for children as they are more fragile.
In times past, the hallowed out, hand-made dolls were known to have rough, jagged edges, wood that might splinter with age and paint that would begin to flake or peel.
Also, the smallest doll in any standard-sized set, which typically features six dolls, is tiny enough to present a choking hazard to small children.
However, not all nesting dolls are unsafe.
Nesting Dolls Made For Kids
In recent years, companies have begun to make nesting dolls specifically with child play in mind.
Many companies now make these charming matryoshka, as they’re called in Russia, using ABS plastics which are safer and less flammable than the traditional wooden sets. These non-toxic nesting dolls are also a bit easier for a child to handle.
The US government, in 2008, took legislative measures to reduce the levels of lead permitted in paint on toys and the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) stresses that reasonable testing must be done on all imported toys.
In addressing the choking hazard inherent in the traditional sets, many companies have made variant sets that either does not include the smallest size doll or that feature dolls which are all larger than the original standard set.
Most sets, however, are still not recommended for children under the age of three.
Nesting Dolls As Learning Tools
Now that nesting dolls are being made in more child-friendly ways, it is easy to see the value of these as educational and development tools as well as toys.
In order to unstack the dolls, one must both twist and pull the top and bottom of each doll, except the smallest which does not open. This is wonderful for helping to develop a child’s fine motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination.
The dolls are also suitable for teaching about sizes and the concepts of smallest to largest as well as helping to develop focus and concentration.
Some companies make these dolls blank or with chalkboard paint on them so that they can be creatively decorated.
Other sets are pre-decorated with everything from animals to cartoons and from Disney characters to super heroes, which present many avenues for imaginative play with young people.
Once the perfect set is in hand, parents and educators can begin to use the toy as an educational device or an imagination motivator, or both.
Finding a set that goes with a child’s favorite movie, story or theme may be a good idea. It increases the parent’s ability to actively engage the child in playing with the nesting dolls.
Once a child is familiar with the dolls and can easily stack them as well as open and close them, parents can move on to more advanced play and learning activities such as memory games.
Nesting Doll Activities For Children
These are just a few of the ways nesting dolls can be used as safe, educational toys for kids in a supervised environment:
- Order Up: Have the child put the dolls in order; first from smallest to largest, then the reverse. Next have the child do the same using shortest to tallest. Talk about the difference between the two sets of terms.
- Basic Memory Game: Put an object inside one of the dolls, then close all of the dolls and mix them around. See if the child can remember which doll the object is in. Using different sizes and shapes of objects can then lead in to dialogue about determining what fits where.
- Advanced Memory Game: As the child’s memory skills progress, add to the number of objects used. Then, see if the child can recall how many objects are in each doll and what each object is. This activity can be used for learning shapes, numbers, colors and many other descriptive identifiers.
- Chalking Dolls: Use the dolls that are coated in chalkboard paint to draw faces and talk about the different parts, i.e. eyes, nose, and mouth. Then move on to discuss different parts of the body like head, belly, and feet. Writing words or numbers on the dolls is also a fun and educational activity.
- Story Time: First, the parent can tell a short story to the child about one of the dolls. Then the child can do the same. Another option is to make up a story together or have the dolls tell their own story. Of course parents and children must provide the dolls' voices.
Can Matryoshkas Compete With Modern Toys?
In an age of technology, there are so many learning oriented television shows, video games, electronic interactive toys and apps designed to assist children in learning many of the same skills and lessons mentioned earlier. This may lead some to believe that nesting dolls are an antiquated and outdated idea for playtime.
However, studies have shown that hands-on learning and person-to-person play actually surpasses the other methods in effectiveness and efficiency as it also enhances social skills and conceptual learning beyond what “plugged-in” learning can provide.
There is also the added bonus for parents of being able to strengthen bonds with their children while playing an active role in their early education.
In short, nesting dolls are still a relevant toy.
How To Find Good Nesting Dolls For Kids
It may be tough to find a good selection of nesting dolls designed specifically for kids.
Whenever I am looking for a specific type of nesting doll I always start on Amazon. They have the best selection and at the very least they give me an idea of what is available.
Even better, when searching for nesting dolls on Amazon they have an age selector on the left side of the screen which can help you see what might be appropriate for kids of any age.
So if you're looking for nesting dolls for children, I suggest you:
- Check out Amazon
- Read the reviews
- Use what you find there to pick out a fun, safe, highly-rated nesting doll set for the kid you have in mind
What do you think? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts on nesting dolls for kids.