Persona dolls are one of our staple resources used in aid of children’s social development, supporting their ability to communicate, problem-solve, and empathize with others. Persona dolls were first developed in the U.S. in the 1950s by Kay Tans who created these dolls with the intention of physically representing a variety of people. The persona dolls allow children to discuss their experiences with “someone” they can relate to (the persona doll is always the same age as the majority of the group) and explore differences in gender, race, culture, lifestyle, sexuality and disability. The dolls are always the age of majority of the children and will experience social situations that are relevant to the children, i.e. doesn’t like to share or enjoys going to the beach, in order to foster discussion.

Currently in the nursery, we have two persona dolls – one for the 2yr olds and one for the preschoolers. Each one has its own backstory including cultural, family dynamic, home environment, likes/dislikes, etc. Kaila, our preschool doll, has same sex parents and is currently going through the transition of a new addition to the family. The two-year olds’ doll, which is on loan from the EMAs network, is a traveler who is currently coming to terms with her parents’ separation. They both have their own stories – both attend other nurseries which is why they’re not always with us – and children are given the opportunity to demonstrate strong listening and recall skills, empathy, and critical thinking. They’ve even invited the persona doll to join them for snack because she had been feeling left out at her other nursery.