Many little girls love playing with Disney Princess dolls. They make up stories with their dolls or reenact the films. They delight in dressing up the dolls and styling their hair. And sometimes, they just like to snuggle them.
Faced with the Disney Princess doll choices in the toy aisles, however, many parents feel hesitant and unsure about what to buy, if anything. Might some of the Disney Princess dolls’ body shapes have negative consequences on their daughters’ body images?
Parents who have these concerns are generally well-informed. They’ve heard of the research studies that show Barbies and Barbie-style fashion dolls—with body types that researchers classify as “extremely thin”—are unhealthy for girls. To offer but one example, an experiment found that when girls played with extremely thin dolls, they restricted their own eating afterwards—consuming less food than girls who played with dolls that had average body types.
Mattel has been trying to undercut these research findings for years. Most recently, they’ve launched a PR stunt called “The Barbie Project,” documenting girls playing with Barbies in ways that defy stereotypes. But in focusing on non-stereotypical play, the Barbie Project willfully ignores critics’ major concern about Barbie-type dolls: their body shape. We already know that girls’ doll play is inventive and imaginative! We just don’t see the need for inventive, imaginative, bright little girls to play with Mattel’s extremely thin dolls at all.
Because of these concerns, many parents whose daughters love the Disney Princesses turn to other options in stores, such as Animators’ Collection dolls and toddler dolls, which have child-like bodies. Like fashion dolls, these dolls can be dressed and undressed, and their hair can be styled, which are very satisfying play activities for many young girls. Many parents also appreciate the Disney Princess plush dolls, whose body shapes seem less exaggerated than their fashion doll counterparts. These dolls are great for cuddling.
The biggest gap in the Disney Princess doll marketplace seems to be in the smaller, hand-held types of dolls that girls might use in dollhouse-type pretend-play. Unfortunately, the majority of dolls in this category—such as the small plastic Disney Princess figurines and story sets and the Polly Pocket-type “MagiClip” Disney Princess dolls-–have proportions similar to Barbie-style fashion dolls. Their waists and wrists are incredibly small. The best option in this category might be the LEGO Duplo Disney Princess line--but as these are meant for toddlers, some preschool and kindergarten-aged girls might balk.
For reasons such as these, some DIY-inclined parents have taken matters into their own hands and begun crafting adorable Disney Princess-inspired dolls for their children. For example, wooden peg dolls are perfect for dollhouse play. They’re inexpensive to make (less than $1 for a doll, plus just a little paint), pretty easy to get the hang of, and can be customized to suit the child’s preferences.
One mom who has gone this route is Summer Langille. Summer likes providing her children with Waldorf-style toys and typically avoids mass-produced items for her family. But when her daughter was bitten by the Frozen bug, she decided to make her some Frozen-inspired peg dolls, honoring her interests.
I thought her dolls were adorable, so I was delighted when she agreed to write a tutorial for my blog. Below, she explains how it’s done. As a special bonus, she even offered to give away of a pair of her own Anna- and Elsa-inspired dolls to one of my readers! Read on for instructions on how to make your own peg dolls, and scroll down to enter the giveaway.
Frozen-Inspired Peg Doll Tutorial:
A guest post by Summer Langille
Like most young girls, my daughter has been bitten by the Frozen bug. She’s fallen in love with the movie, requests the music when we’re driving in the car and falls asleep to a reading of the adapted picture book. My daughter is still very young and as much as I enjoy Frozen, its characters and songs, I’m just not very fond of all the plastic, brightly colored costumes, dolls and toys that come along with these types of movies. In our home we try to eliminate toys that buzz and whirl, stay away from the cheap plastics and concentrate on toys that promote open-ended play and true imagination.
So to strike that balance when it came to Disney movies, I thought wooden Frozen-inspired peg dolls would be a much more open-ended and lovely thing to have in our home, versus the plastic Barbie-esque type dolls they sell in the stores. They were easy to make and so much fun and my daughter absolutely adores them. She carries them around, acts out bits of the movie with them and even takes them with her for naps. They have proven to be an excellent alternative to the mass commercialized toys and dolls.
I have put together a little tutorial for you on making your very own peg dolls.
- Wooden peg dolls
- Watercolors or acrylic paint
- Beeswax and oil rub to seal your finished peg dolls (or another non toxic sealant, like Mod Podge or Shellac spray).
Note: I like using pan watercolors, but non-toxic acrylics or tube watercolors are fine. Milk paint is another very good option. You can get wooden peg people from the store I mention below in the supplies list or, often your local craft and hobby store will carry some type of peg person in the wood hobby department.
Once you have all of your materials, you can begin to paint your peg dolls.
I prefer painting just eyes and no mouth to keep the expressions and personality up to the child’s imagination, but you may add a nose, mouth or whatever else you would like. That’s the fun of these dolls, they are really yours for the making!
After the dolls are completely painted and dry, you can give them a rub down with your beeswax and oil blend, or coat them with shellac. I use beeswax from the link below, but you can find beeswax many places and even make your own if you are so inclined.
The beeswax will darken the peg doll up some. Rub a thick layer into the doll and let it soak in over night. The next day you can rub your doll down with a cloth. It will be smooth and it should have a nice coat of beeswax to seal it from moisture. These dolls are not water resistant though. The beeswax will protect it some, but if a doll goes into a young child’s mouth, be warned, you may end up with a mouth full of pinks and blues from the dolls’ outfits. You can use Shellac to give it a stronger seal. This will give the dolls a shiny hue as well.
After you have sealed your dolls with your choice of beeswax or another sealant, your dolls are ready to be played with. Enjoy the fantastic play these homemade goodies will bring to a child!
Sources: Where to buy peg doll craft supplies
- For purchase: http://www.bellalunatoys.com/beeswax-polish.html
- Recipe: “How To Make Beeswax Wooden Polish”
Other sealants (note: prices in local stores may be better than online):
Wooden Peg Dolls
- For purchase on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CraftyWoolFelt?section_id=11997374&ref=shopsection_leftnav_10
- Darice Wooden Peg Dolls (note: I saw these for $1.50 in A.C. Moore stores in June 2014)
Many thanks to Summer for providing this great tutorial! I followed her instructions and made some peg dolls, too, and I think the results were great:
My five-year-old has been playing with them nonstop for several days, mixing them in with some of our other wooden toys. (You’ll notice I wound up painting little smiles on them per his request. And look, I made the guys, too! Cute, right?)
This is a flexible project that’s definitely worth trying. I think my 5-year-old and I will make a set of ninjas next. So many fun possibilities!
Summer Langille is giving away a pair of her Frozen-inspired dolls to one lucky reader in the continental US! Just click here to enter by midnight on Monday, July 7, 2014.
Summer Langille was an early child educator for nearly 15 years and holds a masters degree in Early Childhood Education. She now stays home with her young daughter Eloise and enjoys making peg dolls and play mats among other crafty things.
Summer sells her handmade treasures at www.etsy.com/theknotholetree and blogs about her crafty life and living near the California coast with husband, daughter and two spunky dogs at www.summerplayshouse.com.
Rebecca Hains is a media studies professor at Salem State University. Her book, The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, is now available for pre-order from Amazon.