Weekly Kid’s Co-op…William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow

“William’s grandmother smiled. “He needs it,” she said, “to hug and to cradle and to take to the park so that when he’s a father like you, he’ll know how to take care of his baby” …” ~William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow

Nearly 18 years ago, a very wise woman named Mary introduced me to this book, and it’s been one of my favourites ever since. It’s beautiful at its core and revolutionary for its time. Written in 1972, it tells the story of a young boy who just wants a doll to play with and care for.

Even now in 2012, this notion makes some of us uncomfortable. My question is, why?  Really, what better way to help our little boys learn to be tender and careful fathers, than to encourage this sort of make-believe play?

As Father’s Day approaches this weekend, I decided there was no better time to celebrate this story and maybe soothe some of the social qualms we have about letting our boys play with dolls.

During nap time at my house, I have 3 little boys who are left awake with me. What a perfect opportunity to read this story. I gathered 3 baby dolls and all the things we would need to care for them…bottles, burp cloths, bathtub, diapers, shampoo, bibs, and baby doll slings for baby wearing, which my friend Alicia Wilson so graciously knitted for me and my smalls.

We started out by reading the story together. The boys were frustrated with William’s brother for calling him a creep and angry at the neighbor boy for calling him a sissy.

They were so grateful for William’s grandmother for finally buying him what he really needed…you could just see the relief on their little faces as William clutched his new baby doll in his arms.

We talked about babies, and how they need love and care and attention. We talked about how one day they might be dads themselves, and they would need to know how to gently care for their wee ones. I had the boys tell me some of the qualities they think make a really good dad. We had a really great discussion together.

I did have to reassure one of the boys that he could indeed be a spy AND a father when he grows up!

The first skill we tried was diapering. Oh, it was hard not to laugh. One of the dolls heads started out in the diaper, one of them had the baby doll legs turned backwards…it was a sight to be seen!

Once they managed the diapers, we moved on to feeding. The boys really enjoyed this part…it was waaaay easier than working a diaper!

After feeding, came burping. You all know how boys feel about burping.

Yup. His baby burped.

The boys bathed their babies…careful to hold the baby’s head up!

And then snugged them up for some good cuddling and another bottle.

If you get a chance to read this precious book, don’t pass it up. It’s an absolute joy…one of those books that gives you goosebumps when you read it. I believe our boys should be just as capable at caring for someone smaller than themselves as our girls are expected to be.

And so did Charlotte…some 30 years ago.

Happy Father’s Day, all of you dads out there!! Thank you for being such strong and tender examples to your children…I can’t imagine it’s an easy job sometimes!

And thank you, Mary…for showing me this book when I was first starting out with my own new baby. I will always be grateful.

Oh, and if you want, I’ll hook you up with the fabulous Alicia and her baby-wearing doll slings. They really are fabulous!

Now it is your turn to link up your kid activity ideas down here at the bottom for the Weekly Kid’s Co-op. Remember to link the C0-op somewhere on your blog so others can come back to this fabulous list of ideas. Enjoy!
The Weekly Kid's Co-op

Thanks for stopping by!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes

Here is where you click to link up…


92 thoughts on “Weekly Kid’s Co-op…William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow

  1. This was one of my favorite numbers from the “Free To Be You and Me” album when I was a kid. I never realized it was actually adapted from a children’s book. And although I have two sons (no daughters) we made sure to have a few baby dolls on hand for them, and they loved to nurture and cuddle and care for them and play “family” when their cousins came to visit. I agree that it’s important to allow them opportunities to exercise the nurturing parts of their personalities too!

  2. Love! Oh a few tears as I realize how fast our 3 boys are growing. Reminds me of times they have wanted to hold babies, & their curiousity of one day being a daddy growing. This weekend as Fathers Day approaches your beautiful post is soo good for the heart.

  3. AWww what a wonderful story! I must bear this in mind in case I have the privilege to have my own boys in future. And I love the baby doll slings! Thank you for sharing this touching story.

  4. My son loves dolls (my daughter hates them and gives them all to him) and he sits on the couch cooing to them and carries them about oh-so-gently by the hair lol
    I loved this post, thank you for sharing.

  5. Arlee,that is so flattering that you “credit” me with telling you about good children’s literature but the wonderful part is that YOU take everything you’ve learned or experienced and make it a fantastic experience for children. I am honoured to call you my friend (and I love reading your blog!!!) – Love Ya sweetie – Mary

  6. Love it! What a great way to encourage play. The boys in my class tend to put our babies in the play kitchen’s microwave…not exactly what I had hoped for! I will be keeping this in mind when the school year starts.
    And the story…have always loved it, ever since my college Professor read it to me all those years ago.

  7. I’m so happy to find this blog and this post. I am a huge Charlotte Zolotow fan, (my favorite is I Like Being Little) but I’m not familiar with this book. I am, however, familiar with the story of William and his doll. Do you have the Free to Be You and Me cd? It has this story in a song. Anyway, I love this post and these adorable photos. Luck boys!

  8. I really appreciate this post. I have 2 boys of my own, one in particular that loves to play daddy. Thank you for the book recommendation…will be looking for it at our local library. Where o where did you get the pattern or buy those beautifully knitted slings for the boys?

    • Thanks, Jena! You’ll find the link to the pattern for those slings at the end of the post where there is a smaller photo of one of the boys wearing it. Her name is Alicia and she will make them for you, or you can get the pattern from her blog.

      • I made the sling and they’re a huge hit! All the kids I take care of want one now, so I’ll be busy knitting for the next couple of days. Great idea for a homemade gift, especially if you pair it with the book, William’s Doll. or there’s this little cookbook for dolls called “mud pies and other recipes” by Marjorie Winslow.

  9. Não falo inglês mas nem precisei de tradução… O que vejo é de uma beleza que dispensa palavras!Lindos,lindos,lindos,lindossss…

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  13. Amei todo isso, assim é muito importante treinarmos meninos para serem bons pais, a familia agradece e os futuros filhos que virão e o proprio mundo está precisando ensinar aos homens esta sensibilidade e isso começa em ciança no lar♥

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  15. Arlee, this is a beautiful post, and very timely. Yesterday in another group that I’m in, one of the daycare providers asked how we handle parents when they’re opposed to their son playing with dolls, strollers etc. Yes, it would seem that mentality, sadly, still exists out there. I’m going to share your post with the group. Perhaps she can share it with the concerned parents.

    • It IS still out there, and it’s so unfortunate. Thank you for spreadin’ the love, Jackie! It’s so important. I truly hope this post helps some of those parents…that is the whole point of this story, right?

  16. This is the sweetest thing EVER. My three boys are a bit larger so I have missed the window on doing this activity with them, but what an amazing gift to your boys {and the photos are precious}.

  17. Lovely! None of my boys have liked baby dolls, but they’d rock and cuddle and sing to their cars and trucks. Thankfully, the automotive love has always transferred well to the living babies in the house. 🙂

  18. What a great post. My son has several dolls that he plays with, changing nappies and taking for walks in his toy buggy. One old woman saw him with the buggy one day and asked me why I thought he wanted to play with dolls – I bit my tongue and didn’t reply that it was because he was untainted by her stereo typed view of gender.
    He is also blessed with a father who takes and active and equal role in parenting him, so he’s getting some good early examples.

  19. I love this and it touched my heart. My 10 year old just out grew his baby. Baby Pete was in his life for a very long time. My son continues to be very nurturing and calm around small children. Thankfully the baby has now been passed down to my other son.

  20. This is great. I have always believed that boys could and should play with dolls. It’s the same as having a favorite teddy bear or other stuffed animal to care for. Part of caring for and about others includes babies too!

  21. Lovely! That’s so wonderful, great photos. I’ve got an 11m old boy after two girls so our house is stuffed full of dolls, pushchairs etc so I’m hoping that he’s suitably in touch with his feminine side, but just thinking of getting him a doll and cuddly toys for his birthday as well as the inevitable cars etc! My daughters have slings made from material tied together but those look great. Hope that they also talked about breastfeeding babies too, though, not just bottle feeding since having Daddy’s support is so important for supporting Mums to successfully bf. It’s sweet when my girls bf their dolls – although a friend told me that her little boy tried to do the same, cute in a funny kind of way!

  22. Just popping back in to look at this post again, Arlee. I love it so much. The photos of the boys being so nurturing are so touching. Love the nail polish on the one little guy. 🙂 And THANK YOU for the link to the baby slings. I’m going to make some for the hooligans!

    • Awww…happy to see you here again! I even went a read it again yesterday. Warmed my heart all over again! And the maker of the slings is thrilled with all the people using her pattern lately! :):)

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  24. THANKS for posting this. I often wondered how to raise my son. I would love him to be a caring human being like this.

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  26. Those slings are adorable! What a wonderful story. I cant knit but i will have to find someone to make a couple of those slings for me- my kids would love those!

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  28. This is such an amazing, inspiring, heart warming post! Thank you for sharing it and your wonderful photos of the boys in action. Where did you get the dolls you used with your boys? I am amazed at how lifelike they are and would love to find one similar for my own baby boy. Thanks!

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  30. So sweet! Thank you. I am planning to buy a baby doll for my son when I get pregnant again. Future fathers need to know how to connect with a care for a newborn and it’s something woefully lacking in our society.

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  32. wow – really love it! could you please let me know the brand of the dolls in your pics??? They look so nice and real.

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  34. Just came across this today and love it. Also wonder…where did you get the knitted slings that the boys are using? Absolutely love them!

  35. a friend of mine posted this on FB and I just had to share it! thank you for this beautiful post! There was recently a situation in my family, when my 4 year old nephew wanted to play with his sister’s dolls and was stopped by a few members of our family with comments like “really? that’s for girls, where are your toy cars!”. I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. In this day? so thanks for sharing! I will definitely look the book up! And your boys are ADORABLE! greetings from Slovakia!

  36. If they have a loving father they do not have to be taught they learn by example. Also learn thstfsthers and mothers are by nature different. A perspective that must not be lost.

    • I understand your concerns completely. When my babies were young, I used breast milk in a bottle from time to time so my children’s father could enjoy the feeding process also. We talked about how mama’s feed their babies but for little boys to take part, the milk needed to be in a bottle. Thanks for visiting us at Small Potatoes. 🙂

  37. Love this so much. I read this book before I had children and couldn’t agree more.
    Where did you get those dolls or what brand are they? They’re perfect! Thanks!

  38. Hi,
    Dear wise Mary is a very good friend of mine as well, we first met way back in the old H H days. William’s Doll is a favourite of mine & my son (who is now 32 ). He now shares his ‘old’ copy with his daughter. It is a classic book.
    I love your blog Arlee…… I am inspired by it, lots of wonderful ideas to share with my two little granddaughters.

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  42. I love this. Both my boys loved to play with their babies. In fact my youngest still puts his Corolle baby to bed each night. He changes her clothes, reads to her. It is so sweet. I also found my oldest pretending to breastfeed his stuffy one time. Monkey see monkey do:)

  43. I just found the precious/important picture of the boys and their babies and link to your wonderful article on The Good Men Project. Thank you so much! I am so happy to continue to share this article too… ❤ Also, while I love Alicia's baby doll snuggles I wanted to share that you can cut open a pillow case (or use another length of fabric) to make a wonderful baby sling for your kids too – my son (now 17) used his to carry around our kittens when he was 5!..

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  46. OMG, just so adorable! I have 4 boys, and they have all loved playing with dolls with their sisters to varying degrees at different stages in their lives! When my oldest (now 17) was younger, his 2 younger sisters didn’t want to play dolls or tea set without him, because he made it more fun and wholesome! My youngest boy (2-1/2) loves to be included with 2 of his older sisters when they play with their dolls, and I find that it brings out such tenderness and caring and I love seeing it! (In case you’re wondering, I have 4 boys and 4 girls!) Love your blog! Have a great weekend! Ang

  47. What a beautiful story. It surprises me that we expect to teach and show our boys how to look after themselves, how to be kind and thoughtful, how to cook and stay clean but we shy away from teaching the important and significant skill of nurturing. My sons were born in 1980 and 1981 and one of them had a doll when he was 5 till about 8 or 9. He played with her (no boy dolls in those days), fed her, put her to sleep, dressed her. It was accepted by all of us in our family, including his slightly older brother, but questioned by friends. Now that boy is in his early thirties and he has a wife and son of his own and he is the most perfect father.

  48. Almost 40 years ago my nephew wanted a doll and my brother was not happy. I told him that maybe his son having a doll would make him a better father than he was. Today my nephew is a proud and involved father of two. I was very happy to be proven right.

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  50. I love this picture and the accompanying sentiments … what I find very sad is that its still an “issue” today … that it still needs to be celebrated.

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  52. How very important it is for young boys to develop EMPATHY. Caring for another living thing, paying attention to its signals and needs, showing it love – all such important life skills. Will not only help these boys become wonderful fathers, but conscious and caring members of society. I cannot wait for my little boy to have a baby doll of his own when he’s a bit older. 🙂

  53. What a wonderful text and the pictures are really beautiful. Can I link you and one of the pictures on my Homepage? I am a dollmaker and so happy to found this side!! Thanks for answer me….

  54. Wonderful post! My son (2and a half) has been playing with his baby for quite some time. More so now i’m pregnant. When he wants my help to dress the baby he tells me very seriously that I have to be very gentle with his baby. I think he’ll be a great older brother and I hope his love for dolls will be passed along to his baby brother too.

  55. My baby boy just turned 38. But this reminded me so much of him and also my now 7 year old grandson. My son was disturbed by the fact that all of his dolls were “missing something.” So we added to the doll family. I found an anatomically correct boy doll (Joey, Stevic- Archie Bunkers Grandson) We also had a “Dressy Bessy and a Dapper Dan”. When I was potty training my son, I “modified” Dan and added a new layer to his clothing–little boys’ underpants. A few weeks later my best friends boy/girl set of twins came to visit. The twins ran in to show their mom. ” Look mommy, His Dapper Dan has a “bebe”!

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