Open accessibilty tools

Doll (late 1800s)

Dolls are thought to be the oldest type of toy in the world. The first dolls were made from materials such as clay, stone, wood, leather – even bone.

Talking about old toys

Use the questions below to talk with children about old dolls. Talk about the doll here, or use the questions to explore old dolls you and the children may have brought in to your setting or classroom.

Try turning it into a game. Look at the doll for one minute and then take it away or close your eyes. How many details can you remember? Look again:

  • What did you remember?
  • What did you forget?
  • What else can you see this time?

 This toy is more than 100 years old – that’s even older than your grannies and grandads.

  • She is wearing very old-fashioned clothes.
  • If you look very closely, you can see her dress is starting to wear out. Can you see the small holes and tears?

The doll is made of a few different things:

  • Her face and arms are made mainly of wax, like a candle
  • Her legs are made of china – like a plate or a teacup
  • Her body is made of cotton stuffed with wood shavings
  • Her hair is made of mohair, which comes from a type of goat called an Angora goat
  • She has a necklace made of real pearls.
  • Most dolls are made of plastic. This is a very hard-wearing material and difficult to break. (They didn’t have plastic when this old doll was made.)
  • Some dolls have soft bodies, made of fabric, so they are floppy and nice to cuddle.
  • Some dolls are made completely of fabric (pieces of material). In the old days they were called ‘rag dolls’ because they were made from rags – old scraps of material and wool that were too small to make into clothes for children or grown-ups.
  • This doll would have belonged to a child from a rich family.
  • It would have probably been played with by a girl. In those days people thought some toys were only OK for girls to play with. Others, such as toy cars, were seen as toys for boys.
  • What do you think about that? Does that sound fair?
  • Today, the doll belongs to Preston Park Museum where they take very good care of her so we can remember what old toys like this look liked.

What might this doll have seen in her long life?

Do you think she has been on any journeys or adventures?

Or perhaps she stayed on a shelf and watched what was going on in the house she lived in?

Exploring through play

Set up a doll’s hospital.

Children could organise and make labels for first-aid supplies such as bandages and plasters.

They could dress up as a nurse or a doctor, take the dolls’ temperatures, listen to their chests through a stethoscope and give them pretend medicine.


Doll materials
Children can look online or in toy catalogues for pictures of dolls made from different materials – china, plastic, wax, wood, fabric.

They could make a group collage or spider diagram showing the advantages and disadvantages of each material.

Recycled dolls
A simple doll can be made from almost any material.

Take a look at this peg doll from Preston Park Museum.

It has been made from an old wooden peg that was usually used to hang washing on a washing line. It would have been owned by a poor child more than 100 years ago.

What materials can children recycle into a doll? They could use an old-fashioned peg like this one, lolly sticks, pipe-cleaners, fabric scraps…

Don’t forget to give the doll some clothes. They could be made of paper, fabric or even drawn or painted on.

Our old peg doll seems to have lost her clothes. What do children think they might they have looked like?

Young historians

What questions do children have about old dolls? Encourage them to think carefully about something they would really like to find out about this doll or an old doll in your classroom. They could take it in turns to hold a picture of a large question mark, and think of a question beginning with Who, Where, Why, What, When or How to share with the group or class.

Where could they find out the answers? They could: