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Review the media segment attached:

  • How      might the children identify with Mickey?
  • In what      ways did the teacher make the doll “real” to the children?
  • How did      the teacher “set the stage” for future stories and      problem-solving?

Now, reflect on the information presented in the Persona Doll Training website ( and the article, “Problem Solving with Young Children Using Persona Dolls.” As revealed in these resources, persona dolls work effectively because children make a connection, i.e., identify with the dolls and develop feelings of friendship and empathy. Based on this special connection, the dolls can also help children see the injustice of particular situations, consider ideas and actions from various perspectives, and inspire children to think of solutions to the problems that the dolls present to them.

Explore ways in which to use persona dolls to help children participate in the process of considering, understanding, and solving specific problems.

To begin, identify a problem related to an “–ism” (racism, classism, ableism, religionism, sexism, heterosexism, LGBT ism, ageism) that may come up as young children interact and express their feelings and emotions. For example, in the article “Problem Solving with Young Children Using Persona Dolls,” the teacher uses a persona doll, Tanisha, to address a problem related to racial prejudice that she is noticing in her classroom. The teacher explains that Tanisha’s feelings have been hurt because some children did not want to play with her because of the color of her skin.

Come up with:

A problem statement written from the point of view of a persona doll (like the example with Tanisha: “No one will play with me because they don’t like the color of my skin. That hurts my feelings and makes me mad.”)

Visit the link below to assist with this assignment!

EDUC6358: Strategies for Working with Diverse Children

“Persona Dolls”

Program Transcript

NARRATOR: Persona dolls come to life in situations children relate to. They become a part of
classroom life and give children opportunities to think about, bring up, and discuss everyday
interests, concerns, and anti-bias issues in concrete ways. Early childhood instructor and author
Eric Hoffman shares his insights and experiences using persona dolls.

ERIC HOFFMAN: I want to talk about a little of the history of how I got involved in persona dolls.
Because I didn’t just jump right into it and be successful and have it work. I really started out
experimenting some with flannel board characters and puppets, using them in a more traditional
way. And that really helped me get comfortable with the fact and I’m talking for a doll. I’m talking
for a puppet, which many people are not comfortable with. It can be a little embarrassing.

It also helped me realize, I don’t need to use fancy voices. I don’t have to be a professional
puppeteer to do all that. And I learned a lot from the children because they kept asking questions
about my puppets and dolls, which I wasn’t expecting. So I had a couple of flannel board
characters that the children started asking, are they brother and sister? How do they get to
school? What did they eat for breakfast? What are they going to be for Halloween? And I was
like, I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about these things. And they helped me answer the questions.
And so that really helped me understand how to bring dolls and puppets to life, because that’s
really one of the first goals.

I like using persona dolls with children, because it gives me an opportunity to bring children into
the group and to use them for a lot of different kinds of curriculum, and to introduce lots of new
ideas. So one of the keys here is that you have to take the persona dolls and bring them to life, so
the children really think of them as alive and as part of the group. I know for example, in my
classrooms, when it’s circle time and the children say, “Mickey has to come to circle too, right?
Everybody comes to circle,” I know they’re thinking of that doll as a real person. And so I get to
help decide what kind of person Mickey is, what the group needs. So I find it very useful in
introducing all kinds of curriculum.

When I first introduce a persona doll, I might have a lot of ideas about what I want to cover with
that doll. I’ll probably refer to him with that person, with Mickey, but what I try to do is introduce
that child as a whole person, rather than saying, here’s a new member of our classroom and he’s

106 Young Children • November 2010


1, 2, 3

Jan Pierce: What are persona dolls?

Cheryl Lynn Johnson: Persona dolls
are dolls but not toys. These dolls
are made and dressed as real people
with a real-life history. Each one has
a name, gender, race, and personality.
A teacher introduces a persona
doll to the class by saying, for exam-
ple, “This is Mee Soo. She is from
Korea and lives with her adopted
American family. She is 4 years old
and loves playing with playdough
and eating ice cream.” Each doll’s life
story remains in place throughout
its use in the classroom, and the life
story grows and evolves, just like a
real-life character.

Problem Solving with
Young Children

Using Persona Dolls
Jan Pierce and Cheryl Lynn Johnson

Jan Pierce, MEd, is a retired teacher and author living in Vancouver, Washington.
She writes about education and family life. Jan travels annually to India, where she
teaches English to women and children. Follow her at and www. [email protected]
Cheryl Lynn Johnson, MEd, is an early childhood specialist at the Child Development
Program of Washington State University in Vancouver, Washington. For her graduate
research project she implemented the use of five persona dolls in her preschool class-
room and documented the results from her lessons. [email protected]
Photos courtesy of the authors.

emotional skills. We use the dolls
intentionally, introducing them to the
children to teach a particular lesson.
It is a lot like introducing a new
student to the class, because each
doll comes with a complete identity,
including abilities and perhaps a
problem or challenge. As the chil-
dren get to know a doll, we share
more information. They learn about
the doll’s family members, home
language, religious affiliation, and rel-
evant family events, such as a move
or a new baby.

JP: What do young children like about
persona dolls?

CLJ: Persona dolls let grown-ups enter
into a young child’s make-believe

Early childhood Educators frequently look for new ways to help
children build social and emotional skills. Teachers want to use effective
tools and strategies whether they are redirecting aggressive behavior or
encouraging self-esteem and friendship.
Persona dolls are one approach to supporting children’s social-
emotional development. I spoke with Cheryl Johnson, an early child-
hood instructor at Washington State University in Vancouver, about her
research on this approach.

Persona dolls are not the same
as puppets, but they offer some
of the same benefits. Children are
extremely willing to talk w

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