Doll Houses — A Toy Aimed at Teaching Compassionate Living with People with Disabilities in the Society
Writer Karunpas Limkhuansuwan
A lecturer from the Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University has developed a toy that instills a sense of compassion in children while teaching them to live happily with people with disabilities and the elderly in society.
Instilling in children a sense of empathy cannot be achieved through rote learning or memorization, but through interactions with people in the society and activities that simulate a variety of situations such as: The “Doll House“, an educational toy developed by Assistant Professor Pornthep Lerttevasiri, Art Education Division, Department of Art, Music, and Dance Education, Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University.
“Instilling empathy in children is important to promote maturity and be able to live happily with others. The best time is preschool ages 3–6 (kindergarten) in which children are most receptive and good at remembering the things they see around them.”
Dollhouse — a social simulation toy
The dollhouse is unique in that the dolls portray various forms of disability including visual impairment, hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, etc. The dollhouse is equipped with devices used in the daily life of people with disabilities with realistic mechanisms.
Asst. Prof. Pornthep developed the dollhouse based on world-class award-winning research such as doll body joints that have been patented for the specific invention of various locking systems that allow the doll to move at certain joints making them realistic and interesting to play with.
The Doll House set comprises ready-made dolls with disabilities, and complete disability equipment, including ramps and wheelchairs. The parts have high safety standards for children because they are made of a wood substitute called MDF (Medium Density Fiber Board) plywood fiber from dust chips, wood chips, formed with adhesive with medium density.
Children will have fun and learn through playing with the dollhouse and the dolls representing various types of disabilities and aging, including visual impairment, hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, amputees, and the elderly. There are also various types of equipment for the disabled such as walking canes for the elderly. Every component of the dollhouse is a model that functions like real items.
“The dollhouse is an educational medium to create awareness and understanding in children of coexistence, disability, human aging, and empathy.”
Doll House — The fun that comes with coexistence
The toy set comes with a basic manual on the importance of coexistence with the disabled and the elderly, as well as how to operate devices for people with disabilities.
“Many people don’t know how to help people with disabilities, so they don’t dare to help, and are afraid of making mistakes, or insulting them. For example, when crossing the road, we shouldn’t walk in and lead the person to cross the street, but we should touch the back of the hand of the disabled with the back of our hand. The disabled will hold our arm, so that we can lead them to cross the street,” Asst. Prof. Pornthep gives an example of the universal principle of taking people with disabilities across the road.
“On living with the elderly, the dollhouse also has suitable toy equipment, including walkers, walking canes, beds for the elderly, saline poles, and even Pampers (ready-made diapers for the disabled or the elderly). This set of toys has everything to do with instilling life values, and social equality in the children vis a vis people with disabilities, and the elderly.”
Asst. Prof. Pornthep said another byproduct of this toy set is the knowledge and learning experience of using the equipment for the disabled, and the elderly, because of the realistic design that moves almost like in real life.
Doll House for play, not so much for teaching
Asst. Prof. Pornthep stresses that parents and teachers must read and understand the basic manual, which contains methods, guidance, and equipment information to help people with disabilities to be able to adapt the information into fun play for children.
“This is a “toy” that children need to feel like they’re having fun playing, not studying. Parents and teachers need to learn the manual first and then relay the information to the children by incorporating it during play, such as what Braille Blocks and ramps are for.”
Parents or teachers may let their children play with the dollhouse imaginatively, but it’s better for adults and children to spend time and learn together. It’s life learning that comes with age-appropriate fun.
“The disabled don’t need sympathy, but understanding and help in the right way. The dollhouse is fun for children to play with while learning how to help the disabled, how to use the equipment, and most importantly, coexist with the disabled and the elderly.
Doll House is a fun educational toy that can include the topics that you want to cultivate in children. Asst. Prof. Pornthep has an idea to develop the Doll House as a narrative about the Thai way of life, and the royal activities of the late King Rama IX to instill the concept of self-sufficiency in Thai children.
Those interested in Doll House can contact Asst. Prof. Pornthep, Art Education Division, Department of Art, Music, and Dance Education, Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University, Tel +662–218–2565 ext 5601.