Dolls and a Child’s Experience

I was people-watching/listening on the subway the other day and noticed a family – a mom, a dad and  a little boy – speaking French. The boy was dressed in the most adorable casual-chic outfit I’d ever seen on a child; his blond hair was perfectly cut. Clutched tightly in his arms was a very well-washed floppy stuffed bunny. Or maybe it was a puppy dog; it was hard to tell.

The scene reminded me of a non-profit I support called Tubie Friends. Some children require a surgically-placed feeding tube to get proper nutrition. Having a port attached to your body can be disconcerting to an adult, much less a small child. So two mothers of children with feeding tubes got the idea to attach the same type of tubes to stuffed animals, so their children would have a “friend” sharing their experiences. A child with a Tubie Friend can also practice “feeding” the doll and show his or her sibling how it is done.

I did a little more research and found out that in hospitals, healthcare workers called child life specialists also use dolls to teach sick children and their parents and siblings about their illness and help them cope. I also found an article on PennLive that details the process of using a Medical play doll to prepare a young patient for her treatment at the hospital: Medical play helps children cope with their illnesses.

As a User Experience Designer, most of the products I work with are digital, like websites and applications. But as this quote from Bill DeRouchey points out “User experience is any interaction with any product, any artifact, any system.” For a child that could be interacting with a professionally designed Medical doll or a well-loved floppy stuffed bunny.