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    Are Paper Dolls The Next Big Trend? (and Why It Matters)

    01.09.2013 / ART + DESIGN, toys & games

    paper dolls for kids
    Although the earliest known paper dolls originated in Europe in the 1700s (and were created to entertain adults, no less), it wasn’t until the 1930s that “The Golden Age of Paper Dolls” gained steam. Yet with the introduction of Barbie‘s 3D (or should I write 3DD?) dolls in 1959, the pastime slowly faded from the limelight. Now, more than eight decades later, the paper doll era has returned to glory – thanks to a surprising backlash in technology use among kids.

    Even Silicon Valley, the Mecca of Tech-a, is feeling weary from increased screen time. So much in fact that many heavy-hitters in the technology industry are sending their own kids to Waldorf School, a completely tech-free educational facility, where computer time at school is prohibited – and at home, is shunned. The kids are having a blast:

    “You can look back and see how sloppy your handwriting was in first grade. You can’t do that with computers ’cause all the letters are the same,” Finn Heilig, 10, said. “Besides, if you learn to write on paper, you can still write if water spills on the computer or the power goes out.”

    paper dolls for kids 3

    It’s true: paper is making a comeback in the realm of children’s’ entertainment. Little Paper Planes – a title released last year that modernizes the childhood staple with 20 exciting artist interpretations – includes a nostalgic sentiment about the wonder of paper from author Kelly Lynn Jones:

    “As a child, I would enter a daydream world of my own. During these long periods of fantasy, I would draw all over anything in front of me and create sculptures out of whatever was at hand… they were real tangible objects but represented the possibility that what I imagined could really come to be,” she writes.

    paper dolls for kids 4

    Indeed, if paper is the future’s chosen medium for creativity, paper dolls are the crowned leader of the growing movement. Hundreds of websites offer free paper doll templates for parents to print, creating a fun, sustainable and affordable activity for the littles. And handmade marketplace extraordinaire, Etsy.com, is littered with dozens of options available for purchase, cementing a child’s growing desire for a modern counterpart to the old-fashioned paper dolls of her mother’s day.

    But paper dolls aren’t just for kids. Cultural icons and celebrities are becoming hot targets for the new medium with recent releases of Downton Abbey, Bill Murray, Margot Tenenbaum and Arrested Development paper doll characters. And illustrator Jordan Grace Owens is personalizing the trend by offering customized family portrait paper dolls.

    It’s a movement that’s unspeakably refreshing in today’s fast-paced society, encouraging kids to slow down, breathe deeply and craft something magical. Because in the words of Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

    Image Credits: Cupcakes for Clara, available for purchase.

    p.s. Just for fun: DIY paper doll clothes, paper doll bedding and unbelievable paper hats for kids.


    • You know Miles is ALLLLL about paper “dolls.” He makes his own paper action figures/toys/people every day. (Makes for a cluttered home, but oh well. Creativity abounds!)

    • Love this!!! I’m a huge fan of paper dolls. My littlest has a fun set from Belle and Boo that I adore. I want to make a dollhouse on the wall out of felt and put Velcro on the back of the doll so she can live there. The one you shared might have to join her:)

    • I love that my adored childhood paper dolls are becoming trendy again. Yay to playing and learning with your hands!

      • @Ana – Me too! I used to cut out old JC Penney models from my mom’s catalogs and use them as “paper dolls.” :)

    • yeah paper dolls! I love the history in the post and something about the paper doll is truly timeless i think. I love the idea of adding a little bit of your own touches too like Karen Barbe’s donkey, http://blog.karenbarbe.com/2012/01/survey-encuesta.html or the circus over at handmade charlotte http://www.handmadecharlotte.com/amazing-book-diy-circus-characters/

    • Love this! I used to play paper dolls with my great-grandma when I was little! It’s the one thing I asked for from her house when she died but they had already been thrown away. I actually bought a book of them this past summer though because it made me think of her and smile!

    • Sheila Green

      I remember that so well!! :)

      • @Sheila – Ha, I’d forgotten you’d witnessed the antics! :)

    • Nikki

      Aww! I loved paper dolls! I’m only 20, but I grew up on paper dolls and sticker doll booklets. Definitely a must for my future little ones :)

    • Library Lady

      Hats….(and heads) off to paper dolls! So much easier to manipulate, play with, and change than the real thing. I wish I had thought of the dollhouse on the wall…great idea for my little girls!

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    • One of my favorite babysitters when I was in elementary school would draw a simple human figure on a manila folder and then I would get to color him/her in and cut him/her out and create a wardrobe out of typing paper. Remembering kind of makes me want to go make one right now …

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