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

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.”

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.

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,, 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.


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