To transform inanimate dolls into special friends, practitioners create personas for them – imaginary identities covering their ethnicity, gender and family circumstances. The similarities and differences between the Dolls and the children highlight diversity and commonality.
The fact that children readily accept the Dolls is not surprising. However, the way that most adults think of and treat the Dolls as ‘people’ they care about, certainly is. By developing their own individual way of using them, they explore and challenge in a stimulating and fun way the values, stereotypes and prejudices that underpin exclusion and inequality.
Personas should be as stereotype-free as possible. If staff work together to develop personas for the Dolls, it deepens their understanding and commitment to the Persona Doll approach. The personas they create are likely to reflect a range of cultural backgrounds, types of families, abilities and disabilities; and mirror the experiences and interests of the children.
They will then have reliable detailed information to draw on when making up stories around the Dolls.
A record of each Doll’s persona is kept and when a new Doll is added to the collection, all the staff and, if possible parents, discuss and agree her/his persona.
Circumstances may change e.g. a new baby is born, a parent may lose her/his job, a grandparent may move into the family home, but personas remain constant.
When developing personas especially for Dolls from cultures with which practitioners are unfamiliar, care is taken that they are given appropriate names. Parents are the best source of information, but libraries, resource centres, embassies and the net can also be helpful.