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History and Mondo Dolls

By Valerie Yule - posted Thursday, 20 August 2015


Children and adolescents often complain that history is boring.  It is not. It teaches us about our present as well as our past.  But it is taught so that it is boring.  We got rid of dates, which were boring, and we now have socio-economic and political stuff, which is boring. Is it really?  Or is it the ways it is taught?  Even layouts made in classrooms can be made dull.

When Mondo dolls came along, which I find that children and adolescents love, the teachers found them boring and did not take any notice of them. And so I made collections of the dolls from the Salvation Army charity shops where they have been flung.

One example of how to make history alive is Mondo dolls.  These are thirty little plastic figures, a little bigger than plastic soldiers, which each came with a backing sheet with on one side a dramatic picture of their times and on the other side, a few notes about their times, each in a little clear plastic bag. They range from all over recorded history, and all countries, and they are colourful. Children aged three like them as well as teenagers.

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They were made by the Mars company in Australia. (Australian-made!)

I offer the little dolls to children and adolescents, who start squabbling together over the ones they like best, and ask for more next time.

There are thirty little dolls.  Are?  They are not made any more, and you could only get them from Salvation Army charity shops – see Google.  But they are the most wonderful things to get youngsters interested in history.

Have sets of then in a class, for any period, and the best student can take one home!  Or make some other reward from them.  Children start being interested at age three, and keep on being interested in them.

Knowing there are Mondo dolls for other periods of time than that studied too, makes the students keen on learning about the other periods too.

They find that History that is interesting and is about people, not just about dinosaurs,

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In the same way, coloured plastic numbers and letters make early arithmetic and literacy interesting for beginners to learn. But you do not often find them in classrooms – more often on refrigerator doors at home. Do teachers dislike them because they get scattered in a classroom and the teachers have to pick them up? Solution - Have playtrays with charts and pictures on them, where the numbers and letters live.  Playtrays are easy to make – A little bigger than A4 charts that can sit in them, made of masonite with half-sized dowelling for edges so the alphanumeric figures or the figurines will stay on them and don’t fall off.  At home children with magnetic letters and numbers on the refrigerator have a head start.

Children love to learn about dinosaurs – and toyshops are full of dinosaurs of every size and shape, for children to play with at home.  They also play with plastic soldiers at home

but given the chance, they  have the makings of social and economic history at school if they have Mondo dolls.

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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