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Why Do Needy Children Need Dolls? What You Should Know

Knitted dolls for charity can help children work through hard times and grief. You can help with dolls for the Uthando Project

Many items knitted for charity announce their need loudly. It’s hard to argue against the need for scarves, hats, blankets, mittens, even socks.

A prayer shawl doesn’t have that kind of bold practicality, but it’s deeply steeped in many faith traditions. And recipients certainly understand and appreciate its value.

But when we come to the idea of knitting dolls for children in need, sometimes you feel resistance. Why make knitted dolls for charity? Why not focus on items like hats, blankets, scarves, mittens?

If you wonder why a child in need might need a doll, I encourage you to keep reading!

The Value of Playtime for Children

In many hard-working, driven societies, adults don’t quite understand why playtime is so important for children. Even I wasn’t quite sure of its value, even though I loved the idea of knit dolls for needy children.

And then I read this eye-opening article at the Uthando Project website. And it began to make sense to me!

I encourage you to read the article for yourself, but in a nutshell, playtime is actually an essential part of a child’s development. I think we too often forget that children are not merely miniature adults. Children are still developing, and they need to explore their world and work out an understanding of life.

For grieving children, dolls can be an essential part of the healing process. As the Uthando Project website states,

Children can deal with the difficulties of life better if they are not alone in their grief and confusion. Sometimes adults don’t know how to have difficult conversations with children, and play can be a way for caregiver and child to connect and talk together. Play may help a child better make sense of their emotions, which often leads to more settled behaviour and everyone in the family benefits. “


A doll can become a companion of one’s very own, someone to talk to and cuddle, a silent friend. Caregivers can introduce difficult conversations through the doll (How is she feeling? What would he say?)

“Children want to copy the daily events in their life, where many see bewildering signs of illness and death. They may want to act out funerals, or other sad scenes, allowing them to release their feelings through play, and allowing a sensitive caregiver to learn more about their inner world.”

When a child has experienced the death of one or both parents, a doll like the ones created by volunteers for the Uthando Project can be a genuine lifeline.

All photos courtesy of the Uthando Project

About the Uthando Project: How They Help Needy Children with Dolls

The Uthando Project is doing its own part to help these children with a special project: collecting and distributing handmade dolls to needy children in KwaZulu-Natal, a province of South Africa.

KwaZulu-Natal happens to have the highest rate of HIV infection of any province in South Africa. The nation itself has the highest percentage of HIV-positive citizens in all of Africa.

Ann Vivers of the Uthando Project told me, “We have now sent over 50,000 dolls to KZN! And while the project started in Perth, Western Australia, dolls are being made in quite a few different places around Australia and even overseas now.”

What makes the Uthando Project particularly special is that it provides multiple patterns for dollmaking with a specific purpose: to design dolls that match KwaZulu-Natal children’s own appearance and culture.

These are the kinds of dolls that children relate to the most, but in this part of the world they are either scarce or extremely expensive.

And this is where the knitted dolls for the Uthando Project come in.

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How You Can Help with Knitted Dolls for the Uthando Project

The most exciting way you can help with the Uthando Project is by knitting dolls for charity. Patterns are available here.

One thing you’ll notice on the page of patterns is that they offer three types of knitted doll patterns: a very simple beginner’s pattern, a boy’s pattern, and a girl’s pattern.

You’ll also notice you can knit a variety of accessories for dolls, including clothes, toys, and animals. You can even make a “doll wrap” so that children can simulate carrying their “babies” on their backs!

You can put together a dollmaking group, if you have a group of like-minded friends who would like to knit dolls together. It can be even more fun to make a difference as a group!


Note: all the links below are affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking, I may receive a commission. It costs you nothing extra. Thank you!

  1. You can find Patons Wool DK in Black and Mocha on Etsy!
  2. Etsy also carries this gorgeous Merino Magic Highlights yarn — perfect for doll clothing!
  3. Knit Picks’ Swish DK also offers the perfect colors for dolls and their clothing.

If you live in Australia, you can find several groups already. If you live elsewhere, feel free to start your own. Information on dollmaking groups can be found here.

If you teach a knitting class, or are the leader of any kind of group of children or young adults who would be interested in knitting for the Uthando Project, check out their resources for teachers.

Other ways you can help are listed on this page. It includes fundraising and raising awareness of the needs of children around the world, the benefits of play, and the effect of HIV/AIDS.

If you’re making dolls, be sure you follow the guidelines listed here.

Finally, when you’re ready to send dolls, visit the Uthando Project’s Contact Us page and fill out the form. Be sure to put “Doll Delivery” in the subject, so the Project can contact you and inform you of how to proceed.

You can explore the Uthando Project more fully throughout their website; you can also visit their Facebook page for news, inspiration, and online community with other dollmakers.

The Uthando Project is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to help children half a world away. I hope you’ll consider supporting this organization with your time and talent! Your knitted dolls for charity could truly make a difference in children’s lives.

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