Deployment is coming up and you’re worried that your little ones will be inconsolable without their military parent. Luckily there is a solution: daddy dolls. Military daddy dolls are used as a way to help kids feel connected to their parent during a deployment, injury or other worrisome event
What Is A Military Daddy Doll?
Daddy dolls are parent-shaped stuffed pillows that your child can snuggle, hug and cuddle to help when they miss a deployed parent.
Now, don’t let the name fool you. Daddy dolls can be made for Mommy, Aunt, Uncle, Grandpa and Grandma, too!
Your custom doll will be made using a picture of the person your child might be missing. There are tons of different makers (we’ll share more about that later!) and design options available. Pick something that works for you and your child.
Typically, these dolls feature pictures of the loved one in their military uniform. The dolls can help kids of all ages feel more connected to a parent or loved one who is far from home.
How Can They Help A Child?
When a parent or loved one is deployed, or even TDY (temporary duty away from their home base) for a while, children naturally miss this person.
Having something to love on, can really help children cope. Think about your child’s current special stuffed animal – one that they can’t go anywhere without and is always in their bed. Their new daddy or mommy doll can act in the same way! Your child will be able to take their special doll with them on their adventures, even when your military family is separated.
Lots of military families participate in the “daddy doll challenge.” If you’ve ever done a Flat Stanley project, the concept is the same. Basically, take your doll along with you and take photos as you go. This is a great way for the active duty parent to participate in family life, even when apart. Having a mommy or daddy doll there can help make birthdays and holidays more special!
Small children, especially infants or toddlers, benefit from having their own doll to help with recognition later on. This is great for military parents with a baby born during or just before deployment. It’s also great for toddlers and preschoolers. They may have a hard time remembering Mom or Dad at homecoming.
As a bonus, some dolls offer the option of adding a voice recording! Being able to hear dad’s voice can really help on tough days. Listening to their deployed parent’s voice will also help with recognition at homecoming – they’ll make a connection between their doll and their parent.
Military families around the world have been singing the praises of daddy (or mommy) dolls for years! A quick peek at many military spouse-focused social media networks will often featured multiple posts about using these types of dolls to help children cope with deployment. And daddy dolls are the number one recommendation from other military spouses to their peers facing deployment with young children.
Where Can I Buy A Military Daddy Doll?
You can buy military daddy dolls in a bunch of different places online! Depending on where you live, a military spouse might run their own small business creating custom dolls for local families.
However, the original daddy doll is from Hug-a-Hero. Founded 17 years ago, these dolls come in a variety of sizes. The front features a head-to-toe image of your loved one. The back features a fabric of your choice. Hug-a-Hero dolls are body shaped, making them more doll-like than pillowy. Their dolls come in a variety of sizes, from traditional doll-sized to toddler sized.
You can also find similar dolls for sale on Etsy and Amazon. Many of these dolls are similar to the Hug-a-Hero model: body-shaped and medium-stuffed animal sized.
Another popular doll option are the Huggee Miss You dolls. These are true dolls, with moveable arms and legs. Huggees are still soft and plush. There is a stitched face, but it’s covered by a picture frame sleeve. Which means you can slip a photo right into the doll! These dolls also feature a recording option and come in a variety of military uniform patterns.
Can I Make a Daddy Doll for My Military Kids?
Yes! Anyone can make a daddy doll for their child (or anyone else) at any time!
To make a Hug-a-Hero doll, you will need a full-body photo of your loved one. There must be a clear silhouette of their body. This will serve as a cutting guide for the maker.
To make a doll that features just the face, make sure you have a clear photo of your service member. The two big companies, Hug-a-Hero and Huggee Miss You, do not offer a doll featuring just a custom printed face at this time. However, makers on Etsy may be able to accommodate this request.
For the plush-style dolls, simply choose your pattern and recording options. You will add the photo at home.
If you have questions about ordering a specific doll, it is always best to reach out to the business or artist directly. They will be able to provide very clear answers or instructions
Are Free Daddy Dolls Available for Military Children?
There are often giveaways or options to win a Daddy or Mommy doll for military families or children. However, these are giveaways mostly run by individuals or businesses. Military units, typically through the family readiness group (FRG), might also offer free dolls as part of a deployment work-up.
If you are interested in receiving a free doll for your military child, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are great places to start. The giveaways are often paired with months featuring military holidays (November and May). Your unit’s FRG may also spread the word through social media. However, a quick email to your family readiness leadership team might be a faster way to get info.
Have you or your children ever had a daddy doll? Tell us about it in the comments!
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!