'Jesus wouldn't want you to be afraid: 'Dolls encourage children to play with Jesus, saints [Excerpts]
About 10 years ago, Mary Englund moved her 5-year-old son into a basement room - and he was terrified.
To comfort him, Englund put a statue of Jesus in the bed with him.
"I put it under the blanket and told him, `Jesus wouldn't want you to be afraid,'" she said. "He was fine with it. I said, `I'm sorry it's not soft.' When I left the room, I thought, `I wonder if there is a Jesus doll.'"
There is now, and plenty of them.
Englund created what has become known as "My Loving Jesus Doll," which sells for $19.95. It's about a foot tall, a squeezable soft doll with outstretched arms, dressed in a robe. It comes with a linen scroll addressed to a child, explaining who Jesus is.
Dolls are important companions for children, she said, and can be used as a tool to introduce children to Jesus. "If you can plant that seed early, it doesn't go away," Englund said. "When I was a girl I talked to my dolls. I loved my dolls."
The business got too big for her, so she brought in Jim Keding, who . . . . had a booth at the recent Catholic Marketing Network conference in Birmingham, Jan. 10-13. He was trying to sell the dolls to Catholic stores nationwide.
At the opposite end of the exhibit hall, a more expensive Jesus doll was on display. Made with molded rubber face and hands, the Soft Saints dolls sell for $98 apiece. "We can barely stay ahead of the demand," said Teri O'Toole, founder of Soft Saints based in Anaheim, Calif. She said she began making and selling her realistic-looking dolls in 2000.
"I looked at the religious gifts available to children," said O'Toole, a former advertising executive. "There wasn't much available. What do you give a kid - a rosary, a statue?"
She offers several Jesus dolls, including an infant Jesus. And she sells a Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus. There are 28 historical characters, including Joan of Arc, Pope John Paul II, St. Francis and Mother Teresa, with four new ones coming out this spring.
Another entry in the Christian doll market is Faith Filled Friends, small plush religious toys made by J-Zoo in Vista, Calif., including Jesus and other saints in a simple style like stuffed carnival toys, selling for $16.95.
So the market for religious toys has been growing, with a selection from the simple and cheap to the more expensive and finely crafted.
There really are wholesome dolls available now, O'Toole said (Garrison, Birmingham News, January 27, 2006).
[TBC: The Lord specifically forbade images of deity. An often overlooked reason for doing so is that an image limits that which it seeks to portray. Children need to know that the Lord is always there, regardless of where their doll may be.]