Almost every kid has fond memories of playing with dolls while growing up. Despite what some people might think, dolls aren’t just for girls. Plenty of little boys love and care for dolls, too. And yes, action figures count.

In fact, playing with dolls is an important part of development for every kid. It teaches them how to be kind and gentle with other people. It also teaches them how to be empathetic and even things about their bodies.

Researchers say that playing with dolls is important for two reasons. It lets kids be creative as they imagine different scenarios for their dolls. But it also teaches them to be kind and compassionate. They mimic their parents as they rock their dolls, feed them, and kiss their boo-boos.

“The open-ended nature of doll play can allow children to practice routines or social interactions that might be tricky — such as how to resolve a conflict with a friend from their real life,” says Jody DeVos, the director of Child Development and Learning at Mattel.

And of course, in a child’s mind, a doll is a friend. Sometimes, it’s even a friend that looks just like them.