Photo by normanack, used under Creative Commons license.
My baby is about to turn one and I’ve been looking online at lists of age-appropriate toys. Simple puzzles, shape-sorter toys, stacking toys, etc, all sound great — but dolls are also on the list. I’m not sure how I feel about that. She’s so young!

The doll I was looking at is from a good toy manufacturer — one that made several of our favorite baby toys. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a doll with little pink dresses. I’m afraid that it will be a stepping stone to more pink and all the dreaded princess crap. What have other Offbeat Mamas done? When did your kids get dolls? Did you find one brand to be less offensive/annoying than others? — Emily

Ariel’s favorite is the Manhattan Toy Baby Stella Boy by Manhattan Toy… do you guys have fave dolls that one-year-olds and toddlers love?

Comments on Are dolls appropriate for one-year-olds?

  1. Have you ever looked at Waldorf style dolls? I’m a product of Waldorf education and enjoy making the dolls myself (and also adoring the beautiful professionally made ones!). They can be a bit pricey because they’re all hand made, but they’re all pretty gender neutral, soft, unique dolls. They have different types for all ages, too…my mother made me one for my 3rd Christmas (age 3) and I still have her to this day!

  2. A doll is a blank slate. When I played with dolls as a toddler, I rarely (if ever?) played mommy. My dolls were my imaginary peers, or actors in dramas I made up while I played narrator/puppet master.

    And I second the comment about Waldorf dolls! They’re awesome. When your daughter is old enough, you can make them together.

    • Not that there’s anything wrong with playing mommy! As we all know, a mom is a perfectly cool thing to be.

      I think we’re more worried about the pink princess crap. I’d say to avoid that, just don’t give her a pink princess.

  3. My mom loves dolls so she always will give them as gifts. She gave my son a soft bodied doll when he was maybe 6 months old, and later gave him one that is all plastic and can go in the bath. I think it’s a great toy for a baby to play with! He didn’t care about playing with them until he was maybe 9 months old. He likes to point out the facial features, or make them clap etc. The one “bath baby” is naked and the other is just a plush body, so they don’t really have clothes or wear dresses. I refer to them as if they were male. No real reason except that so many dolls are female. I think it’s possible for either of my son’s dolls to be gender neutral.

  4. You’re the mama! If it doesn’t feel right to get your kid this toy, don’t do it. But if it doesn’t feel wrong, it’s your decision to make.
    Maybe it’s easier to convey to people in your life that you don’t want to go all-out princess on your kid by choosing a doll that’s dressed in colours other than pink, or maybe dressed in pants. Or a non-human doll, if you feel more comfortable there.
    And honestly? At some point in the future, other people are going to buy her dolls, in all likelihood. And they’re going to be pink.
    At the age of one, I had a Rainbow Brite doll. Though other, pinker dolls came after, I can’t help but imagine that she set the tone for the toys in my life in some way!

    • of topic, but when you mentioned non-human dolls, I thought of the Cabbage Patch dolls that were 1/2 human 1/2 cat or whatever.

      Also, I agree with your comments. The doll doesn’t have to be all pink and frilly. You can just change the outfit.

  5. A doll is defined by how u preset it. I had a baby doll growing up, but he had a special outfit my mom made. She took one of those hooded onesies and fabric painted it into an astronaut suit. Instant fun different play pattern. At one though I would make sure you get something that will hold up well to washing. And if u don’t feel comfortable getting a doll, don’t! Maybe do a combo, get a wooden doll teather, you can find them on etsy

  6. When I was a little kid I didn’t like baby dolls or girly dolls. I played with stuffed animals so much my grandmother got worried about me and told my mom not to buy me more stuffed animals so I would learn to like people =D
    I think stuffed animals are pretty gender-neutral, and they can be as toy-like or realistic as you want.

  7. My daughter had dolls at age one, but she was more into her stuffed animals. At that age they are starting to imitate what they see you do all day. If you tend to tote a laptop around, they will probably want a pretend computer. If they see you making meals in the kitchen, they may want to play with pretend food, or set their own table. If you’re caring for a younger sibling, they may be interested in pretending to be a mommy or daddy. I think since my daughter is the first, and so far only child, but we have pets (a dog and two chinchillas), she was drawn to the stuffed animals to play with and care for because that’s what she observed us doing.

    She actually only in the last week or so starting playing with one of her dolls, and I think it’s because she started at a home daycare where there is a 8 month old. She’s also two now, but I don’t know if that makes a difference.

  8. I would say, don’t feel like you’re prescribing some kind of gender thing. There are a lot of neutral looking baby dolls that can be a lovey or something to pretend to take care of. My son had a doll around the same age and loved it (still does.) He also has a lot of other stuffed animals that he pretends to take care of, so I don’t think a doll is a make-or-break situation.

    I bought my little boy’s doll right around one year old. It was dressed in a green outfit, with a soft body. It was one of the first things he really pretended with, sometime between 1-2 years. He loved telling the baby that it was diaper changing time. He REALLY loved telling me that the baby hurt his head (you know, the center of a learning-to-walk toddler’s world…)

  9. I am pregnant with my first but my mom got us a soft bodied doll for Christmas. He is soft, made from organic materials, wearing soft organic green clothes, African-American, and beautiful! I agree that the princess/pink/girly theme is so overdone, and we won’t be indoctrinating our daughter with that. If she later chooses to love princesses (*squirm*), cool, that’s her choice. When I was a baby/little girl, I LOVED baby dolls but hated princesses/pink/barbies. I would carry around 4-6 dolls at a time, playing “mommy”. Your daughter might love it! It might not be her thing. Might be worth a shot, if it’s the right doll 🙂

  10. I just want to throw out a recommendation for American Girl Dolls (even if they’re not age appropriate for this post).

    If you ever want to teach your daughters (or sons) about diversity, feminism without being princessy, these dolls are it!

    Be warned, though, they’re pricey. We grew up with them and collected them, and I still love & cherish them.

    • I just wanted to second this — though certainly NOT for a one-year-old! But although I owned Barbes, etc., the American girl dolls were the only ones I really played with growing up. I liked them because they were “people” not “babies” and I could talk to them, act out scenarios from books, etc. Plus I was really into history as a kid. I don’t like the new ones as much though. And I’m trying to think, but I don’t think I had (ok, have — I have 4 of them, but my 24 year old Samantha doll with matted hair and no eyelashes is still my favorite) a SINGLE pink dress for any of them!

      For a younger child, though, definitely a soft rag doll. Waldorf dolls are great! A doll with short or no hair (maybe a cap sewn on instead) and maybe even clothes that don’t come off, is great for really little ones.

    • I still have my Addy doll from when I was a young girl! I had most of the book series but Addy was the only doll I got- hands down the best doll ever. I always had multi-racial baby dolls (I’m caucasian) and my dad would jokingly refer to them as my “vacation in st. barts baby” or something. As an adult I think he was actually trying to steer me away from my diverse little family of baby dolls, but it didn’t work! My husband and I plan on having our own diverse family one day soon.

  11. Personally, I like dolls with stories of individuality, spunk and personality. Though she was in pink and purples, I chose the plush Rapunzel doll from Disney for my baby girl. Her grandpa really wanted to get her one and I like her the best because she was independent and stubborn (like my 6 month old). I know she’s still half a year old, but she really is active and loves her stuffies. Another dolly of sorts i would recommend are Pookaloos, but probably for a younger age. Her favorite is her Kermit one, probably because he has skinny arms and is easy for her to grab.

    I would also recommend American Girl dolls for later on. I had them when I was younger, and still have them for my daughter when she becomes older. 🙂

  12. My daughter got her first doll this past Christmas which was also her 12 month birthday. I wasn’t crazy about it at first but every time I went to pick her up from my workout center’s babysitting room, she was holding onto one of the dolls there.

    I like to watch her play with it, because she’s learning valuable skills. How to be kind, how to share with the doll, how to be gentle. I look forward to buying her a more diverse collection because I think it’s a good way to teach her that not everyone looks the same (our area is not very culturally diverse). We have no plans to ever introduce any kind of princess crap to her, I think the two can be easily separated.

  13. My daughter really likes the LaLa Loopsey dolls. They are hard plastic–maybe not great for a one year old, but they have a lot of different colors in their outfits. They are also not baby dolls. They look like oddly shaped children–not a baby that you need to take care of. I like this better than the baby doll aspect because it is easier for my daughter to determine how she wants to play with it. I will warn you though, LaLa Loopsy is made by the same brand that makes the Bratz dolls, which I personally find deplorable. I decided that maybe if I give money for a specific line that is better than the others than they would put more money into that type of toy, but that’s probably me trying to reason away a little bit of guilt.

    That being said, I think you should maybe look for dolls that are more unique–find rag dolls or less realistic dolls. Also, stuffed animals are great alternatives to dolls because you can take care of them, play with them, treat them like a baby/pet/friend. If you go the rote of something like Build-a-Bear, you can even have the fun of dress-up without the feelings of pushing your child into a parenting role.

    • I’m bummed to hear they’re made from the same company as Bratz. I LOVE LaLa Loopsey dolls (they have such cool stories), I got the pirate boy as a gift from my husband (my roller derby name is pirate-y) and all my young friends (I watch a couple of 3-4 year olds some afternoons) love him.

      • I will never buy my daughter anything Bratz, but LaLa Loopseys are just too damn fun. I love that they have boy and girl dolls. I like the little animals. I love that all of the dolls have their own personalities and hobbies. So I’m just going to try not to have guilt about it.

  14. We bought our son a soft-bodied doll for his first birthday. He’s dressed like a pirate! There are soft-bodied girl dolls that aren’t necessarily “princess-ey”, too. I looked and looked until I found a doll that I was willing to pay the price for and also not a “character”. (Not that there’s anything wrong with “characters”. He loves his Pooh Bear!) The Haba toy brand have soft dolls that are in regular clothes that are at a good price point!

    Good luck finding what you’re looking for!

  15. i got my kid a doll for his first birthday. it was an anatomically correct baby doll with an uncircumcised penis. seven years later, “baby koda” is still and oft-accessed toy around here. his clothes have all been hand made by me and my kid.

    doll don’t have to be about pink dresses! they are a tool for teaching little ones about empathy!

  16. My mom bought the baby a doll from Haba last year, she’s multi-ethnic and the baby seems to like her. She’s in pants and a tunic and is not princess at all. Kinda nice. I cannot find a link (because the name of the doll escapes me, but this is close)-

  17. Despite others gifts of dolls my daughter would rather play with stuffed animals, hand me down plastic farm animal and music toys (small tamborine, tiny guitar, egg shaker). She totes around a 8in stuffed giraffe everywhere. She “feeds” it, shares her sippy cups and snuggles it all night. The dolls get an occasional “ooooo baby” and a hug and then tossed off for another toy

  18. My daughter doesn’t play with dolls at home; she just isn’t interested. But she plays with them all day long at daycare. I think at daycare she is emulating me with her younger brother, but when she is at home with the real thing, she doesn’t feel it’s necessary to pretend that game. Anyways, dolls are awesome. It teaches kids about caring and love and kindness.

  19. How about Raggedy Ann/Andy? Though they have genders, they’re pretty gender-neutral, dressed in red and navy and white (though a bit rah-rah America with that color scheme, I guess 🙂
    They also stand up to a beating/dragging from a toddler!

  20. My almost 1 year old son has several dolls of different sizes, most of them are caucasian, one is a darker skin tone. The caucasian ones are all clearly in feminine clothes, the darker skin toned doll is just in a diaper. I’m not terribly worried about it right now, but I am actively seeking out a couple of more dolls in different skin tones and in male and gender neutral outfits to add to his collection over the next year. He really likes all of them, he likes to point out the features on their faces while I name eyes, ears, etc. Of course at this point he also just carries them around by one leg and chews on their heads, but I’d be worried if he didn’t : ) I think dolls are totally age appropriate and make great learning and teaching tools, but I also think it’s important to have a variety of dolls available. It’s perfectly fine to have a feminine doll in a pink frilly dress, even several, but it’s even better to add a broad range of dolls to that collection.

  21. I love waldorf style dolls but didn’t know of them when my now 6 year old was 1. I did, however, love the cabbage patch kids and how “normal” they were – ie, no pink, no feminine BS and no bratz hideousness 🙂 Just neutral human shaped toys for a wee one to play with 🙂

  22. I don’t know if I’m allowed to do this, but here are some links to show what I was talking about in my comment: and

    You can get patters to make similar dolls from Magic Cabin, but also ETSY is full of people who make dolls like this. I really would stay away from hair and removable clothing with a toddler, it can be a huge mess, plus I would worry about them choking on the hair, it WILL go in the mouth! Littles will carry/rock/nurse a baby doll like this, but they will also suck/teethe on it!

  23. My girls were given a doll at around one year old because they were so fond of the “babies” at playspaces we visited. Their cousin chose a dark-skinned Corolle doll with a soft body, and it was a hit. “She” was in a pink outfit, but that quickly got lost, honestly. We’ve since added a bunch of Groovy Girls, a pirate, a Baby Stella (as above) in purple…only the Princess Tiana baby doll another cousin gave us had any hint of princess at all, and that was easily fixed by removing the crown. Poof! Generic black baby in a green dress!

  24. Hi Everyone – this is the original poster’s wife. Thank you for all the great suggestions and feedback. I must say I am more pro-doll than my wife, so I am looking forward to finding a mutually agreeable solution. I have a question about the Waldorf style dolls that many people have mentioned – do they have faces? The ones I am familiar with all do not, and while I support the concept, aesthetically I find them challenging.

    • There are many that have minimal faces but not expressions. The idea being that the child can then choose how the doll is feeling during pretend play, and they are more able to explore the full range of emotions than if the doll has a smile all the time.

      • I like the idea behind this, but also find the faceless dolls creepy. I’ve noted that even though my daughter’s doll always has a happy face, my daughter feels free to say that the doll is feeling a variety of ways.
        We settled on HABA for reasons others mentioned: quality, reasonable price, not princessy.

    • If you make one, you can give it any kind of face you want. I tried to make mine expressionless, but it looks more like it’s smirking. Lol. That’s okay, that suits my son better anyway. It has eyes and a mouth, I didn’t try doing a nose because I’m not that skilled of a seamstress.

  25. There are some beautiful cloth dolls on Etsy. Some are made to order so they can have the same colour hair or eyes or skin tone as your little one, even dolls with spectacles. Lots of options as far as clothing goes, and I didn’t really notice many being pink and princessy.

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