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. My two year old is obsessed with dolls and she got her first around one year. We live near two toys stores that host the sing-a-longs and story times that we go to so she just discovered them on her own. I honestly tried to hold off on getting her a doll as long as I could but it seemed silly to deny her of something she was so interested in just because it wasn’t MY thing.

    Her first doll was a Corolle Les Trendies with pink hair. Super cute.

  2. I saw some adorable soft-bodied dolls at Ikea yesterday that had an assortment of outfits and came in several different ethnicities. They didn’t strike me as being “girly” or “boyish,” just cuddly and child-like. I think they were $10 each, so they might be a good option if you wanted to try a doll but not commit a bunch of money to it.

  3. There are so many options out there when it comes to dolls, they don’t have to be the pink-princess type. When my son was about one we bought him a doll to play with. He loved dressing the doll and it actually was a good way to introduce him to the idea of dressing himself. He’s five now, and he still plays with his doll. We had kiddo #2 recently and he likes to copy what I do, he gets his doll and pretends its his baby to take care of.

  4. Some kids love dolls. Some don’t. My daughter L.O.V.E.D. her dolls. Treated them like babies. Pushed them around in strollers. Talked to them. Played doctor with them. Kissed their heads. My son, on the other hand, liked to push his trucks around in the stroller. I don’t think this has anything to do with being socialized in a particularly gender-rigid household at all, it’s just what they liked. I say get her a doll, and if she takes to it, follow her lead. If not, don’t push it. And I gotta tell you, if that pink princess crap is coming, it’s coming, and there’s not much you can do about it, unless you want to spend years 3 and 4 fighting about everything. To me, at least, it wasn’t worth it. But the good news is that it disappears as fast as it comes.

    And I wouldn’t worry about the outfit – my daughter’s favorite doll (Murry, of The Wiggles provenance), one of those ones with hard arms and legs and a soft body, was perpetually naked.

  5. I gave my son a doll when he was about 13 months old. I dressed it in gender neutral overalls and he loves it – puts her to bed, carries her around, etc.

  6. I’m the oldest in my family and the first doll I remember receiving is the one my parents gave me at age 2 right before my brother was born to help me understand & get ready for the new (real) baby. I remember thinking of that doll as a boy…probably because of my brother! I remember it as fairly non-descript, but human looking. My mom made plain onesies for it to wear. I loved it because it looked similar to a real baby, which I wanted to emulate because we had a real baby at home.

  7. Every child is different and if your daughter ends up liking the princess stuff I bet you find it totally adorable because she is your child and what parent doesn’t like to see their child full of joy. I have three kids and each one is totally different from the next. I have one extrovert who at six years old doesn’t really even like toys. She would rather be talking and interacting with adults. Do what feels right for you and your daughter.

  8. My first birthday present from my maternal grandparents was a soft plush dolly with a pastel pink dress and frills. She was my special ‘Didi’ and I loved her to bits and still have her, though her arm is falling off, her head is held on with a safety pin and her second set of clothes (the ones mum made when the first lot began to fall off in rags) is threadbare. Despite the pink and frills, I was a complete tomboy. My 4th Christmas present was one of those rugs that have a city with roads etc on them so that you can drive your matchbox cars around it. My favourite colour was green, and I really really detested dresses and skirts. The only way I would happily wear a dress was if I was also allowed to wear my green tights with socks over the top so that I looked as though I had green legs.

    A doll, even one with a frilly pink dress and bonnet, isn’t going to induce princess fever in your child. I think that really comes down to the individual child and their circumstances. Get her a doll. She might not even like it!

  9. My son has an anatomically correct baby boy doll that was mine as a child. Not sure about the plastics to be honest, but I’m hoping that a secondhand plastic doll is better than a brand new one as far as toxins go. The doll is well-made and I do notice that my son gravitates towards him more than towards stuffed animals, I think because he is so much more lifelike. He likes to point out his nose, ears, belly button and penis! The doll has been getting more and more play. At 12 months not so much but by now (17 months) he does carry him around, tries to dress him, and offers him sips of water and food. The cute could kill!

    Anyways, he is a boy doll who we dress in my son’s newborn clothes and diapers. Toddlers like babies and it’s an easy way to skip the pink fashion crap. Growing up, my grandma made my favorite doll clothes, which could be a good option for making your own gender-neutral (or just not crazy crazy pink) outfits for your baby’s baby. 🙂

    • This is so cute! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a baby doll with a penis. I must live under a rock…

      • My husband had one as a toddler in the 70s, which my mother in law held on to and eventually gave to my niece and nephew, and they destroyed it (innocently, as kids do) so we replaced it for her with another doll with a penis. They are kind of expensive but not really hard to find online.

  10. I work with young toddlers (ages 12 months to 18 months) and we have both baby dolls and soft bodied dolls, and the kids (both boys and girls) love them! It’s a great way for little ones to begin to play pretend. They sit them in the high chair and pretend to feed them, lay them on the floor and rub their backs, rock them, talk to them, point out their eyes, nose, ears, hair, etc. Added to that, we have clothes for them in a wide range of colors-yellow and blue romper, blue pants and red shirt, pink dress, purple and red clown suit. The older toddler room even has a football outfit for one of their dolls! A doll does not make a child be into princess stuff. I had precious few dolls growing up, but was still a girly-girl. It was just my personality.

  11. I highly suggest you take a look at BlaBlaKids. They have a huge variety of soft bodied “dolls” and animals. They’re super soft and come in different sizes. My daughter got her first (Prudence the Owl) at 9 months and then her second (Lola the Rocker) at 20 months and she loves them.

  12. The age of one might be too early for this, but it’s something to keep in mind for when your child is a little older (or if you want to make it a mommy-and-me type project): When I was about six or seven I got a doll “blank” at a craft store – it was basically a cotton body with arms, legs and head but no face or hair or anything. My mom gave me some fabric glue, yarn and fabric markers and glued hair and drew the face on myself. That way you end up with a doll that represents whatever your kid wants it to look like!

  13. I’m here to say that even if your daughter does have a doll, she won’t necessarily be thrilled with princesses! Now, granted I grew up in the time when not many princess movies came out (I was a lion king kid!), but I did own a Raggity Anne that my mom made, maybe 2 plastic baby dolls, a ‘toddler’ doll (she could wear real baby clothes and actually had hair), and eventually something like 7 barbies (most were hand-me-downs from my sister). I am currently going for engineering, I play trombone, and my favorite colors are blue and gray.

    Granted, I didn’t play with the dolls too much, although I did enjoy changing their clothes. I preferred my stuffed animals, especially once I got to preschool age. To me, I made all my stuffed animals into people and had great adventures with them. Dolls to me weren’t as fun because they were hard and weren’t as fun to cuddle with.

  14. When I’m shopping with my baby we’ll browse through the toy department and I’ll make a mental note of what toys she will gravitate towards. I personally don’t like the plastic electronic toy kitchens, but that’s exactly what made her light up and giggle, so last Christmas that’s what she got and it was a big hit!

  15. Waldorf dolls are hella expensive but would probably make you very happy. I could have never afforded to buy one so I bought a kit and made one. The kit cost $45 and after making it I see why the dolls are so expensive. It was fun though, if you can sew just a little, you can make one. I don’t even try to make clothes though, I buy them on etsy. I made one for my son that looks like him. I’m thinking maybe he’ll like it more if I commission a spiderman outfit for it. Lol.
    You can buy the kits at weirdolls.com.

  16. I love Moulin Roty dolls. Pricey, but well made, organic and SO cute (but not frilly cute). Bought my son the Koko la Lune doll and he loves it.

  17. Every child should have dolls! Boys and girls alike! A Doll is not a “girl” toy and it does not need to be a precursor to pink princesses. I had many baby dolls growing up, they were and still are favorite items of mine.

    A doll is part of the way that little children make sense of the world of grown ups, they play house, take on parenting rolls, play teacher, dolls are often integral to little children learning how to interact with babies and how to show compassion.

    Waldorf dolls are wonderful, I also like plain rag dolls made by many etsy sellers. My personal favorite dolls as a child were Cabbage patch kids. They had happy smiling faces, soft bodies to cuddle and many different outfits. You could also get boys and girls. The Cabbage patch kids nowadays are a little more gimicky than the ones from the 80’s, but you can get beautiful quality ones on their .com site.

  18. My brother went to Germany over the summer and picked up a doll for my daughter while he was there. Even at only 3 months, she responded to the doll in a way I did not expect. I’ve always thought that children’s reactions to toys are produced in large part by their caregivers’ and/or peers’ attitudes toward those toys. I was taken aback when my daughter seemed to like the doll right away, with no prompting! I think the doll’s facial expression really interests/ engages her. Now, at 9 months, she’s playing with it–she likes to grab it, bite it, smoosh (hug?) it, and carry it around when she crawls. I’m glad that she has it. It’s nothing that I would have gotten her, but she really enjoys it. I don’t think there’s any harm in that. I’m certainly not going to push the doll onto her more than any other toy, but if she chooses to play with it, I’m not going to prevent her from doing so.

  19. all four of my kids have had dolls – 2 are boys. I also do daycare, and have literally watched at least 50 kids grow from infant to teen over the years. In my experience I can tell you that dolls can be anything really. As long as they have a head. My youngest son turned a rubber scary skeleton with a big head into his ‘baby’ and carried it around in a sling, fed it food, breast fed it (so freaking funny) pushed it in a stroller and crooned it to sleep. My oldest had a giant rag doll with long eyelashes that she was fascinated with. My oldest son however, transferred his affection to a small tiger with a body like a human (we named it Hobbes) and he still has pride of place on my 12 yo sons bed.
    Young children seem to do best with soft bodied dolls. You can get them with hard heads, they are easier to carry that way. But they also really really like the eyes. Don’t get carried away by all the bells and whistles in a doll, get a soft comfortable bodied one with amazing eyes. Some kids like them just really big, but most seem to like the babies whose eyes can open and shut. My one year old niece and 4 yo daughter love my 4 yo’s 2 ‘babies’ who are both soft bodied, with eyes that open and shut and brown skin, though both girls are white. They just really prefer the brown babies. They leave them naked most of the time though my 4yo discovered that Tinkerbells outfit fits her baby so she does wear clothes occasionally. And this girl is as pink princess as they come. The one year old loves to play with opening and closing the eyes and leaving open mouth drooling kisses on the hard hard. My 4 yo ‘parents’ her baby and it’s a good reflection of my behavior and makes me feel very proud to see her acting like such a good mum. My 2 yo nephew likes the rag dolls better, he drags them around, uses them for pillows, keeps them in his shirt, under his arm, or sitting on one while he rides his bike. We want our children to grow up and be adults with good parenting skills, even if they choose to not have children, and practicing from infancy is a good way to do so. Dolls are great toys for any children, it’s just up to you to keep the pink princessy out of what should be just regular play with a toy. Dolls don’t inherently bring that sort of mindset I promise.

  20. I would take the lead from your child. People gave me soft dolls when I was pregnant and they are in her toy basket in the living room but my daughter is never really interested in playing with them. Instead she focuses on things that make noise and rattle or blocks and of course her beloved Little People Zoo. I just kind of see what she’s interested in and go with it…not very scientific but it works for us!

  21. My fifteen month old boy loves to play with his corolle doll. His is a small, cloth baby with plastic head/arms/legs that is just the right size for toting around. I don’t think he’s pretending to mother his baby – but he loves to make the baby imitate all the things he does: like stick the pacifier in and out of his mouth, pretend to brush his hair (also loves to brush my hair), pretend to wash his hands, and also sticks him in his push-wagon and drags him around the house. He also enjoys pointing to different parts of the face/body as we name them. I don’t see anything creepy/gender oriented about those activities.

  22. Thanks everyone for replying! I hadn’t so much considered what she could learn from dolls but from everyone else’s experiences, I see that there are things she can learn besides pink, pink and more pink. Thank you especially for the doll recommendations. I really like the BlaBla dolls and we will be getting one for her in the next few months, at least before our #2 arrives in September.

  23. I bought my daughter a cheap circle baby from target. The baby has no clothes on at all. My daughter has been mothering this baby since she was 9 months old. She gives her nursies, or insists that I do, and wants to wear her on her front and her back. She feeds her crackers and sits her in a stroller to go for a walk around the livingroom. She is 23 months now and the mommy play is still going strong. I would easily say its her favorite toy. She could care less about clothes for it, although she does occasionally ask for me to put a hopper (diaper) on it. I think any toy that teaches our babies kindness, caring and parenting skills is a good thing.

  24. My mom made sure all of us 5 kids had dolls, my two brothers included.
    Interestingly, my oldest brother JJ actually had the only baby doll. It was a plastic-limbed, realistic, soft-body doll that my mom had made herself. The great thing about that is that she was able to customize the fabric-really cool green floral. And JJ Doll’s nails were painted. =) Such a pioneer!!
    My other brother had a shapeless bean doll we all called Aunt Gemima. She was featureless, stiff, and made of orange and black striped polyester, lol.
    I actually cannot remember my doll. Like another commenter, I had more of a fondness for stuffed animals. I remember a duck and a momma+baby ocelot set.
    Good times.

  25. My dad brought home a Rainbow Brite doll for me when I was one. My mom tried to say “No, she’s too young for a doll” but my face lit up and I reached for it with a happy baby noise. I dragged that poor doll around with me everywhere, until I decided that I was too old for her and lovingly wrapped her up in scraps of cloth and entombed her in a shoebox.

    I watched the Disney movies growing up, played with Barbies occasionally, and still had no interest in being a ‘pink princess.’

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