A simple doll can be a long-beloved gift for your toddler or younger child. From simple stuffed dolls to talking electronic companions, we have a list of the best toys for you.
Dolls have been a staple of children’s toys for centuries and across cultures. Dolls can stimulate the imagination by giving the child a sense of fair play, practice at learning fundamental human interactions, and other benefits. Dolls have ranged from simple figures made out of corn husks to the latest toy dolls featured in TV commercials. Dolls can have a variety of features to entertain a child.
When you pick out the best baby doll for your toddler, you have to think of several factors. First, you need to know that the doll is safe. Some dolls have small parts that can come loose and create a potential choking hazard. Usually, the doll will have an age recommendation on the package based on the developmental needs of a child.
Playing with dolls helps your child cultivate critical developmental skills such as
- Fair play (when sharing with others)
Your child’s development is unique, so you have to monitor their behavior to determine whether a given toy would be safe to leave with them. We’re here to provide you with a list of some of the best baby dolls for toddlers and young children.
How We Choose Our Ratings
When we look at products to place on our list, we look at product specifications as listed on the webpage, customer reviews, and multiple sources of information to determine whether a given toy is safe and appropriate for toddlers. As we said, the first consideration is safety. Anything, therefore, with small detachable parts is an automatic elimination from our list.
When it comes to dolls, we also look at durability. One benefit of playing with dolls is the ability for a child to understand appropriate levels of strength. At toddler age (approximately 3 to 5 years, children are testing their strength, dexterity, and boundaries to figure out what is acceptable. Dolls provide a relatively safe method by which to do so.
Finally, we look at the overall appearance and level of stimulation. Bright colors are generally stimulating to young children as a given. Some dolls may have built-in voice chips, sound effects, or similar features that make the doll seem to emulate a human in the eyes of a child. These features make the doll more expensive.
Here’s our list of the seven best baby dolls for toddlers.
Manhattan Toy Stella Peach Doll
The Stella doll is one of the latest in the Manhattan toy line. This company, founded in 1979 is well known for creating a diverse line of toys that promote healthy and imaginative play. The Stella doll consists of soft fabric that is machine washable on the delicate cycle. The only caveat is that you need to use cold water.
This doll has several types of optional attachments, such as a pacifier, various outfits, cleaning, and feeding kits. The various pieces attach to the doll with the help of magnets inside the cloth. This factor is one thing you have to watch out for because if the cloth rips, the magnet can come out.
The Stella doll is an excellent choice for infants and early toddlers because of the doll’s relatively large size. It is 15 inches long, which is plenty of space to hold. The doll has a bright, whimsical look that’s sure to appeal to a young child.
The only problems we found reported with the Stella doll are that sometimes the clothes can be difficult to put on. If your child is easily frustrated, this may be something to consider. However, we give this doll 5 out of 5 because of its simplicity and extra optional features.
Mine to Love 12-inch Annie
This 12-inch poseable doll is a little smaller than the Stella doll, but it makes up for it by being fully articulated at the arms and waist, allowing it to sit up. Given that one of the functions of this doll is to allow your child to engage in pretend toilet training, this is a handy feature. The Annie doll comes with a toilet playset and a bottle with ‘disappearing’ milk or juice.
The pacifier accessory lets your child pretend to comfort the doll, and you can also move the doll’s arm to its mouth in case the pacifier gets lost. The eyes open and close based on the ‘needs’ of the doll, like whether it’s time for a feeding or diaper change.
As you might guess, the more accessories a toy has, the easier it is for some of them to get lost unless you make sure everything’s in one place after playtime is over for the day. One thing to consider is the ability to replace missing accessories. Replacement, however, may not always be possible.
One problem listed with this doll is its occasional tendency to leak. When you pour liquid from the bottle into the doll’s mouth, ensure just in case that you have a towel handy. Given the number of features this doll has, we rank it 4 out of 5. The leaking and the ability to lose accessories are the only downsides. It’s well-suited for children ages 3 and up.
Berenguer Boutique Doll
- AMAZINGLY DETAILED SOFT BODY DOLL // 15" realistic caucasian soft body doll with beautifully detailed vinyl head, arms...
- THE PERFECT PRESENT FOR CHILDREN 2+ // Packed in a wonderful gift set box that includes a two-piece embroidered outfit,...
- SAFETY TESTED AND APPROVED // Made with non-scented, BPA free, safety tested vinyl. Soft & smooth to the touch yet...
This doll, designed by the Berenguer company, can help to teach a child nurturing skills. The doll is 15 inches long and weighted realistically to allow for a more life-life experience, and it comes with a variety of accessories. One of the most apparent accessories is the second outfit. The extra outfit is a soft pastel-pink embroidered onesie, perfect for bedtime.
The other accessories include a rattle, a pacifier, an extra set of shoes, a bottle, and a small dinner set. The doll has realistic features, making it perfect for imaginary play and for the baby to learn interaction skills.
As with the poseable Annie doll, it’s possible to lose the accessories, but you may be able to get replacements. If you prefer to have just the doll, you can usually buy the doll separately. For cleaning, the manufacturer recommends you use a damp cloth to wash the face, hands, and body of the doll. Using a laundry machine isn’t a good idea because it could destroy the clothes.
The ability to buy just the doll without the accessories is a major plus for parents who worry about parts getting list. The realistic look and weight of the doll are also good qualities because of the ability to promote healthy play. The ease of cleaning helps as well.
Cabbage Patch Kids Girl Doll
- Every Cabbage Patch Kid comes with an official birth certificate and adoption papers right from Babyland General...
- Each has a unique name and birthday – just like you!
- Cute and fun fashions with adorable accessories like glasses, bracelets, tiaras and much more!
The Cabbage Patch Kids brand has been a staple of many childhood playrooms since the 1980s, and for a good reason. The relative simplicity of the doll means it’s less likely to get broken. If you Cabbage Patch Kids, you know that each one receives a unique name and birthday. The doll comes with pretend adoption papers as well.
The doll itself is made of plastic, with nylon hair that can be brushed. At least, the claim is that the hair can be brushed. The change in materials can sometimes make it more difficult to brush the doll’s hair and keep it looking neat.
Overall, the doll doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles that some more modern toys might have, but sometimes simplicity is best. The purpose of a doll is to help develop a child’s imagination. The more work the imagination does, the better. The personalization aspect also can help instill a feeling of caring and empathy.
Baby Starters Sugar and Spice Doll
- Superior design and high quality: Baby Starters dolls are made from high-quality, plush material for a lifetime of hugs...
- Excellent newborn and new mom gift: excellent baby shower, new baby gift birthday, and new mom gift idea. Give the gift...
- Great to soothe and entertain baby: the soft doll snuggle buddy toy rattles to keep baby entertained. Attached skirt is...
The Sugar and Spice doll is relatively simple. Made of 100 percent polyester, this doll is fully machine-washable, so you don’t have to worry about it getting dirty. Just to be safe, it’s probably best to wash it on a delicate cycle. The color scheme of the doll as bright pink and cream, which is a gentle, soothing design.
The doll doesn’t have any articulation; it’s essentially a stuffed animal with human shape. The whimsical look of the facial features is sure to delight younger children who may not be comfortable looking at realistic faces yet.
One other feature the Sugar and Spice doll has is a rattle feature, Babies like stimulation, and there is something to be said for the presence of a basic toy like a rattle that’s incorporated into the doll itself without needing an extra part that can get broken or lost.
The reason this is one of the best baby dolls is the softness of the fabric. It’s perfect to be used as a sleeping companion for the baby, even to act as a security blanket without needing to carry a bulky blanket. It’s a simple toy, but there were some problems reported with loose stitching on some models.
Baby’s First Little Talker
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This doll may look like most of the dolls on our list, but it has one important feature to itself: a vocal chip. Although we don’t know what the full range of phrases is, we can say that it has a total of 20 random phrases that activate when you squeeze the doll. The vocal mechanism fits in a pocket on the outfit and is easy to remove so you can put the doll in the washing machine.
The other feature the Baby’s First Little Talker has is the hypoallergenic material of which it’s made. If your baby has allergies to certain types of cloth, you don’t have to worry because this material is rated to discourage allergens from accumulating on the cloth.
This doll is approximately 12 inches long, so it’s perfectly sized for infants. The doll does require batteries to power the voice function, and depending on the frequency of play these can run out relatively quickly. The overall construction and function of the doll are solid, and we like that it’s made of hypoallergenic materials.
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Gloveleya Baby Doll
- SUPER SOFT AND COLORFUL - This Plush Baby doll toys for girls comes in a beautiful green color and is very soft. This...
- WONDERFUL GIFT - This Plush Baby girls’ Doll can also be used as a decorative piece in a child's nursery. Sweet gift...
- HIGH QUALITY - Made of high quality safety environmental soft plush fabric super-squishy material filler. Could be...
The Gloveleya doll has s simple, happy expression and is made entirely of fabric with cotton filler. One thing about this doll is that it’s intended for slightly older toddlers because of the size. The Gloveleya is about 16.5 inches long, which makes it a good snuggle companion or even a pillow when your child gets too tired from being out late.
This doll is part of a line that comes with different dresses, and you may even be able to buy the dresses separately so your child can provide the doll with a season-appropriate attire. The only problems we’ve found with this doll is that sometimes the stuffing near the neck moves around, allowing the head to flop over.
Otherwise, this is potentially a perfect companion doll for a toddler. It has a soft, soothing color scheme that can help to calm an overexcited child’s nerves. The only caveat is that it isn’t the best gift for younger toddlers because of its size.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Baby Doll
Another aspect of the doll’s suitability for a child is the level of articulation. Most stuffed dolls are just dolls in a single pose, best suited for holding, just like a stuffed animal. These types of dolls may be better suited for infants or the beginning stages of toddler development. However, later on, more articulation in a doll is necessary because children may want to pose the doll.
Articulation is the level of movement available for the doll’s limbs. For dolls meant for an extremely young child, it’s better to have a minimum level of articulation, At this stage, it’s easy for a toddler to accidentally break off a doll’s arm.
You can also consider whether the doll has removable clothing or separate outfits. To better stimulate the imagination, giving the child a doll with removable clothing can be a visual aid for pretending the doll is a human child to talk to. You have to make sure the clothes don’t have small detachable parts that can create a choking hazard.
You should also figure out the best way to clean the doll. Because, in all likelihood, it’s going in a toddler’s mouth, you want to make sure that it’s periodically cleaned. However, the material that makes up the doll determines how best it will be cleaned. For example, most types of cloth dolls can be placed in the washing machine on a delicate setting.
Plastic, however, needs to be wiped down with antibacterial wipes or similar solution to prevent harmful bacteria from building up and making your child sick. This goes double if the doll is shared among multiple children who will inevitably spread germs to one another.
Speaking of that last point, it’s important to consider whether the doll is meant for use by one child or whether it’s a toy for multiple children to attempt to share. In the latter case, you should always pick something that has more durability. Children can occasionally get rough with toys when they’re learning to share, and you don’t want the doll to be ripped apart or broken.
We’ve mentioned the size of the doll in several of our entries. Size is a consideration because your child will want to hold the doll, and if it’s too large or small it doesn’t quite work. You should try to keep the doll at about 12 inches long for infants, but move up to 14 or 16 inches for older toddlers.
When you’re choosing the best baby dolls for your toddler, the decision for low- or high-tech depends on how much mental stimulation your child is comfortable with experiencing. Children, like adults, respond differently to different levels of stimuli and having too many bells and whistles can prove overwhelming, whereas a simple doll can promote imagination.
Meanwhile, if you think your child could benefit from a talking doll or similar, plenty of choices exist on the market.