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Best Toys For The Holidays – Part II – Dolls

Posted Aug 26 2008 11:36pm

A Not-Quite-Crunchy Perspective...

A few weeks ago I started what I hopes would be a series of posts on the Best Toys to Buy for Christmas. My first post listing all sorts of great blocks can be found here.

This, the second part in the series has taken awhile. First because I felt I had to do some research and write a preliminary post on the whole issue of dolls, The Right Doll at The Right Time, and then I got caught up in all of the recall issues. So has taken awhile to write.

AND while these dolls are developmentally appropriate…I can’t guarantee they are nasty chemical free…because based on recent news…toys made just about anywhere are suspect. But, here’s my best shot!

I’m going to quote myself here, since my doll picks center around these principles and I don’t feel like reinventing the wheel.

Child development experts tend to agree that doll play serves three main purposes in the growing child.

1. For the very young doll play gives children a chance to imitate mothering. This is of course the activity, at this age, with which they are most familiar…being mothered. Little girls (and some boys, sometimes) will cuddle, rock, feed and bathe a doll. This starts fairly early and continues on through the pre-school years. “Baby dolls” – get it?

2. At around 3 or a little earlier, children of both sexes start to act out stories with dolls or action figures (which in the toy industry we say is “boy” for doll.) This is the point where tiny figures (Flexi dolls, small animals, small figures) are used – girls tend to act out home and community related scenes ( hence the use of dollhouses), boys focus more on stories that take place out of the home ( hence the use of pirate ships/castles/fire stations). This relates to what child development experts say is the “community building” source of girl power and the “rescuer /avenger source of boy power.

3. Finally dolls help children form identity by letting them try on different ones (aspirational play). At earlier ages 3-6 this may be trying on for size different children’s identities (historical, geographical) as they get a bit older (9-10+), this turns into trying on adult identities. This is where “fashion dolls” supposedly come in – (so why is it we give them to 3-year-olds?)

So here’s my list of best dolls to buy for the holidays:

Baby dolls for infants and toddlers – simple is the key

1. Sock monkeys and dolls are the ultimate in simple dolls. You can make your own or buy one on Etsy among other places.

2. More lifelike baby dolls, but still simple are great too. You can buy an buy an organic baby doll or just a simple, no bells and whistles doll… here or at any traditional toy store. The softer and plainer the better.

3. And then there are puppets and stuffed animals appropriate for both boys and girls. They serve the same purpose as basic baby dolls, to cuddle hold and mother.

Baby Dolls for preschoolers – these dolls may include a few clothes and accessories but still are used the same way.

4. Kathy Cruse dolls are a bit more expensive but fashionably crunchy

5. Hannah Wiggins dolls - another crunchy favorite

Dollhouse Dolls – to act out stories depending on the child anywhere from 2 on up

6. Soft flexible dolls - ( Evi, Kathy Kruse ) There are infinite varieties of these in multi-cultural versions too. Melissa and Doug makes some too but…in China.

7. Safe Plastic Figurines. Of course I have to mention Playmobil. This huge assortment of figurines is made in Germany with tight quality control...yeah!

8. Dollhouse and dolls – nova naturalsh as an extensive collection as does Willow Tree Toys. The key is to look for natural unpainted wood.

9. Wooden figures – these are made by a wide variety of folks…but often in China. Here's some made in Europe.

F ashion Dolls for – Otherwise known as 18’ dolls…but appropriate for girls 3-12 No Barbie here!

10. Big floppy dress up dolls

11. American Girl – not grown-up, not Barbie.

12. Our Generation – a fashion doll appropriate for little girls at a reasonable price!

13. Dress up clothes for dolls here and here - no limos, no glitter, no string bikinis!

And what about Barbie? (Sorry I can’t recommend Bratz) …well….if you must buy Barbie – how about Dr. Barbie but you might want to wait until 10 or 12…..

There are lots of sources for these toys…check out Close out stores, E-Bay and some of my favorites here.

So what are your ideas? Did I miss anything?

More Thursday Thirteen

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