Top tips on finding the right a doll for a 3 – 4 year old
Baby dolls and doll best friends
Little ones aged 3 – 4 have rich imaginations. Their understanding of the world around them grows every day.
Watch a 3 – 4 year old play with a doll and the chances are you’ll see them acting out situations and events that are familiar to them. Bath time, nap time, enjoying lunch or visiting the park will be familiar routines and will often form the basis of a story line in play. For playful children, dolls have days like we do and they simply love to tell this story!
Some children of this age may prefer to play with a doll that looks more like themselves than a baby. Dolls with more grown up clothes, proper shoes and hair that can be brushed feel like special playmates – or as we prefer to call them, doll best friends!
On the other hand, many 3 – 4 year olds – perhaps particularly those with younger brothers or sisters – still prefer to play with a baby doll, taking on the role of a mini mummy or daddy to someone small that they can care for.
You’ll know best whether the 3 – 4 year old you’re shopping for is likely to find a baby doll or a more childlike doll engaging, and there’s no more or less ‘advanced’ option in terms of a child’s development.
All children grow and learn in different ways and at different rates, and the way that youngsters play is always heavily informed by their day to day experiences.
It is important, though, to pick the right doll for right now. A doll that’s a good match for the child’s age and activities, will take pride of place at the centre of free-play – rather than collecting dust on the shelf!
Doll safety and suitability
Children aged 3+ can play safely with a wide variety of dolls, including all of those listed on our website as best for youngsters from 3 – 4 .
However, it’s a good idea to consider suitability alongside safety when buying for a child this age.
While it’s perfectly safe for a 3 – 4 year old to play with a hard-bodied doll, for example, this may not be the ideal choice of doll for them at this stage. Young children often like to take their doll best friend everywhere they go – including to bed. A soft-bodied doll might be a nicer companion for the little one you’re buying for if he or she tends to snuggle up with favourite toys at sleep times.
Soft-bodied dolls with sewn on, floppy limbs are easier for young hands to manipulate, too. This makes removing and putting on clothes simpler and less frustrating for 3 – 4 year olds, who may be learning to dress themselves at the same time as working out how to dress and undress their doll best friends.
Doll sizes, sleeping eye dolls and other functionality
When buying a doll for a 3 – 4 year old, it’s important to think about how big it will be in relation to his or her new owner.
While many 3 – 4 year olds are physically large enough to play happily with dolls of up to 42cm long, petite children may find smaller dolls – such as the Gotz Little Muffins easier to handle.
Features such as washable, brushable hair, changeable outfits and accessories such as potties and bottles can add new dimensions to doll play for developing little ones.
Sleeping eyes are especially popular with children of this age, who often like to put their doll best friends down to sleep when they feel ‘tired’!
Doll hair can quickly become tangled and is unlikely to stay pristine in the hands of a 3 – 4 year old – which is why many of the dolls suitable for younger children have shorter, more manageable hair.
Alternatively dolls without hair can be wiped clean and are therefore the simplest of all to look after.
Some dolls on the market go further in terms of functionality – for example, ‘speaking’ dolls that make sounds – but it’s important to remember that dolls with a finite set of functions can serve to limit rather than inspire creative play. A child can quickly become irritated that the doll cannot do more, or is repetitive in what sounds it can make. A doll can be so much more to a child with imagination.
At My Doll Best Friend, our favourite dolls are often the simplest: those that invite a child to imagine an array of different situations and events, instead of prompting repetition of particular scenarios such as feeding time.
What else should I consider before buying a doll for a 3 – 4 year old?
Finally, it’s nice to think about the individual preferences of the child you’ll be buying for before making your purchase.
Would he or she prefer a little boy or girl doll?
Perhaps they’re looking forward to the arrival of a sibling and their baby doll is a gift, so they can copy you care for the new baby while they play. They might want a girl doll if they’re having a sister, or a boy doll if they’re having a brother!
Are there particular styles of clothing that might excite them?
First, look for something that would match their skill level so it’s possible for them to dress and undress their doll. Second, an outfit the doll could wear for a regular activity as the child’s companion. Where play and real life cross over is especially enjoyable for a child.
What about hair, eye and skin colour?
Maybe a doll with skin, hair and eye colour the same as the child’s would be what they’d like; or perhaps the opposite.
Will you want to wipe down your child’s doll, or even put it in the washing machine for a thorough clean?
Vinyl dolls can be wiped down with a damp cloth. Some Gotz dolls made of vinyl and fabric can actually go in the washing machine, which is great for this age group.
Would the little one you’re buying for enjoy water play?
There are dolls that are specifically designed to be suitable for immersion in the bath.
Remember a little time will be needed for the doll to dry after bath time, so best to have another ready for bedtime!
Our favourite dolls for children aged 3 – 4 years
Within the Gotz selection it’s easy to find a doll for a 3 – 4 year old that represents both value and quality. Aquini bath dolls are ideal for children who won’t be able to resist dunking their doll best friend in the tub after a busy day! Many Aquinis also have the drink and potty function.
Little Muffins and Maxy Muffins are baby dolls with many clothes and accessories you can buy separately. The Little Muffins come with a dummy that fits into their mouth. They are 33cm or 42cm tall and they can be more like babies with no hair at all, or have short hair to style. They can go in the machine to be kept clean!
Just Like Me dolls are the child-like dolls with a good range of additionally available clothes and shoes. Click on our gallery below to take a closer look at the 27cm all vinyl Just Like Me dolls with long hair and great costumes! In the Castle you can see a Just Like Me Unicorn doll with a 33cm Muffin to give you an idea how they compare.
Precious Day dolls are doll best friends that are a bit taller at 45cm and they extend play into a slightly older age group as their hair is very long. Again, a good doll for the 4 year old plus.
Ciao Bimba’s Mini Bambina dolls are truly charming. Soft, dinky at just 29cm long and made with beautiful natural materials, they are perfect for children who love to cuddle up with their favourite doll at bed time.
Ciao Bimba Mini Darling dolls are exquisite handmade Waldorf dolls who can be dressed and redressed, and whose hair can be styled. These dolls are to be cuddled, played with and admired for the unique one of a kind doll that they are.
For children who love dressing their dolls, the D’Nenes range is ideal: with a huge variety of dolls at low prices, and outfits to choose from, little ones will have many hours of fun with companions such as the Marieta Little Red Riding Hood doll! Some of these larger, hard-bodied dolls with extra clothes and shoes might be good choices for children towards the top end of the 3 – 4 age range. Children love the drama and suspense of a story like Little Red Riding Hood, and it’s a story that most adults can tell from memory so it can be great fun across the generations.
Llorens’ range of baby and toddler dolls is another wonderful option for 3 – 4 year olds, offering life-like features, engaging accessories including cribs, slings and changing mats.
Schildkrot baby dolls are dolls to pass down generations. Made in Germany for to a very high standard and suitable for play, they are loved by adults and children alike.
Petitcollin Petit Calin and Bibichou dolls are treasures from France. See cute French fashion designs on baby dolls, for those for whom the style of the clothes is as important as the doll itself. There are also the Minette and Minouche dolls that are child-like versions wearing equally stunning French doll fashion.
Vestida de Azul Marina and Tonino dolls are larger, very pretty dolls that come with either a full vinyl body or a soft body and vinyl limbs. At 42-45cm they could well be able to wear real newborn baby clothes. New in 2018 are Angel and Alba whose eyes close.