Finding the right doll for a toddler
Top tips on choosing a doll for a toddler aged 1 - 3 years
Why buy a doll for a toddler?
As a baby grows into a toddler, his or her development will mean new kinds of play begin to emerge. While a young toddler of 12 months might still use his or her doll primarily for comfort, beyond this age you’re likely to see the start of more imaginative games.
Little girls and boys begin to copy the behaviour of the grown ups around them, and this often translates into caring for a doll as though it’s a real baby - shushing it to sleep, cuddling it when it ‘cries’ and showing it favourite story books.
In terms of a child’s development this type of play can be of immense value, deepening their empathy with others and boosting their ability to create imagined stories of their own.
What safety issues do I need to consider?
Dolls that are safety tested and approved for use by children aged 1+ are broadly similar to those approved as suitable from birth, but may feature additions such as closing eyes.
From 18 months+, dolls may also come with accessories such as removable clothing, feeding bottles and dummies - items that would be considered potentially hazardous for younger children.
These dolls have all been safety tested and approved in accordance with European Toy Regulations EN 71.
What else should I consider before buying?
Whatever the age of the toddler you’re shopping for, there’s a variety of things you’ll want to think about before deciding which doll to purchase.
Most dolls for children of this age are soft-bodied, which ensures they feel nice to cuddle and are easy for small hands to manoeuvre. However, some are larger than others and the weight of dolls can vary. If the child you are buying for is young or on the petite side, it might make sense to choose a lighter, smaller doll for him or her.
The outfits dolls come dressed in are very varied, too - so if the little one you’re buying for has favourite colours or clothing of their own, it might be nice to reflect this in your choice of doll companion.
Alternatively, pink and blue doll outfits come with obvious connotations - whereas selecting a doll dressed in neutral colours will allow the child you’re buying for to decide whether their new friend is a boy or a girl.
For older toddlers, the option to remove their doll best friend’s clothing, swap and change their outfits and role play with accessories such as feeding bottles and dummies might be appealing.
Dolls and bath time
Children who embrace imaginative play with their dolls - particularly those aged towards the top end of this range - may express a preference to bath their doll, just as you might bath them in the evenings.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that unless a doll has been specifically designed for use in the bath, this could create problems: fabric bodies can take a while to dry properly, while vinyl bodies may fill with water and then develop internal mildew that is impossible to successfully remove.
If the toddler you’re buying for will be keen to wash his or her doll best friend, it makes sense to purchase a doll designed with this in mind, such as the Gotz Little Aquini - suitable for children from 18 months+ and complete with a lovely set of accessories. Read our blog post The Best Bath Dolls For Bathing and Water Play for you if you're looking for a bath doll, or drinking and wetting doll and would like more help.
Our favourite dolls for toddlers from 12 - 18 months
Any of Petitcollin’s Anibabies First Baby Dolls would make a perfect doll for a toddler of this age. With soft bodies and vinyl faces and limbs, they feature cuddly clothes and removable hats.
Available in rabbit, kitten and deer outfits, the dolls also have closing eyes - great for little ones who are starting to role play with their dolls. They’re also dinky enough for little hands to handle effortlessly at 28cm long.
Petitcollin - a French doll brand dating back to 1860 - still makes its most well known doll, the Petit Calin Baby Doll. This little girl named Benodet is 28cm long and a perfect doll for a toddler age 18 months+. Generations of doll mothers have had their own Petit Calin doll.
This Petit Calin baby girl is 36cm long and with her removable pink hat, dress and socks, this pretty girl is ideal for children who are ready to do a little more caring for their doll friends.
Petitcollin vinyl is lightly scented with vanilla, so dolls from the range are adored by children who love their sweet smell!
These dolls are also easy to keep clean - ideal for younger toddlers who are prone to hugging them with sticky hands! Petitcollin advice is to place your doll inside a pillowcase, then machine wash at 30 degrees when needed.
Our top picks for toddlers from 18 months+
A lovely choice for children aged 18 months+ is the Gotz Little Muffin Dreamy Flower Doll 33cm long and with a soft snuggly body, she has a pretty face with sleeping eyes and wears a knitted hat, pink romper suit and floral bow belt. Little hands will love to take these off and put them back on again!
Other dolls in the Gotz Little Muffin range include the lovely brown-eyed Panda doll, whose baby pink outfit is topped off with a cute panda hat.
The ‘to dress’ boy and girl dolls in the range come without clothes of their own: perfect for toddlers who’d like to choose what their new friend should wear from the range of Gotz Muffin clothing and accessories also available from My Doll Best Friend.
At just 27cm long, Petitcollin’s Minette Fanny Baby Doll is another lovely choice for toddlers of this age - particularly those who are on the smaller side themselves.
All soft-bodied Gotz dolls can be machine washed on a cool cycle, while the Minette Fanny Baby Doll from Petitcollin can be kept clean through a combination of surface wiping (for her vinyl parts) and handwashing in lukewarm water.
By contrast for the bigger toddler, and indeed older children too, there's Amy by Schildkrot. She's made in Germany and is a quality beautiful baby doll, modelled on the artist dolls made by Brigitte Paetsch. She's 45cm long, so a good bit bigger than any of the others for toddlers we've mentioned so far. Amy's closing eyes and ability to hold a dummy in her mouth, plus her cuddly centre and machine washability are some of her best features.