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.

At My Doll Best Friend, we ensure that dolls suitable for children aged 1+  and 18 months+  are clearly marked as such on our website.

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.