All I want is to buy a doll…

// 11 October 2011

My nephew turns one at the end of the month.

I already know that his presents consist of various toy cars and trains and a workbench, despite the fact that currently his interests primarily encompass tapping his thumb on things, chasing the cat, and giving Auntie Carrie slobbery kisses that have actually started to hurt a bit now he has two teeth.

Yes, indeed, we’re seeing the reinforcement of gender norms even at this tender age. I’ve done my best, but I am only one person fighting the tide.


So I’ve decided I want to buy him a doll for his birthday. I’m not saying that playing with a doll is better than playing with cars – I just want him to know that playing with a doll is OK if that’s what he wants to do.

But goodness me, the dolls out there are scary. I’ve been trawling toy shops – there don’t seem to be any dolls appropriate for a child as young as my nephew. No, the dolls on sale out there are in the “girls’ section” of toy shops, and they are terrifying newborn-size things, with bottles and nappies and pushchairs and goodness knows what else. I even found one that’s toddler-size. Get your parenting practice in early, girls – because the other stuff, like train sets and climbing frames and building blocks, is over the other side of the shop and is simply not and will never be for you!

I wouldn’t be keen on buying these kinds of dolls for older children, let alone a child who’s still a baby. So this is a call for help – is there anywhere that sells dolls appropriate for babies and toddlers, preferably a shop that doesn’t have ludicrously annoying girls’ toys/boys’ toys divisions arbitrarily imposed?

Comments From You

Shelley H // Posted 11 October 2011 at 4:54 pm

My son got his first doll at 18 months, for Christmas. He had previously been coveting the doll I used to teach my baby signing classes. He got that one too, in the end. He is 4 now, and still loves to take care of his ‘babies’ – feeding them, ‘reading’ to them and putting them down for naps. As he is an only child and it’s just the 2 of us he doesn’t know “boys don’t have dolls”. His love of all things vehicular is hard-wired, I fear, but that’s something for his Dad to indulge.

I found the best place to get dolls for little ones is either in cheap pound shops, or on eBay. These dolls tend to have soft bodies and fewer scary accessories. I bought a ‘Lissi’ doll on eBay, which was marked for ‘reborners’ but is a perfectly functional toy. It has a soft body and came as is, no clothes, accessories, anything – perfect for avoiding gender divisions! I dressed it in one if my son’s newborn babygros. He loves that because he loves knowing he was once that tiny. He also asks me to knit clothes for his son and daughter!

The best part from this, is that at school, he is able to be friends and play with boys and girls. He is as likely to be found carrying a handbag and cooking in the home corner as he is swinging on the climbing frame outside. His teachers are impressed with his social skills and adaptability. I know it will change with age, and as he finds himself, but I want him to know it’s ok, all of it is ok. A doll, a teaset, a necklace – all ok.

Liam Smith // Posted 11 October 2011 at 6:39 pm

One of my many obsessions is dolls. Before I had to move house, I had over seventy and I still have around 40 – I used to keep a class register of them. Anyway, suggestions!

If you don’t want to rock the boat too much you could buy your nephew a doll that is marketed as a “baby boy” such as either,default,pd.html#pdpTab1 or,default,pd.html from the early learning centre.

An interesting doll to consider might be a “Little Baby Born” from Zapf Creation (should be available just about anywhere) as it is a soft, small-ish baby doll that can be bathed (buy a cheap doll’s bath as well, don’t waste money buying a Zapf Creation doll’s bath). Another doll I keep having to be actively talked out of buying is “Baby Stella” a modern rag doll. I prefer the blue-dressed version like this one but there’s quite a few different ones.

All of the above dolls come in both white and “ethnic” (by which they mean Black) and I’d seriously consider researching dolls of other races (corolle and Gotz are good doll companies for going beyond just black and white) but there is a definite price increase for dolls that are not white or brown versions of white dolls.

Sorry if this is a bit long, I’m autistic and one of my obsessions is dolls.

Carrie Dunn // Posted 11 October 2011 at 11:31 pm

Liam, that’s absolutely BRILLIANT, thank you so much!

Loving the suggestions and the sharing of similar experiences, thanks all!

Liam Smith // Posted 12 October 2011 at 12:03 am

I’m glad you liked my suggestions! I feel slightly guilty for pointing you towards the ELC as they are increasingly heavily invested in the binary gender system (many of their toys come in a pink version for girls) – however one of their dolls I suggested (the “My First doll”) is actually a Lissi baby doll like another commenter mentioned. Toys R Us sell the same dolls but they are also pretty invested in the pink = girls = dolls, blue = boys = cars dynamic and I really don’t know where you could buy a doll these days that didn’t have an obsession with the colour pink.

Carrie Dunn // Posted 12 October 2011 at 12:07 am

The ELC drove me mad the other week with their ridiculous imposition of binary categories, but it’s not QUITE as annoying on their website. I really like the swimming Little Baby Born – my nephew would LOVE that.

Keris Stainton // Posted 12 October 2011 at 1:31 pm

I bought Harry this one when I was pregnant with Joe and we bought one of these for a friend last Christmas and H was desperate for one (it was a girl he wanted, they didn’t do boys back then. Not sure why the boys are Superheroes and not the girls…)

Louisa // Posted 12 October 2011 at 3:42 pm

Do you sew at all? have some pretty cool rag girl and boy rag doll toys with different skin tones and hair colours, and non-pink clothes.

Sarah // Posted 12 October 2011 at 5:57 pm

My sons had this one –

They liked it just fine. And they also had a cuddly Andy Pandy toy.

I think this is something that’s changing rapidly – my children aren’t that old – the youngest is 4 – and it was easier to find nice neutral baby dolls (no fully made-up girls wearing tiaras on the box etc) when they were small than it is now.

Summer // Posted 13 October 2011 at 10:55 am

It’s a good idea, I like the links in comments because it’s hard to find certain things (like dolls) for babies as opposed to 2-3 year olds. I saw a few toys my nephew would have loved but the warnings were 2-3 years and I didn’t want to get in case the warnings were there for a very good reason that i just couldn’t see.

I got my nephew these weird little non-human dolls/toys called wayboloo, wallabaloo…i’m not sure. But he seems less interested in any dolls or cuddly toys at the moment except to chuck out his buggy. He prefers the musical ones so i’ll probably wait another year or so before buying anything else cuddly wise or doll wise. Going to keep these links in mind though!

I hated dolls as a child, much prefered my Transformers tbh, whereas my sister and brother loved them so it’s going to be interesting to see which way my nephew goes. The one thing i can’t wait to get my nephew is the one thing he really wants and saw playing at his cousin’s house- a toy washing machine which gurgles and opens. I love that kids have no restrictions at this age and go with what they like and want-rather then what society believes they should have (his grandad on dad’s side was aghast that my nephew liked said washing machine).

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