Gift Guide: The Very Best Babies, Dolls & Doll Accessories For All Ages & Stages
Greetings! We’re so glad you’ve landed on one of our incredible 2016 What Moms Love Gift Guides for Kids. If you’re in the midst of frantically searching for the perfect toy for your child (or niece, or nephew, or friend’s kid, or…well, you get the picture) you can breathe a sigh of relief, because this is where you’ll find it. The gift that will not only get gasps of excitement when opening, but one that won’t be relegated to the bottom of a deep, dark storage bin.
As a little girl we can remember playing with our dolls for hours – feeding, dressing and caring for them like they were our real-life friends (they were…weren’t they?). Kids seem to have a natural attraction to babies and dolls, and they are wonderful toys that help teach them important qualities like empathy and affection, and are one of the best toys for imaginative play.
Whether you’re looking for your baby’s first doll, or something unique and new for your tweens budding collection, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve tested these toys in real-life situations – with babies, girls and boys, toddlers and tweens – and have only recommended the cream of the crop. The ones that they naturally gravitated towards, played with for the longest, and never wanted to let go. Ever.
You can’t go wrong with any from our list – they’ll be the ones that have to sleep next to them at night or join you at the dinner table.
And don’t miss the section with our must-have doll accessories – these items really take creative play to a whole new level.
But one last thing before we get to the toys — if you’d like to be alerted to any sales or special deals we receive on any of these gifts, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll also let you know when new guides launch (and we’re always working on more!), and hook you up with our other exclusive content like our popular report: 10 Screen-Free Toys for Guaranteed Quiet Time That Will Let You Relax, Recharge, Or Put The Laundry Away.
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*recommended ages are from manufacturers; prices may vary from what is listed
best babies and dolls
Corolle Babicorolle (birth and up), $19.42
The Corolle Babicorolle is a super soft 9 ½” plush dolly that gets top rating on our huggability scale, and is the perfect starter doll for even the youngest of babies. The doll’s velour outfit is sewn on for safety, and it’s extremely light-weight and easy to cart around. And with Corolle’s stellar quality, this doll will withstand years of love – so it’s a good thing it can be thrown into the washing machine for cleaning (editor’s note: this doll is irresistible! Each of my daughter’s got one when they were babies and it was an instant favorite for them both. My 4-year old still cuddles with hers at nighttime. It is a must-have!).
Manhattan Toy Snuggle Pod (6 months +), $12.59
Gosh we just adore these Snuggle Pods from Manhattan Toys – and kids do too. Each one comes with a soft baby which fits snuggly into its own pod, lined with silky satin. These babies will be taken out and put in over and over and over again – it really increases the playability, and as one of our toddler tester’s told us “I wove to tuck in”.
There’s multiple fun designs including Pea, Bug, Bunny and Peanut, and a new 2 Peas In A Pod which includes 2 smaller dolls (perfect for twins!).
Manhattan Toy Baby Stella (12 months +), $24.10
Another plush doll we love is Baby Stella. This award-winning doll is one of our favorites because she’s not only super cute, but has fun features that encourage imaginative play: her magnetic pacifier attaches to her mouth and is so addicting for kids to place on and off (we do wish it had a leash on it to stop it from getting lost, but a little ribbon and thread would solve this problem), and she comes with a removable outfit and diaper.
If you opt for the Sweet Sounds version, you’ll hear a funny pacifier sucking noise when the paci is attached (kids loooove this!), giggling when her foot is pressed and “mama” when her hand is squeezed. (editor’s note: my girl’s have the Sweet Sounds version and play with her constantly, but I will say the only draw-back to this version is that the battery pack inside Stella makes her a little less soft. However, they don’t seem to care!)
Stella comes in a variety of skin tones and hair styles, and now even has a little brother! The Stella collection also has a variety of soft accessories from feeding sets to bath tubs and pottys that are great quality and could work for any doll.
Corolle Mon Premier Bébé (18 months +), $26.95
If you’re looking for your child’s first “real” doll, then look no further than Corolle’s Mon Premier Bébé. This 12” doll is the perfect size for a young child to cradle in their arms, and has a beanbag-style body that keeps it soft, but posable. It also has eyes that open and close (which kids find endlessly fascinating), and Corolle’s signature subtle vanilla scent. There are several different babies in the Mon Premier line, each with a different eye color, skin tone and outfit. There’s even a bath-friendly version which features an easy-to-hang-dry hook and cute accessories.
Melissa & Doug Mine To Love 12” Dolls: (18 months +), $19.99
We would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t mention our other favorite 12” doll, the Mine To Love line from Melissa and Doug. All these dolls (including the popular “Jenna”) have open-shut eyes, removable outfit and cap, and a pacifier. We love that she can also suck her thumb and has a skin-tone body (which makes a difference when it’s time to put on that ballet leotard). Some of the dolls in this line also have brushable hair or varied skin tones. At under $20 they’re hard for both adults and kids to resist.
JC Toys Lil’ Cuties Twins with Stroller (age 2+), $29.95
These Lil’ Cuties Twins have long been our go-to birthday gift for 2 and 3-year olds. You really get a lot of bang for your buck and kids swoon over this cute set of twins. You get two 8 ½” vinyl dolls (they have some give to them but aren’t super cuddly) with moveable arms, head and legs, each with their own removable top and diaper. Because of their smaller size and adorable expressions kids take to these dolls immediately, and they’ll get lots of “they’re soooo cute”s (even older kids can’t resist).
The accompanying stroller-wagon has so much playing power – the dolls sit in it perfectly, and it even makes a sweet (not annoying, we swear) bell sound when it’s pushed. After our 3-year old testers had finished giving these babies a ride, there was a long line of other dolls and stuffed animals waiting for their turn. We even tied on a piece of string to the handle so they could pull them around for a longer walk. To top it off, these Lil’ Cuties are great in the bath!
Rubens Barn EcoBuds (age 3+), $39.98
Just look at these stunning soft dolls! Designed in Sweden, the Rubens Barn EcoBuds have expressive embroidered eyes, soft velour hair (that can’t get matted!), and sweet rosy cheeks – all made from 100% certified organic cotton. Each one includes a removable skirt or pair of shorts, and is incredibly huggable. If you have a little one that likes to sleep with her dolls, these are the perfect ones to cuddle with at night.
Barbie Careers (age 3+), $17.14
It’s hard to hide your kids from the popularity of Barbie, and while we’re not huge fans of the ones that come ready for a night on the town in a skimpy party dress, we do love their new line of Barbie Careers where Barbie tackles different jobs in the “real world”.
There are some great sets that include Barbie and a smaller friend that have loads of playability. Our favorite is the Barbie Gymnastics Coach where the smaller “student” doll can be clipped onto the bar and spun around – so fun! The Vet, Pediatrician and Dentist sets were also top picks for our 4–7 year olds who played with them for hours.
Lottie (& Finn) Dolls (age 3+), $16.95
In stark contrast to a lot of scantily-clad dolls out there, the award-winning Lottie line is like a breath of fresh air. Lottie dolls were designed specifically to be relatable, age-appropriate (no makeup, jewelry or high heels!), and a positive role model. We love the smaller 7 ½” size of these dolls – they’re perfect for little hands, easy to bring along on adventures and extremely playable for smaller dollhouses. All of Lottie’s clothes have a crazy amount of detail, yet are easy to take on and off with Velcro closures.
And the Lottie line just expanded with the introduction of her play buddy, Finn!
La Loba Studio Superhero Rag Dolls + Custom Dolls (age 3+), $69
We stumbled over the dolls from La Loba Studio on Etsy, and holy moly are they amazing. They’re handmade in Hungary and are just about the sweetest things we’ve ever seen. The superhero styles are our favorite, with removable cape, skirt or shorts, and mask. You can even add a personalized name patch or customize your entire order to make it look just like your child. This is a super special gift and one that will be kept and passed down for years to come.
Please note, due to the handmade nature of these dolls, allow a few weeks for them to made and shipped before your gift-giving event.
Worry Eaters (age 3+), small: $15.99, large: $22.99
A doll that can help your child with monsters under the bed or separating from Mom? We’ll take three! These ingenious dolls feature a zipper mouth where kids can place their worries, so they don’t have to hold onto them. Use it as a tool to talk to your child about tackling problems, anxieties and developing coping skills. The Worry Eater gives a kids a chance to separate themselves from their worries and spark meaningful conversations.
We weren’t sure how kids would react to the Worry Eater, but after explaining the concept, we provided them with small pieces of paper to draw or write their worries and they really latched onto the idea. Conversations about self-esteem, confidence and “what’s real” followed.
And at the end of the day, if they don’t connect with the idea behind the Worry Eater, they make fabulous play friends who can “eat” all sorts of things (ours had a healthy serving of Shopkins and Barbie shoes) or become a carry purse for all their treasures.
Corolle Les Cheries (age 4+), $38.99
For budding fashionistas who may have outgrown the baby dolls, but aren’t quite ready for the larger 18” dolls, we highly recommend Corolle’s beautiful Les Cheries line. These 13” dolls come with super stylish outfits, with fine details and lots of fun accessories like shoes, bags and headbands (just look at that faux-fur jacket!), Each one has open-close eyes, long stylable hair, and a softer vinyl body. A perfect “in between” doll that will get lots and lots of love.
American Girl (age 8+), $115 and up
We’re sorry to do this to you, but we simply can’t have a list of the best dolls without including American Girl. Yes they are extremely pricey, but their quality is top-notch, and the brand appeal with older girls just can’t be beat. If you want to get squeals of delight (or even tears of happiness) when your gift is opened, then you’ll have to bite the bullet and splurge on an American Girl doll.
We love their Truly Me collection which lets you customize the doll’s skin tone, hair and eye color, and hair length and texture (straight, curly, wavy, bangs) to match their own. You also can’t miss their Girl of the Year (for 2016 it’s Lea), which is only available that year (hello collector’s item!) and therefore is always highly coveted.
American Girl has also just launched a line of smaller 14 ½” dolls called Wellie Wishers for girls 5 and older. They have the same high-quality features and styling, but are easier to carry around and less expensive (hoorah!). But be warned – because of their smaller size, you’ll need to buy a whole additional wardrobe once you upgrade to the full size dolls!
Check out the Doll Accessories section below for tips on how to dress your American Girl doll on a budget!
OK, so hopefully you’ve now decided on the perfect doll for your gift, but you’re not done yet. What will take it over the top are the right accessories. These are the items that will really spark your child’s creativity and make their dolls come alive. From clothing to strollers, to a place to sleep at night, these dolls are going to be spoiled rotten. Come along and we’ll show you our favorites.
Manhattan Toy Baby Stella Time to Eat Table Chair (12 months+), $21.31
Save yourself some space and opt for a hook-on high-chair for your child’s doll, instead of the free-standing variety. We love Manhattan Toy’s Time To Eat Table Chair which is part of the Baby Stella Collection, but also fits other 12–18” dolls (including American Girl) and can attach to most counter-tops and kitchen/play tables. So your child can eat right beside their bestie, and you can even fold it up flat to bring with you to restaurants (because dolly needs to eat too).
The New York Doll Collection Twin Jogging Stroller for Dolls (age 3+), $52.99
If you’re only going to buy one large accessory for your doll, this has got to be it. Kids just love pushing their babies and dolls around in a stroller. And boy oh boy, do we have the best one for you! Because really, what’s better than taking one doll for a walk?
Just take a look at this Twin Jogging Stroller by The New York Doll Collection – it easily fits two 18”+ dolls (actually we fit 4, 5 and 6 smaller ones in there just fine) and has some amazing features that real strollers have, like an adjustable handlebar, working sun shade and large storage basket (which can fit a boat load of dolly’s “necessities”). You can even fold it up when not in use (although that won’t be very often) or take it outside for a stroll. Kids of all ages go totally nuts over this (there were some major “wait your turn” moments with our testers!) and we simply can’t recommend it enough.
Badger Basket Bunk Bed with Trundle (age 3+), $44.48
Not all dolls will be able to sleep with your child at night, and they’ll need to be tucked them into their own bed – especially if you have this incredible Bunk Bed with Ladder and Trundle from Badger Basket. Trust us, don’t just get a single bed for one dolly, because they are going to want to have sleep-overs! And at under $45 this set is an absolute steal. It will sleep 3 dolls up to 22”, includes a step ladder and padded mattresses with attached pillows. And if they don’t want to use the trundle as a bed, it doubles as an awesome storage drawer for clothes and other accessories.
Corolle Mon Premier Carry Bed (18 months+), $21.99
If you don’t have the space for the full-sized bunk beds above, go for this lovely soft Corolle Carry Bed. It can be folded up and squished into storage bins, and will fit dolls up to 18” inside the cozy pouch. Kids love to zip them in and carry them around by the handles. And bonus – our kids figured out that the handles can be worn over their arms so the baby is carried backpack style from one play area to the next! A must-have accessory and perfect for those kids always on-the-go.
Toysmith Magic Baby Bottles (age 3+), $5.55
These Magic Baby Bottles are the perfect add-on gift or stocking stuffer for any baby doll lover. The liquid in these bottles magically disappears when tilted (seriously though, where does it go?!) and then fills back up when upright. We could do without the juice (although our kids think it’s funny to give baby a “no-no” drink), but the price is unbeatable and the magic trick never gets old.
You & Me 30-Piece Doll Care Set (age 3+), $12.60
This 30-Piece Doll Care Set may not be the highest quality of all time, but for $12 you get some seriously amazing pieces to start off your collection, including: 2 velcro diapers (which can fit medium-large dolls), 2 bibs, socks and booties, comb, brush, mirror, plate and utensils, lotion (with working pump!), milk and juice bottles, fillable sippy cup, keys, pacifier, and several containers with working lids…plus, a great little potty and a bag to store it all. Phew. See, that’s a lot of stuff at an incredible price.
Doll Carrier (age 3+)
Now if your child has a younger sibling that is always being carted around by Mommy in a carrier, a mini-me one sized especially for their dolls makes the perfect gift. Ergo, Boba, Lillebaby and Moby Wrap all make doll-sized carriers that kids can use to mimic their Moms and carry around their favorite baby, dolly or stuffed animal. We love, love, love this for a gift.
Little Cosmetics Pretend Makeup Essential Set (age 3+), $19.99
This is such a fun pretend makeup set that looks incredibly real (no joke, it will totally fool you), but has absolutely no mess (moms, rejoice!). Your kids will have a ball applying this Little Cosmetics set to their dolls while getting them ready for “the Ball”. It includes a pretend compact with mirror, glitter pot, blush, eye shadow, lip gloss (with working roller ball), and real makeup brushes all in a small zip-up cosmetic bag. These look and feel real, but nothing will come off on their skin, or their dolls – no sparkles, no nothin’. Our 4–5 year old testers couldn’t get enough of this set – applying it to each other, themselves and their dolls. We’re not sure they quite realized it was fake, but they were totally in their element and we hadn’t the heart to tell them otherwise.
Theo Klein Mega Braun Hairstyling Set (age 3+), $44.90
As if applying fake make-up to a doll isn’t enough, you can also inspire some amazing “hair art” creations with this fun Theo Klein Hairstyling Set. Perfect for toddlers to tweens, it allows kids to play stylist with realistic looking tools including a hairbrush, hairdryer (with real sounds and air blowing), hair straightener (which lights up to tell you it’s “hot”), mirror, comb, spray bottle and 4 hair clips. The items are light-weight so younger kids can hold them comfortably, and if you’re gifting a doll with long hair, this will be a winning combination!
B. Toys B. Critter Clinic (age 3+), $35.66
At first glance you may not think this is much of a doll accessory, but keep it here. The B. Critter Clinic portable pet hospital makes an awesome accessory for any doll lover. First, it comes with a full doctor’s kit (stethoscope, mirror, syringe, tweezers and thermometer) that tucks away under the rooftop compartment and is great for playing “Dolly goes to the Dr.” Next, it comes with two small stuffed animals (cat and a dog) that are a great size to become dolly’s new pet. And finally, the 6 colored doors become patient rooms or treasure spots for your small dolls and trinkets – and can only be opened with the matching colored key.
This toy will get tons of play time, and will be used in the most creative of ways. Whether it be as an animal hospital, dolly dress-up rooms, or for hide-and-seek, it is a superb toy that is a great addition to any playroom (editor’s note: this is one of my kids’ favorite toys and is played with in super imaginative ways…plus the color coordinated and shape-matching keys offer learning opportunities and gross-motor coordination practice!)
Tea Time Accessories
What’s the first thing you’d think to do with a doll? Have a gosh dang tea party, right?! There’s 2 routes you could take with this gift, both of which will get tons of playing time:
- A Child-Sized Tea Set: This great Tin Tea Set from ALEX Toys (age 2+, $16.50) is not only super cute, but includes all the right pieces (teapot with lid, 4 cups, saucers, plates and tray) all in a super cute carrying case. This is a great piece to keep in a play kitchen to use for restaurant play too.
- A Doll-Sized Tea Set: We love the 10-piece Wooden Tea Set by Emily Rose Doll Clothes (age 5+, $15.95). The painted wooden pieces are sized just-right for 18” dolls and come with a cute serving tray, 2 teacups, saucers, spoons, milk/creamer, sugar bowl and of course a teapot.
But alas, if you’re having a tea party, you have to have some scrumptious treats to go with it! This Smart Snacks Shape Sorting Cupcakes set from Learning Resources (age 2+, $12) not only will serve the purpose of filling your dolly’s belly, but also will teach your child about colors and shapes. Kids have to connect the cupcake base to the correct icing by matching the shapes together, a fun way to learn through play.
Blankie Tail for Dolls (age 6+), $19.99
We featured Blankie Tails for kids in our Non-Toy Gift Guide: Gifts That Are Practical (But Far From Boring), and now their dolls can join in on the cozy fun with Blankie Tails for Dolls. Made of the same super soft, double-sided minky fabric, it fits any doll 18” or less (yep, that includes American Girl) and comes in the same colors as the kids’ sizes so you can match up to be “twinsies”. A super fun accessory that is great for traveling and snuggling!
Clothes (& where to find them for cheap!)
Outfit changes are a necessary evil of every doll’s life. Kids just love dressing and re-dressing them a million times over, and this means only one thing: you will need a lot of doll clothes. And although the clothes are small in size, boy oh boy, are they not small in price. Sure you can buy the matching clothing sets for each specific doll brand and collection, but this can get super expensive.
Instead, we suggest searching on a site like Amazon for the specific height of your doll and seeing the matches for popular sizes like 12” doll clothes (this 5-in-1 You & Me set is pretty great) and 18” doll clothes (this one is 5 outfits for just over $20!).
Now earlier we alluded to some tips for finding clothes for your American Girl doll for cheap. Well now’s the time we let the secrets out.
First, both Target and Walmart offer clothes for 18” dolls which will fit perfectly. At Target look for the Our Generation clothing (their accessories and furniture for dolls are also incredible) which are usually half the price of American Girl sets. If you’re searching at Walmart, check out their Arianna line which will also fit any 18” doll.
For girls that love to have their dolls’ outfit match their own, search for the Dollie & Me brand which offer great matching clothes and PJ sets very similar to what is sold at American Girl, but at a significant discount. We’ve found them at Kohl’s, Macy’s, JCPenney and Zulily.
And the best secret of all: AC Moore, Michael’s & JoAnn fabrics all sell 18″ doll clothes & accessories for a steal. We recently bought a couple fancy sequin dress sets for under $10!
Also, consider raiding your local dollar store for kitchen supplies, purses, hair accessories and more.
Melissa & Doug Wooden Doll Armoire (age 3+), $44.99
Now you’ve got all these cheap-but-so-amazing-they-won’t-know-they’re-fakes outfits, you’ve got a problem on your hands. Where, oh where, to put it all. Well the solution is clear, and it’s one that kids reeeeally love: a wardrobe. Yep, a doll wardrobe. And this Wooden Doll Armoire from Melissa & Doug is one of our favorites because it includes details like latching doors, lace-trimmed padded hangers and 2 working drawers (for all those littles shoes!). Your kids may never hang up their own clothes, but believe you me, they will love to organize and hang up clothes for their dolls!
So that’s it friends, some pretty incredible ideas for any doll-loving child. But don’t head off just yet, make sure you check out the other guides from our 2016 What Moms Love Gift Guides For Kids:
- The Best Vehicle Toys For Car, Truck and Construction Junkies
- The Best Doll Houses & Accessories For Your Doll-Obsessed Girl (or Boy!)
- The Best Princess-Themed Gifts For Your Little Princess
- The Best Building Toys For Kids (From Blocks To Robots)
- 200+ Unique Stocking Stuffers For Babies To Teens (That Aren’t Junk!)
And we’ll soon be releasing our next set of guides:
- The Best Toys For Staying Active – coming soon
- The Best Arts & Crafts For Boys & Girls – coming in 2017
- The Best Board Games For Solo, Sibling and Family Play – coming in 2017
- The Best Toys For Super Hero & Star Wars Fanatics – coming in 2017
Make sure you don’t miss them by subscribing to our newsletter and we’ll let you know the moment they launch. We’ll also let you know of any exclusive discounts or special deals on any of the toys included on our list:
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And if that’s not enough, if you’d prefer to gift something that isn’t a toy but rather an experience that will stay with them for a lifetime, an educational present that can expand their horizons, a fun practical item that can be used every day, or a sentimental treasure with deeper meaning, head over to our Unrivaled Guide To Non-Toy Gifts. 200+ Presents For Kids Of All Ages (That Aren’t Toys!)
This ultimate guide includes 5 parts:
- Non-Toy Gifts For Learning & Expanding Horizons
- Non-Toy Gifts To Spark Creativity, Imagination & Special Interests
- Non-Toy Gifts That Are Practical (But Far From Boring)
- Non-Toy Gifts For Making Memories
- Non-Toy Gifts To Receive In The Mailbox
BONUS! Free Printable Coupon Book
If you haven’t made it to our Making Memories guide yet, we don’t want you to miss out on our free printable coupon book. This includes 12 super fun coupons in Christmas, Hanukkah and Birthday designs that your kids will go gaga over. Plus blank templates for you to personalize your own. These make a wonderful stocking stuffer! Get more details and get the link to download here.
And one last thing (promise), if you’d like to give a gift to your child that’s also secretly a gift for you, you’ve got to get our special report: 10 Screen-Free Toys For Guaranteed Quiet Time That Will Let You Relax, Recharge Or Put The Laundry Away. These magical toys will get your kids playing by themselves for 60 minutes every day. No joke. Simply let us know where to send this exclusive report:
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