Baby doll shopping for parents who hate baby dolls - help!
December 16, 2017 7:09 PM   Subscribe

My three-year-old desperately wants a baby doll. I'm a queer grouch who tries to avoid heavily gendered toys, and I'm totally thrown by this. Other parent is way more in the know, but we're in the middle of unhappily deciding whether to separate or just give up and divorce, so she's not a resource. Help? More details below.

Ideal characteristics I'm looking for:

Durable and also huggable - kiddo plays enthusiastically and baby doll is likely to jump with her on trampolines, take flying leaps from playground equipment, etc. and be hugged and carried around a lot.

Available in a brick and mortar store in Seattle or on Amazon prime.

Either dressed in fairly gender neutral clothing or from a line where clothing like that would fit.

Not a lot of bells and whistles - it doesn't need to eat or make sounds or anything like that.

Finally, kiddo is white and most of her friends and teachers are not, so recommendations of dolls that aren't all light-skinned would be very helpful as she's likely to eventually end up with more than one.

What am I looking for? Recommendations? Being reasonably priced and/or ethically manufactured is a possibly unrealistic plus. Thank you!
posted by centrifugal to Shopping (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some of the Manhattan Toy dolls fit the bill. They come in skin tones other than white, but you might have to order direct from them, as I don't see any nonwhite options on Amazon.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:19 PM on December 16, 2017

I’m having flashbacks to when my son wanted a baby doll and I had a meltdown. I only found a boy one in a twin pack and everything was pink.

Anyways, one possibility is Manhattan Toys’ baby Stella in beige (not peach); you can find gender neutral outfits for the doll. Not super cheap but the full plush means you won’t get into the weird plastic issues and our groovy girls have held up from the same company. It’s a compromise but...dolls man.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:22 PM on December 16, 2017

American Doll Bitty Baby dolls are essentially indestructible. I would 100% buy it because if the kid fucks it up and then bawls for hours you can send it on a “trip to the hospital” and then the doll comes back fixed with a hospital gown. I mean, I’ve, uh, heard, that they can even fix permanent sharpie markers to the face. They make a point of having multiple skin tones.

There is a brick and mortar store in Seattle, or you can order them online.

They are fucking expensive, but my daughter’s Bitty Baby has survived to present day (she is age 14) and not a single one of her other baby dolls have.
posted by corb at 7:30 PM on December 16, 2017 [17 favorites]

Cabbage Patch Kids are still a thing that exists. They come in both boy and girl versions, so there are outfits that aren't all just frilly pink dresses, and they do come in multiple skin colours. They were pretty hardy things back when, but I don't know what the quality is like now.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:32 PM on December 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

Cloth? Or plastic?

Kuddle and Kind satistifies all your requirements save the local availablility.

Bootyland Kids at the Wallingford Center, 1815 N. 45th might have something which meets your desires.

On amazon, search for "ethical doll"
posted by blob at 7:33 PM on December 16, 2017

Try maplelea dolls (basically the Canadian equivalent of American girl dolls). Good luck..with everything. PS. As a parent who also used to be resistant to dolls and princesses, maybe I can reassure you that in my experience, dolls bring out the best in kids: imagination, compassion, etc. It's also a great way for us parents to peek into what's on their mind (by observing what games they play and by listening to their conversations with doll).
posted by leslievictoria at 7:43 PM on December 16, 2017 [17 favorites]

Top Ten Toys in Greenwood has a huge baby doll collection.

If you don't want to buy a new one, I have 3 or so that I bought for my son like 7 years ago and he never cares for. They are good quality traditional baby dolls, in light blue outfits.
posted by k8t at 7:51 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

My niece loved the Groovy Girls doll I bought her when she was that age. She's a teen now, and the doll is enjoying a second life with another kid who is also 3. Their dolls are soft and very durable. I see they have a "Groovy Boys" line now that looks more gender neutral to me, especially "Logan" . Could that work?
posted by ezrainch at 8:06 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

A baby doll is a great toy for a boy or girl! My son loves his baby from Lakeshore Learning; very durable and comes in different skin tones. He's got the baby on the left in blue/pink. I'm having trouble with the link but search for Lakeshore washable baby. There's a full set but you can also order individually.
posted by JenMarie at 8:16 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Itty Baby if you want plastic. IKEA baby doll if you prefer cloth. Both are basic and durable.
posted by The Toad at 8:24 PM on December 16, 2017

I came in to explain how the less-white-looking Wee Baby Stella is nice and you can get alternate clothes, but the Ikea doll really seems like the winner.
posted by vunder at 9:26 PM on December 16, 2017

This etsy shop in Seattle; maybe you could arrange something locally with the seller?
posted by gennessee at 11:47 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ikea does a pretty neutral-looking (light blue clothes) super cheap cloth doll. I'm pretty sure we could put ours in the washing machine if necessary. My son has had a lot of fun with him. I think there's a non white version, though ours is white.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:09 AM on December 17, 2017

I don't think this needs to be a gender associated experience. My son is super into car and trains because that's what he happens to be into. At two he started showing interest in other kids baby dolls. I took him to the baby doll section of the toy store. He picked a doll with a flower outfit. He plays with the doll and changes it and feeds it. It is one of many toys. It is not a symbol or statement of anything. Just take her and let her pick. You're way, way over thinking this.
posted by Kalmya at 4:32 AM on December 17, 2017 [11 favorites]

I'm a queer parent who has faced this dilemma. Doll shopping is indeed horrible, you feel like you're getting traditional gender roles stuffed down your throat.

We went with the baby Stella, and it has been great.
posted by medusa at 5:29 AM on December 17, 2017

Agreed that baby dolls are good toys for all kids regardless of gender. Little boys grow up to be daddies! Daddies feed babies and change diapers! Nurturing is a common urge in the 3yo set, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

My son had one of the 12” Corolle baby dolls when I was pregnant with my daughter (got it secondhand). I got it some boy clothes and girl clothes and it switched genders on the fly.

Later, my parents bought my daughter a Target brand 16” doll, and it’s been fine. For little ones, the hard plastic hands/head, soft body seems to be a good balance. I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but in our area, Walmart has the best selection of non-white baby dolls, and though I prefer not to shop there, I’ve gotten African American dolls as gifts and for daycare there. Your kid doesn’t have to have a heirloom doll to play with and love it.

My son’s Montessori school has various water activities, and there is generally a “wash an object” one. He told me he couldn’t do the doll washing because they only had a girl doll. I told him that he most certainly could (see daddies comment up top) and then I told the teachers that their doll needed some damn boy clothes and sewed it some alligator pajamas.
posted by telepanda at 5:59 AM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

Disclaimer: I know the woman who runs this Etsy shop... LillieGiggles rag dolls are all cloth, come in a variety of outfits that aren’t all pink, and she makes them in various skin tones.
posted by Weeping_angel at 9:34 AM on December 17, 2017

I don't have kids and don't teach anymore but I wanted to mention that a washable feeding doll that sleeps is like the Cadillac of dolls. I had one and loved it until it had an incident and had to be thrown out (too much bathing). I had a doll that didn't "sleep" and I remember punching it because it wouldn't sleep like a real baby. Pre-schoolers, what can I say?

Did I mention I don't have kids? Yeah.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:01 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cabbage Patch Kids are durable and hardy and fun (lots of accessories and knock-off accessories available). But their heads are really hard and hurt like hell if you bonk yourself in the face with one.
posted by Aquifer at 10:03 AM on December 17, 2017

An 18-inch baby doll will usually fit into preemie-size “real baby” clothing, and sometimes into newborn-size, depending on the style and brand of the garment. If you have access to somebody who sews, they might be able to do a quick alteration for you; one of those garments that I can't think of the name of but it's basically a bag with sleeves and a neck hole would just need to have the sleeves and bag shortened. You can generally get newborn clothes in gender-neutral styles and colors; maybe you even still have some stored away somewhere. My childhood baby doll had "real baby" clothes that Mom and I picked out at a church rummage sale; it made her seem more real.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:19 AM on December 17, 2017

Seconding the Corolle dolls, they’re great. I was similarly horrified at the prospect of getting one but once I saw the child using it I got over it fast. Get a stroller too if you can.

Fast forward a few years she is into dogs and games in her free time. She likes fashion and makeup, but she also likes “interning” at my high tech office. The dolls at age 3 had no influence (just like the formula I fed her, etc)
posted by crazycanuck at 10:24 AM on December 17, 2017

The most reasonably priced ethical and durable option IMO would be this Waldorf doll kit for 28 dollars from Etsy.

I made some from a different kit for my kids 20 years ago, they endured hell and we still have them today.

(They have different doll colors as well)
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:26 PM on December 17, 2017

If you’d like to gender balance things just a tad, perhaps she would like a doctor kit to go along with her baby doll. And then you can teach her to do surgeries. (Bonus: “I’m terribly sick and need to be doctored” is a great way to buy 5-10 minutes sprawled on the couch.)
posted by telepanda at 12:33 PM on December 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

My daughter was given a baby doll when she was little. The doll was pink, with pink clothes, a pink bow, pink cheeks and pink bow lips. The whole nine yards. As revoltingly gendered as possible. My daughter named it Steve.

Your kid will be fine with your attention to stereotyping, and I'm glad to know that.
posted by Capri at 2:21 PM on December 17, 2017 [10 favorites]

I asked one of my bekiddled friends where she got her kid’s doll, and she said it was a You & Me Baby. I looked it up, and it may be something to look into.

Several different sizes
Caucasian or AAA
Different models have different eye colors
Some clothing is pretty neutral
Some models chatter, coo, cry, or hold magnetic pacifiers in their mouths; some just lie there
Reasonably priced
Sold at Toys “R” Us
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:50 PM on December 17, 2017

/If you're in West Seattle (or can get to Alaska Junction easily) I'd recommend going to Curious Kidstuff. It's the sort of place to have wooden toys, cooperative games, lego and art sets. So the doll section is less crazy-making than Target with it's gendered toy aisles. They carry Manhattan Toys, which other people recommended.

And to make it easier to go shopping, I'd like to tell you that my sister and I had baby dolls when we were young. The one I remember best is Punk Baby Doll whose hair we cut short and colored a number of lovely colors. Maybe your child will get creative with her doll too.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:40 PM on December 17, 2017

Dolls and figurines are great toys because they allow children to imagine and model human interactions with them. That's why they have been toys forever.

Last time i was in ToysRUs, there was actually a decent selection of skin tones on dolls. I would pick out a doll there based on size and then you could use your kids own old baby clothes as different outfits assuming you still have some.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:33 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much, everyone! Bitty Baby won because indestructible is good and we'll probably take advantage of the repairs. There's one hiding in the closet right now!
posted by centrifugal at 8:46 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Awesome! I thought I'd throw in one more note, in case it becomes useful. If you do have any home sewers in your family or circle of friends, word on my sewing forums is that Bitty Babies fit clothes made with any standard 15" baby doll pattern, such as McCall's 4338.

(When I had cousins and friends' kids who had dolls, my favorite default gift for them, since I knew they wouldn't be duplicates or go unused, was homemade doll clothes.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:41 AM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

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