What dolls at what age?

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I had a request a while back to do a holiday buying-guide type post about what dolls I’d recommend for what ages and thought it was a great idea.  So I did it, and then forgot to post it, and was going to wait until this Thursday but then thought people are shopping now and might need suggestions!

Not only do I love dolls, I love kids, and my wonderful job lets me see on a daily basis how they interact with my toys and also hear about what toys they like at home.  Oh yes, we do a bit of speech therapy too.  :)  I’m going to focus only on dolls here and give some suggestions of products I like, but please don’t think that’s the only toys I feel are appropriate!  Kids need a variety of toys, books, art materials, outdoor experiences, etc. and dolls are just one part of that – and there are WAY more great dolls and toys out there than I was able to list here.  These opinions are entirely my own and I received no compensation of any kind for listing any products here.  The feminine pronoun “she” was used throughout this, but lots of boys enjoy playing with dolls too if you give them a chance!

The first consideration is how the doll will be used and its play value.  The two main types of dolls in my view are interactive, where a child takes on a role in relation to the doll, (mom, doctor, teacher, friend, etc.) and what I call “scenario” dolls, where the child uses multiple dolls, for example a dollhouse family, to act out scenarios but doesn’t interact with the dolls.

Your purchase also makes a statement to the company –is your money supporting responsible manufacturing practices with nontoxic materials?  Many European dolls like Paola Reina are great in this respect.  Does the company acknowledge that children of different skin tones exist and might want to play with their products?   Aside from that, cost, durability and availability are important factors.

Dolls that can “do things” like talk, or that require continued purchases of stuff to keep being fun are usually novelty items, not dolls with high play value.  For example, Baby Alive is certainly durable and washable, but she can make a child feel her only use is feeding and diapering with her purchased food and diapers.

When lots of accessories are available (like AG or Barbie) you also want to be careful that “playing” with the doll does not just turn into “acquiring more stuff for the doll” and make accessory purchases carefully, choosing items that will get a lot of use.  Sometimes, for example with Waldorf toys, the less a toy can do, the more play value it has!  Sometimes not.  In a recent AG catalog, the text describing Julie’s mp3 speaker chair said, “Just imagine all the ways to play!”  Yep, I can.  You set the doll in the chair.  You turn on the music.  That’s it.  Eventually the electronic part may break, or mp3 players will be replaced by something new and the speaker function will be meaningless.  The last time I was in the AG store, they had the new modern kitchen set up and of ALL the toys in the entire store, that’s what was getting the most use from kids.  Toy kitchens in 18” doll scale can be a great option because they don’t take up as much room as an actual child-size toy kitchen, but can be used by kids or dolls.

The younger a child is, the fewer life experiences they’ve had and the more likely their play will involve acting that out, rather than imagining new scenarios.  Kitchens and doll beds are PERFECT accessories because those help them reenact things they do several times a day.  As they get older, they should be developing sequences in their play and starting to use their imaginations more.  A kitchen is still perfect!  As they learn about sequencing, they can act out the many steps in preparing, serving and cleaning up food on a daily basis, and then develop more imaginative play creating other scenarios that involve food such as going to a restaurant, having a holiday meal, birthday party, etc.  If the AG kitchen is beyond your budget, both Our Generation and Journey Girls have kitchens that are not too big and have a nice selection of accessories.  Ikea has doll beds for ~18” dolls and little dishes you can use with something as simple as kitchen appliances made from old cardboard boxes!  My niece’s favorite toy for quite a while around age 3-4 was her “box house” made from an appliance-size box.  We made little curtains for the windows and some cardboard furniture/props for the inside – best free toy ever!

Doll size is important to consider too.  I was at TRU the other day and they had a ton of enormous “My size” Barbies, probably in anticipation of parents needing large, impressive presents to shove under the Christmas tree.  In my opinion, that huge Barbie is likely end up at Goodwill before next Christmas, and here’s why:  1) She’s hard to manipulate – imagine trying to haul around a mannequin in your size all day!  2) She takes up a lot of space, which is likely to annoy parents when she’s left around the house 3) She doesn’t have extra clothes/accessories available.  4) Her adult body can make her unsuitable as either a same-age companion or take the role of a child for a little girl to role play with

So, what dolls might be good for what age?

AGE 0-2

During this age range, the doll’s purpose will go from drool rag/chew toy to huggable friend.  As the child is exposed to adults caring for her, the doll can fulfill this function too and serve as a basis for developing multi-step play as the child acts out the adult role with the doll as the baby.  It is even more important at this age than any other due to mouthing that the doll be completely nontoxic and have no choking hazards.   My top pick would be a plush or rag type doll with non-removable clothing, so there are no loose bits that could be chewed off and choked on.  Look for dolls of this type with specific labeling that indicates they’re appropriate for this age and pose no hazards.

AGE 3

This is one of my favorite ages!  At 3, many children seem to “wake up” to the world around them.  They want to imitate/participate in whatever adults are doing and start to learn routines and steps for doing more complex daily tasks.

Kids in this age range don’t really have enough understanding of the world to know that a ballpoint pen or mom’s lipstick can permanently ruin their doll or that burying in sand is fun only for them, not their doll!  They also don’t have too much dexterity or patience with frequent clothing changes yet, so the doll doesn’t need a very extensive or elaborate wardrobe.  PJs that open completely down the back with Velcro are a good idea, to act out bedtime scenarios and possibly some cloth diapers, also closing with Velcro.

Keywords for dolls at this age:  durable, huggable, washable, baby or toddler dolls to act out the world around them

Suggestions:  There are all sorts of baby dolls available.  Bitty baby or cabbage patch are a good choice if you’ll eventually want to sew for them, since lots of patterns are available, and they also come in all sorts of ethnicities so you can be sure to find one appropriate for your child.  Both Corolle and Paola Reina also make nice, nontoxic baby dolls (Some of Corolle’s “Mon Premier Bebe” dolls have beautiful faces too) and a Waldorf doll is always an excellent choice.  Waldorf dolls are generally handmade from natural, nontoxic materials like cotton and wool.  Their cost can range from next to nothing if you make it yourself to about $100 for the Kathe Kruse version to hundreds of dollars for an artisan-made one on etsy.

Age 4-6

Soaring imaginations need props and dexterity is improving!  One of my most popular toys for kids this age is a set of wooden dolls whose clothes stick on with magnets.  You can sometimes find these in specific themes to fit a child’s interests, such as a ballerina; Melissa and Doug is one manufacturer.  Less time fighting to get the clothes on means more time imagining and the clothes and props help to suggest story ideas.  A basic dollhouse like “Plan” and a family of simple wooden dolls is great as well and can grow with the child, adding furniture and accessories as needed.

Aside from dollhouses, now is the time for kids to really start interacting with dolls more; talking to them, making up scenarios and role playing.  A doll that’s durable, not too big to carry around (maybe 13”-16”) and has simple-to-put-on clothes for different occasions is ideal.  I like small, harder-bodied dolls like Corolle Cheries, Hearts for Hearts, Paola Reina Las Amigas, Wellie Wishers, etc. for durability but they are not as huggable as dolls with cloth bodies.

At this age, take the child’s preferences into account too – maybe she wants a doll that looks like her or maybe she wants something different!

Suggestions:  Basic dollhouse like “Plan” w/ simple wooden dolls, dolls with magnetic clothing, Corolle Cheries, Paola Reina Las Amigas, Hearts for Hearts,Wellie Wishers, possibly an inexpensive AG clone

Age 7 and up

If you’re reading this blog, I know you like dolls.  I also know it’s painful to admit a child you love might NOT like them too…but it’s true!  If she doesn’t want dolls, she doesn’t, and your money would be better spent on legos if that’s what will get more use.

If she does want dolls, a child this age might “know” what she wants, but take care that she isn’t just wanting them because the commercials say so.  Monster high is an example of this…their TV episodes keep introducing new characters with completely unrealistic body shapes and few clothes/accessories to let you do anything with them besides collect them.  I feel similarly about Barbie, that young children should be encouraged to play with dolls closer to their own ages with more realistic body shapes.  Some Barbie alternatives include her younger sisters like Skipper or a newer doll from across the pond called “Lottie.  You might remember from an early post in April’s journal that peer pressure can start to be a factor eventually too.  If all her friends are getting together to play with their favorite brand of doll and she doesn’t have one, she can feel left out.  When I was younger, I wasn’t permitted to play with Barbie, because my mom hated her so much and can remember going over to friends’ houses with my Ginny dolls instead.  Eventually, I did get  a Tracy (who was a friend of Barbie) for Christmas which proved Santa was real, because my mom would never in a million years have put one of those under the tree.  ;)

As mentioned above, it’s useful to have two types of dolls:  small dolls that can be manipulated to act out scenarios, like dollhouse dolls, and dolls the child can interact with like baby and child-type dolls.  Clothing changes for different activities become VERY popular now, so if you don’t have time/skill to do a lot of sewing, choose a doll in a readily-available size so she can build up a wardrobe.

Scenario dolls:  Lottie, Skipper, Calico Critters, dollhouse dolls, Playmobil 

Interactive dolls:  AG, Journey Girls, Maplelea, MyTwinn 18”, Our Generation, Adora 18”, Paola Reina Soy Tu, etc., Girl for All Time, 

The ~13-14” dolls listed above like Corolle Cheries, Paola Reina Las Amigas, Hearts for Hearts,Wellie Wishers sort of straddle the line on how they can be used, depending on how many the child has.  If there are several, the dolls can be made to interact with each other, with just one, the child can interact with the doll.  They’re great for this age too!

I’ll leave you with a quote I really like from Sasha Morgenthaler:

“It is better a child have one doll to enjoy, keep and play with for many years, than many dolls used briefly and discarded.  A single doll is then treated as people should be treated, with loyalty, consideration and love.”

 

Goodbye April?

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As the year draws to a close, April’s suitcase is packed to leave!  Having her as the GOTY was fun, but didn’t quite work out quite how I’d planned.  Then again, those plans were made in a fit of inspiration and optimism over last year’s winter break.  There are so many unfinished projects/ideas on the back burner for her, it’s probable you’ll see April again next year.

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I have little patience with doll props that are not in scale, and suitcases are one of my biggest pet peeves.  The point of a suitcase is to put clothing and other items in it to be able to take them somewhere.  When companies make doll suitcases that don’t actually fit doll shoes/clothes it significantly reduces their play value.

With the holidays coming up, many dolls will be traveling or possibly receiving a few new outfits.  This quilted suitcase is the perfect accessory to keep a couple of outfits or a bunch of shoes shoes organized for travel, and would also make a clever wrapping for giving an outfit as a gift!

Download the suitcase pattern here

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In other news, the doll room has reached critical mass and it’s become necessary to get rid of some dolls and toys before adding any more.  :(  The first to go is a lot of Ginny dolls which is listed on ebay right now here.  Yep, starting bid is seriously $1, there’s no reserve and local pickup is free.

Appearing soon on ebay:

  • Adora Kayla shown on right here
  • MyTwinn 18″ – in blue dress here
  •  Madame Alexander 8″ Fancy Nancy (Posh Puppy)
  • Some 18″ Heidi Ott Faithful Friends dolls
  • Effanbee repro Patriciakins

I also have available for local pickup (shipping would be very expensive):

Bienvenida Nancy!

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Happy Thanksgiving!!

I am so thankful for all your support and encouragement!  The coupon code 20OFF20 is active in my shop from now through Monday to help you get a head start on your holiday sewing!

 

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This is from an early Nancy Famosa catalog.  She’s a doll that was made in Spain starting in the late 1960s.  It says, “I’m Nancy.  I want to be the most elegant of all the dolls you have.  I present to you all the ensembles with which you can make me happy.  How happy I will be if you give me all of them!”

Wow.  Talk about presumptuous!  The parents should not just buy the child a doll but ALL her outfits too!

I don’t think anyone could argue that fashions of the 1950s and early-mid  1960s were anything but stylish.  Once you get to the late 1960s through the 1970s, it’s a whole different story.  Most of us don’t have to research any farther than our own family photo albums to find clothing from that time period that, in retrospect, we might label “hideous”, no matter how stylish it was at the time.

In the US at this time, Nancy’s counterparts would have been Crissy and her cousin Velvet, and when you compare the two, Nancy’s clothing really did look a lot more elegant.  I started doing a little research and realized the 1970s did have a certain style and it was THE era for handmade stuff and decorative clothing!  There was actually a toy series called “The Sunshine Family” and their accessories included a craft store with a spinning wheel and pottery wheel!  They had a truck they drove around to craft fairs with and all their sets came with little booklets for kids to make miniature crafts from household materials for the dolls to “sell”.  They get my vote for “BEST TOY EVER!” even though they were a little before my time and I never played with them.

OK, back on topic.  I recently got a reproduction Nancy Famosa called “Yo quise ser tenista”.

The 1970s were the first time pants were really considered appropriate women’s attire for any occasion, and Nancy had a profusion of them!

Elastic waist pants are great for doll garments intended for kids, but not so much for adult collectors.  Firstly because after many years the elastic eventually stretches out and your garment is ruined, and also because it can make for a bulkier waist, which limits what type of top you can pair with the pants.

Perfectly-fitted non-elastic pants can be just as difficult to draft for dolls as for people, and I’ve avoided it for my AGAT Clementine by telling myself it wasn’t appropriate for her era.  Someone requested wide-leg pants for her Sam a while back, but I wanted a nicely-fitted waist, so it’s taken a while!  Awesome news:  AGAT and Vintage-Repro-Nancy can share pants!

More awesome news: Two versions of well-fitting 1960s-70s pants are now available in one pattern here

The pattern includes two versions – one with slightly-flared legs and and one with super-wide legs that you might call “palazzo pants” or “elephant bells” depending on your age.

They make for a perfect repro of the 1970s “hippy” outfit for Nancy, who some of you might have guessed will be making some appearances on the blog.  The original pants appear to have had painted flowers, but I digitized them for machine embroidery.  The .pes file is free with purchase of the pants pattern – just put in “notes to seller” that you want it!

Here is a free pattern for her T and necklace

In case you’re wondering how big she is, here is a comparison photo:

comparison

L-R 1970s Sasha, Fisher Price My Friend, Nancy Famosa Reedicion, Kimberly, New Nancy Famosa, Crissy, New Kidz n Cats

April’s Halloween Dress

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April should have appeared before Halloween, but everything got off a week because of Kenny’s “illness”.  Luckily this dress is good for any time of the year, with a sweater or jacket over it for cool weather.  April’s cardigan from January would probably be perfect, just not buttoning in front.  NOTE:  It was fitted on April, who’s a bit slimmer than some of my new AGs. It’s fine on Journey Girls and would be a bit loose on newer KnC bodies.  You can see in the pattern pix it fits the newer AGs, but the fit is quite slim – probably too slim for larger-bodied older AGs!

Download her Halloween dress here

 

Read her journal here

(yes, some months are missing but it explains the costume and ties in depression awareness month)

 

Groovy Flower Quilt

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To help with your dolls’ sleep hygiene, this week’s pattern is a 60s-70s quilt.  It would work for AG Julie and maybe Melody, as well as vintage 70s dolls like Crissy, Velvet, Sasha, etc. or modern dolls that enjoy a retro vibe to their decor.

Templates are provided for you to do it as fusible web applique, but slower and faster methods are options as well.  You could cut the motifs out of freezer paper and stencil them [post here] or add seam allowances and do needle-turn appliqué by hand.  You could also use one small motif to make blocks for a more traditional looking quilt.  Although this quilt itself was never made for a particular doll, the motif appeared on the packaging and furniture of a doll popular in the late 1960s and 70s.  She’s still around now, although the packaging motifs have been updated.  If you can guess who she is, you’ll know who might be appearing on the blog soon!

Since it’s more than likely your doll bed is not the same size as mine, I provided the quilt center and you can add strips on the sides to make it into the size you require.  My strips were 2” wide.  Should you need to enlarge/reduce it significantly, just divide the size you want by the size it is to get a percentage to reduce/enlarge and photocopy at that percentage.

Get the “Groovy Flower Quilt” pattern here

 

D.A.M. Week 3:  Laughter and sleep

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An unintended but awesome consequence of last week’s post was perfectly in line with D.A.M. – laughter!  I had so much fun reading the comments on last week’s post and if you need a laugh, please check them out!  I especially loved the comment that they were made from leftover inmate fabric🙂  Laughing has been found to actually reduce stress hormones, along with a lot of other health benefits.   With the internet you have no excuse for not finding something you think is funny, whether you’re streaming a comedy radio station, some stand up comedy on netflix or just checking out facebook to see the silly baby animal videos a friend posted.  Find something funny and laugh!

This week’s other focus is sleep.  Sleep disturbances are so prevalent in people with depression that they’re actually part of the diagnosis, with most people sleeping too little, but a small percentage sleeping too much.  In my mind, what’s frustrating with the sleeping too little part is the chicken/egg dilemma.  Are you depressed because you’re not getting enough sleep or not able to sleep because you’re depressed?  This study found  that people with insomnia are about 10 times more likely to develop depression than people without insomnia, and 17 times more likely to have anxiety!  Though I’ve left it out of the posts so far, MANY people who suffer from depression also have anxiety.

Since sleep problems can be a symptom of other things too, it’s a good idea to consult a physician to rule them out.  Aside from medication, you might be told to follow a sleep hygiene routine to help you fall asleep.  There are lists all over the internet with tips, and a nice, uncluttered, printable one is here:

http://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/sleep-hygiene-handout.pdf

It doesn’t mention that a really groovy retro flower quilt will almost always do the trick to make dolls fall asleep, but it will😉  Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until next week to see it.

Sorry!

“Hoooneeey…the sewing machine is making a funny noise…”  It was growling while I tried to wind a bobbin, and then said bobbin was put into the machine and the stitches would not lock properly.  Turns out there was a thread wrapped around the belt that drives the bobbin winder, and fixing that probably fixed the problem.  But my husband is not a halfway kind of guy, and took apart the ENTIRE machine to check it out, just because!

Wow!  Turns out my sewing machine was working on a felting project of its own:

kennys-felting-project

What’s amazing is that usually during winter break, the craft room gets reorganized and DH takes apart the main sewing machine (Kenny) to clean and oil it, so it’s only been about 10 months since the last major cleaning!  What’s also amazing is that Kenny was able to function as well as it did with all that fluff in its moving parts!  My stupid Brother PE 770 embroidery machine completely breaks down and ruins your project with a horrid nest of thread if even a ½” scrap of thread breaks off anywhere inside it, and then it takes a few hours (I’m not exaggerating!) to unscrew and take the thing apart to find the little scrap and put it back together.  I can’t say enough good things about my Kenmore, which is made by Janome!  Not only does it do a great job with tension on a variety of fabric and thread types and tolerate all sorts of rough handling, it’s VERY easy to take apart to service, whether for just a cleaning or to replace a part.

Anyway, the machine was out of commission for much of the weekend, and then I had to work on DH’s Halloween costume when it was finally fixed, so the blanket should be here next week!  I suggest you use that time to watch/attend/listen to something funny and clean out YOUR sewing machine.🙂

D.A.M. week two: Exercise and Social Connections!

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Exercise is a great mood-booster even if you’re not depressed/anxious.  In addition to last week’s tips, getting someone out of the house for a brisk walk can be SO helpful.  Yes, even if they’re trudging along behind you muttering, “I said I wanted to stay home.  I want to go home.  I can’t do this.”

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Continuing in the vein of vintage patterns, this week’s is a mid-century gym suit.  Doing a quick google search, it seems something similar to these one-piece uniforms were the norm for quite a while, from maybe the late 1940s through at least the mid-1960s, when my mom was in high school. This blue color seems to have been regulation in most of the country, with obligatory embroidery of your name on it.  Anyone live during the era of these gym suits and want to share “fond memories” (I say that in the most sarcastic tone possible) or info about color/style?

In plain solid colors, it will make a great historical gym uniform for Molly/Emily, Mary Ellen or Melody.   

This was kind of a time-consuming pattern to figure out and sew, and normally I put such things on etsy rather than free on the blog.  In lieu of payment, if you download this pattern please get SOMEONE outside with you a few times this week to exercise!  You’ll be boosting mood AND creating/reinforcing a social connection – both of which are essential to good mental health.

A podcast you might like that explores our attitudes toward exercise and motivates you can be accessed here:  http://www.wbur.org/magicpill.  You can even sign up for a 21-day motivational email-a-day to get you exercising!  I haven’t heard them all yet, but episode 2 did have a sentence or two not suitable for children, so it might be best to read or listen with headphones if you have kids in the room.