The 15 Best Dolls For Toddlers

Which To Choose and Why

Young children need little prompting to play with dolls but which are the best dolls for toddlers? That’s what you’ll discover in this article.

There is a surprising variety when your delve into the world of dolls but this means there’s the perfect doll for every age, situation, and preference, as you’re about to discover.

dolls for toddlersDolls inspire pretend play

When I was young I was a real tomboy and wouldn’t have been seen dead with a baby doll or any sort of girly doll. But give me an Action Man and I was soon embarked on the most amazing adventures with my little pal.

Understanding the Benefits of Dolls For Toddlers

1. Nurturing Emotional Intelligence

Playing with dolls is a powerful way for your toddler to explore their emotions and develop emotional intelligence. Through their dolls, they learn to express feelings of love, and empathy.

2.  Building Understanding and Compassion

Toddlers tend to be totally immersed in their own thoughts and feelings, only seeing things from their perspective. They can find it difficult to recognize or acknowledge that those around them have different thoughts and feelings. Doll play offers your toddler a chance to care for their little companions, teaching them to understand others' needs and feelings.

3. Fostering Social Skills

Dolls are the perfect playmates for your toddler to practice their social skills. As they interact with their dolls, they learn essential aspects of social behavior, such as taking turns, sharing, and cooperating. These valuable lessons form the foundation of their future friendships and relationships.

4. Enhancing Language Development

Doll play encourages language development as our little ones engage in pretend conversations with their little friends, expanding their vocabulary and communication skills. Without the pressure of trying to make themselves perfectly understood, as when talking to other people, they can practice and experiment with language as they chat freely to their dolls.

5. Encouraging Cognitive Growth

Playing with dolls stimulates cognitive development as your little one uses their imagination and creativity to overcome problems that arise for their dolls in their make-believe world. It could be something as simple as recognizing that their baby doll is crying because they are hungry and overcoming their discomfort by feeding them a bottle. Your older toddler may be faced with a more challenging dilemma with their superhero doll who has to decide on the best way to save one of their other doll toys from a dangerous imaginary situation.

toddler asleep with dollA comforting nap time companion

The Best Types of Dolls for Toddlers

Dolls come in many different shapes and forms, and the best types of dolls for toddlers are going to vary based on the age of your little one and also their personal preferences.

Here’s a brief guide to help you weigh up the options.

1. Cuddly Companions

A soft and huggable doll is an ideal first doll companion for your toddler. It will provide comfort and security while they are still very young but also offer them the opportunity to form a bond with their “little person” who they can begin to take care of as they learn to express feelings of love, and empathy.

2. Baby Dolls

Baby dolls are timeless classics that encourage nurturing play. Watch as your toddler takes on the role of a loving mommy or daddy, caring for their baby dolls with tenderness.

3. Dolls for Imaginative Adventures

Ignite your little one’s imagination by giving them action figures and fairytale characters to unleash their creativity. They’ll be no end of adventures they think up for their exciting playmates.

4. Dress Up Dolls

Dolls with removable clothes are perfect for developing your toddler’s fine motor skills as they dress and undress them, maybe having to manipulate buttons, Velcro, and zippers. If their doll has different clothing options, there will be choices for them to make as to how to dress their doll.

5. Educational Dolls

There are two main categories of educational dolls for toddlers. Firstly, dolls that talk and teach letters, numbers, colors, and shapes, and make learning a fun-filled experience as your toddler interacts with their little tutor.

Secondly, as a variation on dress up dolls, there are some excellent dolls whose clothing is adorned with different fastening to teach essential dressing skills such as snapping, hooking, fastening, buckling, zipping, looping, and tying, all learned as your toddler plays.

The 15 Best Dolls For Toddlers

Dolls should be for all children, regardless of their gender and ethnicity. They offer the opportunity to celebrate diversity and open-mindedness in a way that certainly wasn’t possible when I was a child.

I believe it is important for toddlers to be able to play with dolls that look like them, so I have, as far as possible, chosen dolls that are available in a wide range of ethnicities. I‘ve also included boy dolls as well as girl dolls as well as baby dolls that appear gender neutral and are just “babies”.

1. First Soft Baby Doll

The lovely smile and open arms of this cute, huggable doll will make your little one want to cuddle it all day long. It has adorable tactile little fingers and toes, is clothed in a removable onesie, and has a magnetic pacifier. There are 7 versions to choose from.

2. First Snuggle Doll

Toddlers love soft, cute, friendly characters and these cuddly dolls certainly tick all those boxes. Their soft body, and small size (10”), make them perfect for snuggling and will engage and soothe your little one. Unfortunately, there is no boy doll version but they really are lovely so I still highly recommend them.

3. Soft Rag Doll

Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Ann come in 7 different options, any of which will make a delightful cuddly companion and playmate for your toddler. At 14” tall they are big enough for embracing hugs but small enough to be easily carried around.

4. Plush Baby Doll Set

These 6 sweet multicultural baby dolls in a soft fabric come with their own carry bag. They are perfect for encouraging interactive play with multiple dolls, such as having tea parties. The onesies are removable so your little one can also have fun swapping their little friend’s outfits.

5. Soft Body Baby Doll

What I particularly love about this pretty baby doll is the fact that it has a soft, cuddly body but realistic plastic head, hands, and feet. This makes it infinitely huggable whilst also having the appearance of a real baby for realistic nurturing play. The doll has a removable outfit, matching hat and blanket, and a pacifier. It comes in 8 variations.

6. Open/Close Eyes Soft Body Baby Doll

This is a similar doll to the previous one but has eyes that open and close for realistic sleep and nap times, an extra outfit, and a range of accessories – shoes, plate, 2 utensils, rattle, baby bottle, and pacifier. Your toddler will have hours of fun caring for their baby but do be aware of a choking risk for very young toddlers.

7. CoComelon Musical Bedtime Dolls

If your toddler is a fan of the CoComelon YouTube series, they will love these plush JJ and Cody dolls. They each play a selection of sounds and phrases making them fun, comforting, and educational companions for your little one.

8. Princess Ariel Plush Mermaid Doll

Mermaids are an ideal character for inspiring your toddler’s imaginative play. Your little one can re-enact scenes from their storybooks, favorite cartoons, and Disney films, or make up new adventures for their water-loving friend. This soft doll is cuddly so perfect for snuggles. If your toddler is a real Disney fan, they will adore the Rapunzel, and Moana dolls available too.

9. Barbie Fairytale Doll

Staying with the mermaid theme, we have the wonderful Barbie fairytale doll for older toddlers. She has three complete outfits – mermaid, princess, and fairy. The snap-on accessories make her quick and easy to dress for whatever adventure your little one dreams up for her.

10. Woody Interactive Talking Action Figure 

Woody from Toy Story remains one of the most popular character dolls of all time. Children seem to really relate to him and form a close bond in their play. This Woody doll is a great mix of soft body for hugs, and a solid head and boots. He also has a detachable cowboy hat. When your toddler pulls the string in his back, they’ll hear phrases such as ''Hang on, little guy', ''Trash? You're not going in the trash,'' and ''Operation pull-toy.''

11. Superman Action Figure

Superman is one of the best-loved action dolls for toddlers, ready to take them on an exciting imaginary adventure at a moment’s notice. With 11 points of articulation, this 12” Superman action figure can be manipulated into a variety of dynamic action poses to fight off the baddies and save the world.

12. Dressy Friends

Dressy Friends are the perfect dolls for toddlers to learn important dressing skills such as buckling, zipping, pushing, tying, and pulling hook and loop fastenings, as well as being great playmates. They are 15.5” tall and there are both girl and boy versions with a choice of fair or dark skin tones. You’ll see a marked improvement in your little one’s fine motor skills as they practice undoing and doing up the various fastenings on their chum’s clothing.

13. CoComelon Interactive Learning JJ Doll

This interactive JJ was a favorite educational doll with my toddler testers. With four interactive buttons and over 50 different learning phrases, they soon became more confident in their grasp of their ABCs, 123s, and colors, and loved singing and jigging along to the two popular songs JJ sings – The Alphabet Song and “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”.

14. Mini Princess Dolls

I’m a great advocate of sets of dolls for toddlers as they automatically inspire interactive play scenarios between the characters. This set of six little princesses (5.5” tall) with adjustable arms and legs, perfectly fits the bill. Each dressed in a pretty ball gown, with a shiny necklace and sparkly tiara, the glamorous princesses will delight your toddler as they plan fairytale adventures with their group of royal friends.

15. Baby Doll Play Set

While it’s important to be aware of a potential choke risk with playsets with small pieces, this baby doll set is so good that I just had to include it in my list of the best dolls for toddlers. For encouraging nurturing skills, it is ideal. In addition to the 12” baby doll, which is available with dark or fair skin, you get a miniature baby crib, miniature baby high chair, toy pillow, baby rattle, feeding bottle, toy pacifier, 2 drinking cups, an ice cream tub, 2 doughnuts, pair of baby shoes, toy baby mobile, potty, toy diaper, bib, and 4 toy cutlery pieces.

Tips For Parents

How To Encourage and Support Play With Dolls

  • Provide your toddler with a variety of age appropriate dolls and accessories to play with.
  • Allow your toddler to take the lead in their doll play. Letting them make decisions and direct their play empowers them, boosting their confidence and independence.
  • At times, be your toddler's playmate and join in their doll play adventures. Encourage role-playing by taking on different characters, and watch your little one’s imagination soar.
  • Encourage storytelling by asking your toddler questions about their dolls' adventures. Watch as they weave imaginative narratives, exploring new worlds through their dolls' eyes.
  • Help your little one to develop their communication skills by suggesting such activities as a doll’s tea party where you can join in sipping imaginary tea and nibbling pretend cake as you guide fun conversations with your toddler and their dolls.
  • Encourage empathy by playing "doctor" with your toddler and their dolls. Help them tend to their doll patients, fostering a caring and compassionate nature.
  • Include dolls in bedtime routines for a sense of comfort and security. Bedtime stories with dolls make for soothing and comforting pre-sleep rituals.

toddler caring for their dollLearning nurturing and caring skills

Final Words

In this age of digital marvels, the simple joy of playing with dolls remains an essential cornerstone of your toddler's early development. Through their little companions, they will embark on imaginative journeys that lay the foundation for emotional, social, and cognitive growth.

As parents, we play a pivotal role in this magical process. It's not just about finding the best dolls for toddlers, it's about helping your little one enter a world of exciting, imaginative play.

SAVE to PIN to your Pinterest board!

And join me on Pinterest

best dolls for toddlers age 1-3


About Jacky Spear

Jacky Spear passionately promotes learning toys for child development. With 30+ years of teaching experience, she understands the power of play in engaging and nurturing children, including those with special needs. Drawing from personal experience in both the school and home environment, Jacky helps parents to select the best learning toys to unlock their children's potential and create a lifelong love for learning. Learn more about Jacky >>

Related Pages