Choosing the Right Doll For the Right Age Child
Posted: 2012-10-24 14:08:00 By: by Joanne Oppenheim


Dolls are classic gifts that fill a special place in the imaginary life of children. To toddlers and preschoolers, a doll or stuffed animal can be a comfort to hold onto in tight situations, or an imaginary playmate that will listen and take orders. For older children, a doll or action figure can be a far more elaborate character in their pretend play. Dolls from history, fashion figures or action heroes can be used for trying on grown up roles or making up imaginary adventures.

Dolls are not one-size-fits all.

For babies and toddlers you want to bring home soft dolls that have stitched features and no hidden safety issues. Avoid dolls with hair and doodads that can be chocking hazards.



2012 Award
Corolle Babicorolle Lili Cherry
(Corolle $39.99 Score: )

With all fabric features (including her eyes) and soft plush body, the Babicorolle makes an ideal first huggable. We loved the bright, cheerful colors of Cherry's outfit.  As you would expect from a little French doll, she is very stylish.  For older babies and toddlers, this vanilla-scented armful will be a favorite.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Awards
North American Baby Long Legs Puppy
(North American Bear Co. $28 Score: )

These black and white puppies, an 18-inch or 8-inch squeaker will grab the attention of newborns and continue to please for a long time ahead. Like the other Baby Long Legs from the same maker, these dolls are a lovely combination of knit and plush. The big one is totally on the mark for toddlers who like a big but light enough huggable to drag about. The photo of this soft cuddly doll with long legs and arms and floppy ears does not really convey just how cute it is. The legs are not rigid or wired, but soft and easy for little ones to grasp. The features are stitched and baby safe. There is also a grey elephant version as well as a pink mouse and a pink or blue bunny. Also adorable, Baby Long Legs Squeakers, Puppies, Bunnies, Elephants and Pink Mouse ($12.99 each) 8-inch miniatures of the bigger dolls that are good for tracking games and will be easy for baby to clutch and carry. Baby safe and machine washable.   All ages.

SNAP: We suggest the Baby Long Legs Squeaker from this collection. Use the small high contrast black and white pup for tracking games. It is eye catching and the squeaker inside will attract baby's listening as well as visual attention. Soft,safe and totally cleanable for infants and toddlers.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Award
Blabla Luigi Frog
(blabla kids $48 Score: )

Soft and huggable, Luigi is a green frog with big eyes and a pencil thin curled mustachio. He wears long brown pants with suspenders and a white shirt. Every detail of this adorable frog is knitted. Like other dolls in the line it is also available in a 12-inch size. If you fancy a girl frog, consider Lilipop, in a paler shade of green ith ballet slippers and a pink yarn tutu.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Awards
Huggalo Collection
(Huggalo $19.95  Score: )

Huggalos are soft huggable dolls with a dedicated place on their chest for placing a photo of someone special. There's Doodle Dude (made of canvas and intended to be written on), Camo Joe (done in green fleece camaflouge), Huggsley (our favorite - he comes with a cape and is clearly the super hero of the line), and Camo Flo (same idea as Camo Joe but done in pink).  We think this collection will have an audience with not only the preschool set--but tweens/teens.  The line has a sense of humor and whimsy to it that will likely have wide appeal.

SNAP: Having a photo of a family member can be a comfort take-along when going out into the world. This one is less young looking than most and a little more amusing.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on


Preschoolers like dolls with more details. A real baby boll that looks and feels like the new baby can be a perfect gift for a new big sister or brother. They also like soft huggable animals.



2012 Award
Rosy Cheeks Big Sister Doll Tan
(North American Bear Co. $32 Score: )

This has to be one of the most adorable dolls of the year! Rosy Cheeks Big Sister Doll is done in an African American version with very contemporary hair-style and removable clothing. She is an armful, an 18-inch rag doll with a soft huggable body covered in a knit fabric. She has stitched features. Her body is of a knit fabric, her jumper with Velcro closing is corduroy. Designed for preschoolers and up. She is available with the same outfit as a Caucasian girl with red yard hair.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2013 Awards
Bitty Baby Doll and book
(Pleasant Company $ 80 Score: )

15" soft-bodied Bitty Baby dolls with vinyl heads, arms and legs have been updated to allow for more options to customize. You have a choice of 11 dolls with differnt hair, skin and eye color combintions. Each doll arrives in a signature sleeper and a Bitty Baby & Me picture book. The updated doll now has a hairline brought forward and eyebrows for a more realistic look. The upper body was also redesigned with arms brought forward -- for better huggability. Beautiful clothes and furniture accessories available.  We also recommend the Bitty Baby Twins (boy and girl toddler dolls $115). As always there are extra outfits for the baby and matching clothes for the child. 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013.




2012 Award
Blabla Giant Charles Lion
(blabla kids $180 Score: )

Three feet tall, Charles is truly a giant in Toyland. Knitted of cotton yarn he is soft and huggable and will make a decorative centerpiece of any child's room. But more than that, he is apt to play a big role in a child's pretend play. With his orange whiskers, happy grin, long green tail with orange tufts, and brown shaggy yarn mane, Charles is a friendly sort of lion with big blue eyes and striped trousers. This is the kind of memorable plaything that listens well and says only what a child imagines it can say. The smaller doll pictured does not come with Charles. Blabla makes many smaller and less pricey dolls that are equally charming. Handmade in Peru, these dolls capture the affection and imagination at first glance. All ages.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2012.




2012 Award
Cinderella Happily Ever After Carriage
(Disney $59.99 Score: )

We believe this comes under the heading of biggest piece of fantasy plastic of the season. That said, we know a lot of girls are going to love it. Cinderella's coach actually has a pumpkin shell that turns to reveal a royal style coach to take her to the ball and her wedding. She wears a white satin gown and looks every inch a princess! Marked 3 & up, we think this is more like a big box gift item for older 4 and 5 year olds.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.




2005 Awards
Corolle Drink & Wet Baby Paul
(Corolle $69.99 Score: )

If you are looking for an anatomically correct doll for big sisters or brothers, Paul is your guy. He's a 14" vinyl doll that can go in the tub, drink from a toy bottle and wet. He comes with his own potty chair as well as diapers. This is also a useful prop for kids who are in the potty training stage. Also available: Emma, a bath and potty training doll with a "small difference."

Age: . Award Year: 2005. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Award
Pony Flag Race Lottie
(Arklu $19.99 Score: )

One of an adorable collection of 7-inch dolls with removable clothing and moveable joints for poseable play. They have painted faces with big eyes and plenty of hair to arrange. These are not fashion dolls in the traditional sense, but girl dolls. Their clothes have a high-end look, though the girls are plastic and not overly pricey. Marked 3 & up although kids under 5-6 will seldom have the dexterity to dress them. Also see Snow Queen doll and Spring Celebration Ballet doll from the same line.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on


Older girls will love a girl doll with a bit of history. This season there are more than a few good choices.



2012 Award
American Girl Caroline Abbott, War of 1812
(American Girl $105 Score: )

Newest addition in the historical doll and book collection, Caroline Abbott lived during the time of the second American War of Independence, the War of 1812. Caroline, a lovely blonde 18" doll has blue eyes and comes dressed in a long pink dress, pantaloons, and pink shoes. She is the daughter of a shipbuilder and lives in Sackets Harbor, New York. When her father is captured by the British, Caroline has to try to live up to a promise she gave her father to prove her steadiness and courage. Her dream is to captain her own ship one day. Kathleen Ernst has authored six books about this brave young girl. Meet Caroline is the first and comes with the doll. No doubt there will be a sailing boat, craft kits, historically accurate clothes, and other accessories. We know a lot of little ones can't wait for this kind of doll, but the story part and the details are really most appropriate for the school years girl.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012.




2012 Award
American Girl McKenna, 2012 Girl of the Year Doll & Book
(American Girl $105 Score: )

Dressed for gymnastics practice, 18-inch McKenna is determined to master the challenges of the balance beam and more. She arrives with her long caramel-colored hair is tied up for her active life style. In this Summer Olympic season, you can be sure, the young athletes, in London, will inspire girls all over the world, as they go through their routines. McKenna is not an Olympian; though one day she may be one! American Girl has created a whole line of accessories for McKenna. There is an accessory bag ($26) with mini water bottle, trail mix, school papers, exercise booklet and more. We love her team gear with jacket, trousers, medal, and slippers($28.)  There is also a beam and bar set ($85) for McKenna to practice on, two outfits in a practice wardrobe ($35) and just in case, a cast and crutches ($30) should she stumble when she does a daring double backflip!

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012.




2012 Award
Amelia, A Girl For All Time Doll
(A Girl for All Time  $134.99 Score: )

From our friends across the pond, comes a new collection of girl dolls that will give our well-loved historic American Girl Dolls a run for the money. The dolls, each from a different time period, are executed with the kind of finesse of a Masterpiece Theater production. Amelia, a Victorian girl, is about to turn 13. Her wardrobe, a pink Victorian party dress, her velvet opera cloak, and a gauzy blue stage costume are all part of the fare. She comes dressed in a charming school girl's blue cotton dress, a straw hat, and two toned button shoes. Her jointed arms and legs make her playable, although she looks in every way like a worthy collectible - the kind you were supposed to keep on a shelf. Each additional outfit is pricey, but a stunning time piece that older girls (and even collectors) will appreciate. Her two-piece pink party dress has a lace-trimmed bodice with tiny buttons, a skirt with bows, a lace hat with a puff of white feathers, and pink silk slippers. The A Girl for All Time collection actually begins with a sterner looking doll, Matilda, a Tudor girl of 13, who becomes a lady in waiting in the court of Henry VIII. She also has a marvelous set of clothing and an interesting back-story. Each of the dolls has a novel (we have not read them yet) that will introduce older girls of 8 & up to a chapter of English history. These are seriously designed for older girls, for that last beautiful doll that is often remembered or even treasured as a lasting gift of childhood. Our review of the books will come later. 8 & up. These are only available at this time online.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2012.




2012 Award
Cinderella Deluxe Doll Gift Set
(Disney $79.99 Score: )

A wowee of a doll set with six--count them- -all six of the main characters done up in a splendid carrying case package. There is a 12-inch Cinderella, of course, in a ball gown, but her cinder dress, an extra gown, plus a dress form. Ready for playing out the story (or new ones) is the rest of the cast all dressed in their satiny gowns. Her wicked looking stepmother, two very ugly sisters, the prince, and her sear fairy godmother. The dolls can be posed with jointed legs and arms, though their little feet will not let them stand on their own. All together this is a pricey but special gift for pretend play-not merely for display. Marked 3 & up, this makes more sense for 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Awards
Journey Girls Kelsey & Friends
(Toys R Us $32.99 Score: )

With her striking auburn hair and hazel eyes, our 2011 Platinum winner, Kelsey is one of a collection of multi-ethnic 18" dolls that will not break the bank. For 2012, new clothes have been added to the collection and her affordable wheel chair is still available. She's featured as the most fearless--a girl who likes to go climbing and hiking. Maybe that is why she arrived along with a wheel chair and crutches set ( sold separately $24.99) She wears sensible outdoor clothes, a fleecy zippered vest, insulated knit shirt, shorts, walking shoes and carries a rugged backpack. All the dolls in the collection have soft bodies, jointed shoulders and luxurious hair for styling. Dressed in sports clothes they are active girls ready to take adventurous journeys. Their eyes do not open and close and they are not very flexible. Kelsey sits in the wheel chair with her legs stiff in front of her. Her hips are not jointed, so she sits, but stiffly. That said, they are an affordable alternative to many very pricey 18" dolls. Tanya is African American and heading for New Orleans Jazz Festival. Meredith is a blonde beauty dreaming of skiing in the Alps. Callie is an Asian girl, who longs to go to London and Alana is a Latina heading for Rome.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

The wheel chair and crutches are listed and sold separately. Like the dolls, they are more affordable than most and well made.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.




2012 Award
Merida Collector Doll
(Disney $99 Score: )

A stunning 18" version of Merida steps out of the film Brave and onto the shelf where she can be admired by young collectors. We do not usually do collector dolls and this red-haired beauty in her royal robes and velvet gown is not a play doll. That said, she will fill a special place for older girls. There are several other versions of Merida that have soft bodies, tons of hair and a much lower price tag. Our testers especially liked the Merida Toddler girl($20) with her quirky smile and jaunty look. Fashion doll fans like the 16" princess ($20) who is wearing a much less pricey knockoff of the same outfit the collector doll is wearing. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on


Electronic Novelty Dolls



2012 Award
Flying Super Grover 2.0
(Hasbro $32.99 Score: )

Hands down our favorite novelty doll of 2012. Grover playfully engages your child in his ability to fly like a super hero.  He comes with a bright red cape (hey, he's a super hero) and a big "G" on his chest.  The best part -- his arms move as you "fly" him up and down.  All the while Grover provides the narrative of him going up, up, up or down, down, down.  Truth be told, he doesn't always know which way he's going. Cute sound effects that propel him as he soars.  He has a sense of humor-- something we really appreciate.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Awards
LOL Elmo
(Playskool $39.99 Score: )

Happy-go-lucky Elmo is bubbling over with laughs again. Press his foot and his laughing begins, squeeze the remote control fishbowl and he laughs and wiggles even more. Tickle his tummy and Elmo not only laughs, he tells little jokes, too. Guaranteed to bring on a case of the giggles, this season's Elmo is smaller than he used to be and not too cuddly. You can feel the mechanism through his plush body. That said, this is a novelty toy that will be a sure fire favorite of kids and grown-ups alike. 18 months and up.

SNAP: Activating Elmo just might interest kids who need to work on strengthening hands and fingers. Elmo certainly will motivate them and there are three different ways to discover and remember how he moves. Squeeze his foot, tickle his tummy and press the remote. That's a lot of ways to make things happen. Is it a long term toy? Probably not. This is one of those novelty items that has some redeeming features.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on




2012 Award
Barbie Photo Fashion Doll Camera
(Mattel $49.99 Score: )

Camera meets Barbie again! This time instead of a video camera, she's sporting a point and shoot 5- megapixel camera. The camera's eye is on Barbie's back, but the images are displayed on her torso and can be shown in a slideshow, too. Dressed in dark stretch denim skinny jeans, pink platform shoes and a semi-glitzy top, this Barbie camera doll stores up to 200 photos she has 4 MB of memory and comes with her own USB cable, so photos can be downloaded. Added to all that, she has a fun feature that allows kids to use extra design features from Barbie's website.  6 & up.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on


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