A Doll for a Boy
Dolls for boys? Yes, you can find them!
I keep reading about the importance of doll play in girls' development and thinking, What about the boys? I was planning on looking into the subject of dolls for boys before too long, but I got a bit of a push. Someone arrived on one of my other pages looking for an eighteen-inch Asian boy doll, and I didn't have the roadmap to find one.
"Is it that hard to find?" I wondered as I started plugging search terms into Google. Apparently, yes, some things are still a bit difficult to find. Quite a bit later I made a discovery not on Amazon, but on Etsy, an online marketplace for custom goods.
I made some other discoveries along the way, and I'd like to share them. We've come a long way since Charlotte Zolotow pushed the envelope with the now classic William's Doll. Dolls for toddler boys are pretty easy to find. You have to dig a bit deeper to find ones that are appropriate for a bigger boy, but they're out there, too. As well they should be!
Boys and Dolls: A Remembrance
A boy and his doll! It's not a new concept. Here a man in his 70's who has liked dolls all his life reflects on the role they have had not only in his life but in his son's. His son is part Cherokee. The man shows the reader the Gregor doll that was his son's companion growing up. He notes that it was "his first real friend and confidant".
- Adam's Doll
Reflections on little boys and dolls.
My Pal - Boy Dolls and Clothing
Those Sasha dolls are hard to come by, but there are other makers. My Pal distributes 18-inch boy dolls. They are dressed and packaged by individuals with developmental disabilities.
My Pal is a companion line to My Sibling. My Sibling dolls, boys and girls, come with stories where the protagonist has a sibling with a developmental disability. The stories' protagonists are about seven years old. The My Pal books have a little themed booklet the child can complete.
The company also makes basic doll clothes for 18-inch boy dolls.
- My Pal
Dolls and doll clothes.
An Eighteen Inch Doll
The BFC (Best Friends Club) doll CJ is the most common eighteen inch boy doll. The reviews reveal that he's sometimes bought for little boys and sometimes bought for little girls as a friend for their female BFC dolls. His role is a bit like the "My Friend Mikey" doll of generations past. One parent writes that her daughter had an American Girl doll and her little boy wanted an "American Boy". She thought that, in this day and age, it might be better for his social standing to get him a doll that looked cool and not too babyish.
Another mom remembers how years ago her son wanted a doll, but since she couldn't find one that seemed right, she ended up making clothes for his bear. Her response to this doll was that it was about time!
Eighteen Inch Boy Dolls
Are these Heart and Soul boy dolls play dolls or collector dolls? They are high-end vinyl dolls that toe that line... and could make suitable companions for little boys. I know there are parents who have bought cheap plastic or vinyl boy dolls for little boys and been disappointed because they weren't on a par, quality-wise, with American Girl dolls. This is one that I haven't seen face to face, but have reason to believe is of high quality. The Kids n Cats collection is adorable: boys and girls alike. They are ball jointed, which makes them very poseable, but also somewhat delicate at least in the hands of rough and tumble little boys. Also be aware that they are slimmer in build than AG dolls.
There are several boys in the line. A word about the Mike doll: He sports a tattoo on his upper arm. My first thought about that particular doll was that it wasn't the most age appropriate role model for kids since, unlike a Cracker Jack tattoo... well, the tattoo doesn't wash off. On the other hand, that doll is distinctly different than, say,an American Girl. If you think your little boy would find Mike's clothing cool, you can buy just the outfit. It should fit other boy dolls in the series.
One negative: The dolls are not an ethnic mix. To find a companion doll of this quality for an Asian or African American boy, you have to dig a little deeper.
A Kidz n Cats Review
- Meet Kidz n Cats Mike
This reviewer has both Jakob and Mike and notices that Mike, a later edition, does not have some flaws that Jakob has. For example, his wig seems better quality (though later editions of Jakob may also have the higher quality wig). You can click thr
Kidz n Cats Alister
Alister is probably my favorite of the Kidz n Cats boy dolls. (Mike is a lovely doll... ah, but that tattoo!)
I hear the clothing in general is high quality; I am especially fond of Alister's jeans and layers. (If you're mixing dolls and clothes from different brands, do be aware that these dolls are slimmer than American Girl -- the build is closer to Carpatina o Magic Attic.)
Alister comes with a toy of his own: a cat in blue clothing. There is unfortunately a bit of pink on the box -- rather a contrast with Alister's rugged styling.
Boy Dolls by Heidi Ott and Gotz
In the 1990s, dollmaker Heidi Ott made boy dolls in a scale similar to American Girl; the dolls are actually a bit over 19 inches. It is still possible to find them, and they are cheaper than some other 18-inch boy doll options. Be aware that the lovely dolls in the "Faithful Friends" line come in historical garb - they may need some redressing.
German doll company Gotz has been making boy dolls for quite some time now.
Another Option: The Custom Doll
There are several options for customized dolls. They aren't necessarily true, photo-accurate likenesses. Rather, they are made from ready-made molds and components, but with a variety of face molds. Hair styles and colors can be selected. This can be an option for hard-to-find features and little boy dolls. My Twinn is probably the best known company. Apple Valley is another option. Children with very unique features have sometimes been created from Apple Valley components.
The Etsy Find: Boy Dolls - And Some Thoughts to Ponder
I found some striking Magic Attic boy dolls through Google image search... which was interesting since there are no Magic Attic boy dolls. These are very different from the Carpatina dolls currently available.
I didn't travel to another time. There's a talented artisan on Etsy who is taking previously loved and sometimes rather worn and raggedy old dolls and giving them new life. Sometimes she gives they have a very different appearance the second time around. The eighteen-inch Asian boy doll that she created is breathtaking. In addition to giving the doll a new wig, she changed the appearance of the eyes, giving them a look that many Asian children would relate to.
I do have mixed feelings where kids are concerned simply because of the fears it could stir up -- if it's a boy who has some anxieties or has been teased about play preferences. (Might he wonder: If the doll isn't really a boy... is he?) I would consider it a no-go if a child had any fears or anxieties about gender or had been the victim of teasing.
I could imagine it as a possibility if ethnicity was the bigger "Is there anyone out there like me?" issue, and if the child has features that are hard to find out there in doll-land yet has need for a companion doll. We hear how vital dolls are for girls to work out social and culture issues. Ah, but what of little boys? There are now wonderful girl dolls representing a variety of races, but ethnic dolls for boys lag so much behind. So...! But I wouldn't be apt to tell a child the origins of the doll (beyond that Santa made it in his very own workshop at the North Pole).
If you click on the link, you'll be brought to an Etsy listing. The Asian boy isn't the first doll you'll see; you have to click on a thumbnail to the side of the main picture. He's marked "sold". That particular doll is not available, but she has several other boy dolls. The artist does offer a custom service of remaking a doll that you send. Could she alter just the ethnic characteristics on a boy doll? I'm guessing she could in some instances.
- Custom Boy Dolls
A clever Etsy enterprise.
Clothes for Boy Dolls
Kidz n Cats has a line of high quality clothes for both boy and girl dolls. In Europe, they are distributed by Heart & Soul. In the U.S., they are sold by multiple dealers. At one point, the dealer was Madame Alexander. I don't believe there is one main seller or authorative site now -- but you'll see the clothes (as well as the dolls) around.
The outfits are incredibly detailed. Most have a traditionally masculine look. The "Robby" outfit looks rugged and warm while "Dragon Rider" may make you think of a little boy who yearns for motor bike days. The "Robby" outfit looks like a set of comfy old work clothes -- or a modern, trendy take on work clothes.
You will also find handmade outfits on eBay and Etsy. Kidz n Cats and Magic Attic have similar builds, so you'll sometimes see folks advertising handmade clothing that's appropriate for either.
William's Doll is the classic story of a little boy who wants a doll -- a traditional baby doll with open and close eyes -- but gets teased. His dad is concerned and brings home boy toys and sports toys. Williams plays with them and grows skilled at the games, but they don't replace his desire for a baby doll. Eventually William's grandmother comes for a visit, buys him the doll he's been longing for, and tells the dad that someday William will know how to take care of a baby... and bring his little boy a doll.
I've known the book since I was a child. When I was in the College of Education, a presenter read it to us and talked about a study where it was read to a group of kindergartners and a group of third graders. The kindergartners thought William should have the doll; the third graders were derisive. I think that age is definitely a factor in how children respond -- at least without guidance.
The reviews of this book are interesting to read: a window into people's memories and experiences of boys and dolls. One parent notes that her five-year-old boy has always played with dolls, and has always been surrounded with people who think that's just fine; she wouldn't want to introduce a book that suggested that it was the sort of thing that one might be teased for.
Lesson Plans for Williams Doll
- First Grade: Text Connections
Pairs Williams Doll with another classic, Oliver Button is a Sissy.
More About Gender Issues in Play
The article below makes a premise about the role of gender in play: Through preschool age, children often engage in play that's associated in people's minds with the opposite gender. When children hit school age, though, they're subject to more pressure to conform to gender norms.
If a child doesn't, there can be various reasons. The important thing is not to suggest that there's something wrong with the child's choices or say something that will cause shame. It is possible, though, to guide the child in deciding whether he wants to open himself up to possible teasing by, say, wearing nail polish to school -- or whether the polished nails would be something better kept at home. The expert notes that we can suggest that the world hasn't caught up with that yet.
- Understanding Gender-Bending Play
An article on The Baby Zone
Adora Boy Doll
Here the Adora representative shows off a boy baby doll -- and comments that her little boy loves to play with his dolls.
A Rag Doll for a Little Boy
Bitty Twins for Boys
- A Mom's Review
This mom reports that her four-year-old son loves his Bitty Twin boy just as much as his sisters love their Bitty Twins.
Little Boy Dolls for Little Boys
They're no longer hard to come by: little boy dolls for little boys. Many are cloth, some plastic. 16-inch plastic dolls are often marketed to preschools and kindergartens. Some lines make dolls in several ethnicities.
And then there's Cabbage patch! In one new incarnation, the Cabbage Patch boys are into extreme sports. Some little boys treat Cabbage Patch dolls as baby dolls; others see them more as companions.
Haba and Alexander Dolls both make cloth dolls for little boys.
- Little Boy Rag Doll
Les Bigomeaux, Flickr Creative Commons