It might be news to toy stores that still (still!) label their aisles “boys toys” and “girls toys” (or grandparents who insist your daughter would really like a miniature vacuum cleaner for her birthday while your son needs a train set), but guess what: Kids don’t care about gender stereotypes. And if they do, it’s because we have conditioned them to. If a toy is fun, they play with it; if it’s not fun, they make it fun using their imagination. I mean, kids are the very best version of humans.
My son likes to play with robots, Legos, cuddly stuffies and dolls. We have a play kitchen and a train table, plus dolls galore. And guess what. When given the chance, most boys will play with dolls. In fact, not only do boys enjoy playing with them, they can reap huge emotional benefits from this type of play. Dr. Lindsay Henderson, a psychologist who treats patients virtually via tele-health app LiveHealth Online, says boys can actually improve their emotional literacy and practice real-life skills by picking up a doll.
“By playing with dolls, children are exploring and developing skills related to caretaking, nurturing and even parenthood,” she tells SheKnows. Boys may well be pretending to be a dad when they nurture a plastic baby doll, but even if their imagination games have little to do with parenting roles, the type of play associated with dolls is beneficial to all children’s growth and development. “The long-term benefits of playing with dolls are not restricted to future parenthood; empathy, responsiveness, love and caretaking can be applied to any relationship or interaction throughout life,” says Henderson.
Yep, boys dig dolls too. Not sure where to start when it comes to buying a doll for a boy? Just for you, I’ve gone straight to the source. I asked my son for his top picks. And with racial diversity as well as body-positive designs, these dolls definitely measure up. Your little guy will love them too.
Deluxe Fresh Squad Dolls: Malik
Dude-doll representation of Black or mixed-race guys with natural hair to boot? Malik is giving plenty of Black and brown boys a relatable — and super stylish — role model.
Götz Dolls, Parker
This snazzy guy is dressed for adventure. The Götz company originated in the village of Rödental in Bavaria, Germany, and is known for its high-quality dollmaking — now available stateside through Pottery Barn Kids.
Soft Baby Doll – Aubrey
For younger kids looking for a plush, cuddly boy-doll (or any-gender-doll) playmate, Aubrey is a wonderful gender-neutral option with embroidered features and plenty of snuggle potential.
Wonder Crew Superhero Buddies
Wonder Crew was developed by Laurel Wider, a psychotherapist who understands how important it is for boys to practice their skills of emotional literacy.
These dolls come dressed as superheroes and feature a kid-size cape and mask. The dolls look like the boys who will play with them and are available in different ethnicities and have accessories like a construction worker outfit and pajamas.
The Lammily doll was created by founder Nickolay Lamm when he failed to find a realistically proportioned doll for his niece. They have both boy and girl models and look a lot more like regular people than Barbie and Ken. In fact, my son was most impressed and said that they weren’t dolls at all just “little real people.” They have three dolls available, two women and a man, all with careers and a little storybook.
Cabbage Patch Kids
Buying my son a Cabbage Patch doll brought back a lot of memories of my own squidgy-faced baby doll that I received in the Christmas of 1984. We got him the baby rather than the big-kid model, and he liked taking care of it. He kept asking us to be quiet because the baby was asleep and stuck it up his T-shirt to nurse it! Cabbage patch Kids come in a huge variety, from the traditional yarn-hair designs to twins and kids with glasses or other accessories. Each one is packaged along with their special adoption certificate, and they all have a “birthmark.”
My Life as a School Boy Doll
This 18-inch full vinyl doll is really hard-wearing and can go on all my son’s adventures with him without me stressing about him getting ruined or damaged. These dolls look similar to American Girl dolls but at a much more wallet-friendly price point. The one we chose is dressed like a skater with a cute beanie hat. My son liked his hair, especially as it’s rooted so you can brush and style it without worrying about it being pulled out.
Despite the name, any child can happily play with an American Girl doll. They are definitely not cheap, but they are the sort of very high-quality doll a child would treasure and keep into adulthood. The Logan doll comes with optional adorable clothing accessories, like a leather mini-jacket and even a guitar. These dolls are made to look like kids and come with backstories and huggable bodies, which make them part doll, part snuggly.
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