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10 of the best dolls for toddlers and children, as recommended by Mumsnetters

Dolls are a great toy for young children's development, encouraging nurturing role play, imagination, empathy and communication. From soft-bodied dolls to interactive dolls, here are the best dolls you can buy in 2023, as recommended by real parents.

By Lucy Cotterill | Last updated Apr 16, 2024

collage of 3 dolls

Children love to play pretend, so it’s not hard to understand why children have loved dolls for generations. A fun way to replicate adult behaviour, the best dolls come with a range of educational benefits, including improved social skills, compassion and responsibility, looking after their doll using gentle hands and kind behaviours.

Named as one of Mumsnetters' top choices in both our best toys for 2-year-olds and best toys for 3-year-olds round-ups, dolls of all kinds are still a popular choice for young children. What's more, a 2020 study by experts in child development at the University of Cardiff found that playing with dolls increases empathy and social skills, because it activates the same part of children's brains as playing with others. Dr Sarah Gerson says, "playing with dolls is helping them rehearse some of the social skills they will need in later life."

The doll market is pretty extensive with a wide range of dolls to choose from. Whilst there are some more recent improvements in inclusivity, however, there is still a long way to go. The vast majority of doll brands are still white, although in recent years there more brands are starting to become more inclusive, offering more variety in terms of doll skin colours, interests and abilities.

Whether it’s a soft-bodied doll for a young child, an interactive doll or even a doll that can cry, we’ve researched the best dolls you can buy in 2024, with tried and tested recommendations from real parents in the Mumsnet forums.

These are the best dolls to buy.

Best doll 2024

Baby Annabell Little Annabell - £25

What we like
  • Realistic looking soft bodied doll

  • Comes with a cute babygrow, hat and bottle

  • Eyes close automatically when lying down

What we don't like
  • No interactive features on this model

  • Soft-bodied dolls unsuitable for play in the bath

Key specs

Age Suitability: From 3 years | Size: 36cm | Batteries: No

What Mumsnet users say
Kanaloa · Tried & Tested
Mine loved Baby Annabell. She has a soft body so easy to change clothes. You can get loads of accessories too, my daughter had a baby walker, cot, plenty of outfits and bottles.
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AnnaSW1 · Recommended
Mine love baby Annabell. The soft body one.
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Our verdict

Whilst Baby Annabell does have an interactive doll in the range, Mumsnet users couldn’t praise this soft-bodied version enough for her authentic design, gently weighted soft body and ease of changing. She comes with a small bottle included, allowing children to engage in nurturing and caring role play as they pretend to feed their baby.

Whilst her soft body means she can’t be popped in the bath, it makes changing outfits a doddle, allowing children to easily remove her velcro fastened babygrow and hat before replacing it with other outfits (sold separately) as required.

Whilst some children may prefer an interactive doll, we love that this simple design encourages children to use their imagination. Baby Annabell also has a great range of accessories to complement your child’s doll collection including high chairs, cots, outfits and accessories.

Read next: Best toddler reins to keep your little ones close

Best budget doll

John Lewis My First Baby Doll

What we like
  • Soft body

  • Budget-friendly price

  • Great size for little ones

What we don't like
  • No extra accessories

Key specs

Age Suitability: 18 months+ | Size: 30cm | Batteries: No

What Mumsnet users say
LongDissidence · Tried & Tested
John Lewis have a really cute "my first baby boy doll"
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Our verdict

This soft-bodied baby doll offers excellent value for money. Despite the low price tag, this cute little doll is great quality and comes from a trusted brand.

Available in a few different outfits, each one comes wearing a onesie and hat. You can also get a set of baby doll twins and Mumsnetters love the top quality, soft body and smaller size of these dolls, which make them a great first doll for little ones.

Related: The best play kitchens, according to Mumsnetters

Best first doll

Rubens Barn Cutie Doll - £38

What we like
  • Soft and cuddly

  • Handmade

  • Suitable from birth

What we don't like
  • Pricey

Key specs

Age Suitability: All ages | Size: 32cm | Batteries: N/A

What Mumsnet users say
BergamotMouse · Tried & Tested
Have a look at rubens barn babies. It's what we've got my DD for when baby arrives. They're anatomically correct and have belly buttons and tongues etc. They fit newborn clothes and slightly weighted.
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SinkGirl · Recommended
Have you looked at Rubens Barn dolls? They’re so lovely.
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Our verdict

Handmade from soft, plastic-free polyster fleece, Rubens Barn dolls are much softer and cuddlier than the hard plastic types you'll find elsewhere in the doll aisle. With her sweet, cheeky face and practical outfit, younger children will love playing with and cuddling Jennifer.

Online you'll find videos and patterns for making clothes for the doll as part of the Rubens Barn Do It Together campaign. The hand-stitched dolls and their removable clothing have no small parts, making them perfect for even the youngest children - what's more, both the doll and clothes are machine washable.

Read next: The best toddler toys, as reccomended by real parents

Best doll for hairstyling

Bayer Design Super Model Styling Head - £40

What we like
  • Long blonde hair for styling

  • Range of accessories including comb, clips and curler

  • Make-up  palette for fun make-up looks

What we don't like
  • Suitable from 3 years although parents may want to supervise younger children with the make up

Key specs

Age Suitability: 3 years plus | Size: 27cm | Batteries: No

What Mumsnet users say
heboywonteat · Recommended
We got a Bayer Design one from Amazon for DD last year & I must say she has played with it a lot over the last year. She likes to play with it whilst I am brushing her own hair. It has a big base so is really sturdy and the hair is glossy & doesn’t seem to get knotty.
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Our verdict

If your children are forever asking to play with your hair, this Bayer Design Styling Head is a great way for children to express their personality, getting creative to bring to life unique or even intricate hairstyles with the comb, clips and accessories provided.

With high-quality, long blonde hair that can even be curled with the included rollers, this doll offers a fun screen-free activity for children that can easily keep them entertained for hours. For older children, the included make-up palette and stickers provide the opportunity for experimenting with different looks and styles.

Best realistic doll

Tiny Treasures Doll in Pink Bunny Outfit - £40

What we like
  • Super soft hair and lifelike features

  • Larger size and weight just like a real newborn

  • Includes a birth certificate and hospital wristband

What we don't like
  • Not interactive

  • The long-haired look won’t be to everyone’s taste

Key specs

Age Suitability: 3 years plus | Size: 44cm | Batteries: No

What Mumsnet users say
Autumnpumpkin · Tried & Tested
My daughter who is also 3 loves the tiny treasure dolls from Argos. They are lovely, good weight, lots of options of the doll and accessories too. I think they are good quality.
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InFiveMins · Recommended
Tiny Treasures. Nice weighted dolls that feel and look more like the 'real thing'. Lots of nice accessories for them too.
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Our verdict

For children who really enjoy acting out caring role play with their dolls, these Tiny Treasures dolls offer a really authentic experience thanks to their weighted bodies, realistic features and even newborn baby scent. Each doll comes with her very own hospital tag and birth certificate to complete, allowing children to choose her name and date of birth before taking her home to care for.

Ideal for gifting, the Tiny Treasures dolls come gift boxed and compete with a super soft jersey outfit which can easily be removed and complimented with additional sets from the Tiny Treasures range. Our only critiques? For the price, we’d love to have seen a bottle included.

Related: The best toy storage solutions for a tidy home

Best doll for older children

Our Generation Rosalind - £49

What we like
  • Larger-sized dolls ideal for older children

  • High-quality hair that's fun to style and accessorise

  • Range of outfits included

What we don't like
  • Other items in the Our Generation can be costly, particularly the playhouses and accessories

Key specs

Age Suitability: 3 years plus | Size: 46cm | Batteries: No

What Mumsnet users say
AmyDudley · Recommended
I always think Our Generation dolls look nice - they seem to have a good range of accessories and come in things like school uniform with a backpack, and a horse riding outfit and dog walker, ballet dancer etc. And you can get horses and dogs and all sorts of add-ons for them (if you want to go all out!).
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DorotheaFrazil · Tried & Tested
My daughters loved their Our Generation dolls. Played with them loads. The outfits are lovely and if you are crafty, there are lots of 18" doll clothes patterns so you can make your own.
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Our verdict

Our Generation Dolls are incredibly popular amongst both Mumsnet users and retailer reviews, thanks to their larger size, soft body with freestanding ability and beautiful long, styleable hair.

Our Generation Rosalind comes with a great fashion set included, featuring three unique outfits and accessories which can easily be switched or mixed and matched thanks to their easy velcro fastenings. Rosalind has a soft body with plastic limbs and beautiful long brown hair that’s begging to be plaited and styled.

It’s worth noting that due to their larger size, Our Generation dolls do take up a fair bit of space and that the larger Our Generation playsets can be quite costly due to their size.

Best premium doll

Corolle 9000150050 - Mon Grand Poupon Lucille - £101

What we like
  • High quality, authentic dolls

  • Vanilla scented

  • Eight interactive functions

What we don't like
  • Costly

Key specs

Age Suitability: 2 years plus | Size: 42cm | Batteries: Yes (not included)

What Mumsnet users say
witchesbubblebath · Tried & Tested
There are some nice Corolle dolls. They are French and very good quality.
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Noldea1234 · Recommended
I second Corolle dolls - just the best quality and prettiest dolls.
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Our verdict

Whilst they come with a fairly significant price tag, Mumsnet users spoke highly of Corolle dolls for their premium finish and attractive, authentic designs.

Whilst she will set you back over £70, Lucille is a beautiful interactive doll which comes with four accessories included. She offers eight interactive functions including twenty different sounds and responses - everything from giggles to kisses, burping to sleep sounds, making her a realistic and engaging choice for children over the age of two.

We love the addition of Lucille’s floral teddy, which automatically activates lullaby songs when placed on the doll’s tummy.

Read next: The best DUPLO sets for toddlers

Best fashion doll

Lottie Doll Wildlife Photographer Doll Mia - £24

What we like
  • Small 7-inch dolls ideal for little hands

  • Dolls bodies are modelled on accurate proportions of children

  • Lottie brand has a strong focus on inclusion, body image and sustainability

What we don't like
  • Some smaller accessories and parts can get lost easily

Key specs

Age Suitability: 3 years plus | Size: 18cm | Batteries: No

What Mumsnet users say
FlamingoDust · Tried & Tested
Lottie dolls are fab if she would prefer that style. Muddy puddles Lottie has been a firm favourite in our house for years but we also have a range of other Lottie dolls that get a lot of love too!
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Janek · Recommended
My children love(d) Lottie dolls - they have lots of adventurous/aspirational hobbies + equipment and look like little girls not women.
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Our verdict

Of all the dolls on our list, Lottie certainly offers the most choice when it comes to inclusivity, with a range of skin tones, as well as diverse representation in terms of disabilities and combatting gender norms. Lottie dolls embrace STEM subjects and love the great outdoors.

We love Mia the Wildlife Photographer, who not only comes with an adorable removable outfit, camera and wellies but also has a cochlear implant, helping young children gain an understanding of individual differences.

Best Barbie doll
What we like
  • Extra bendy Barbie

  • Lots of accessories

  • Easy to dress and undress

What we don't like
  • Small accessories can get lost easily

Key specs

Age Suitability: 3 years plus | Size: 38cm | Batteries: No

What Mumsnet users say
mummymummymummummum · Tried & Tested
6 yo's verdict is that the bendy gymnastics doll is best because she can manipulate it more. She likes dressing/undressing then, and role plays a lot.
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Carsarelife · Recommended
My DD 8 loves the Barbie gymnastics set and the camper van. The camper van I bought new and she has played with it for 3 years.
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Our verdict

With so many Barbies to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start if your child takes an interest in this kind of doll. Mumsnetters and their kids have tried and tested tons of Barbies, and the Barbie Gymnastics Playset is the most-recommended set to buy, thanks to the doll's extra bendiness.

Not only does this mean Barbie can perform impressive gymnastics moves, it also makes it easier for small hands to dress and undress her, which can be awkward and frustrating on other Barbies - especially when it comes to getting plastic limbs into a leotard.

Read next: Best dolls' houses for imaginative play

Best Disney doll
What we like
  • Toddler-style doll

  • Practical outfit

  • Dress and boots are removable

What we don't like
  • Elsas's hair gets tangled easily

Key specs

Age Suitability: 3 years plus | Size: 35cm | Batteries: No

What Mumsnet users say
5000KallaxHoles · Tried & Tested
Elsa has quite literally been dragged through a hedge backwards, and thrown down a slide repeatedly, jumped on on the trampoline and everything else... I've given up worrying about it.
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Our verdict

For Disney fans, having a doll version of their favourite character makes for hours of fun, imaginative play and musical numbers. These toddler-style Adventure Dolls are a nice alternative to the fashion doll Disney princesses, if you're looking for something a bit more sturdy and substantial.

Elsa comes with a removable dress and pair of boots, but Mumsnetters advise against getting too attached to her perfectly plaited, neat hair do. The size of this doll is really nice for younger children, not least because its proportions are more like a child's than an adult's.

What to look for when choosing a doll

  • Size - How big is the doll? Smaller dolls such as Lottie Dolls are more portable, whereas larger dolls such as Our Generation are great fun for use in the home. If you’re buying for a toddler or preschooler, most standard dolls range between 30 and 45cm in length and you should pick a size that best suits your child’s age.

  • Hard or soft-bodied? - Hard-bodied dolls are robust and hard-wearing, and some even offer the ability to pop them into the water as a fun bath time companion. That said, soft-bodied dolls are often more comforting for children to cuddle.

  • Interactive? - Does the doll have any interactive features? Whilst children love sounds, actions and responses such as giggles or the ability to cry tears, the more basic models can still provide plenty of imaginative role-play opportunities, allowing your child to get creative when playing and caring for their dolls.

  • Does it include accessories? -  Does the doll come with any accessories such as bottles, dummies and outfits? If not, you may want to weigh up how much they cost to purchase separately, as it’s likely your child is going to want to have a few options when caring for their new baby.

How can you tell if a doll is safe?

When buying a doll for a child, you must ensure that it’s safe and suitable for their age. Check the age recommendations carefully, as some dolls include smaller parts and accessories that could be a choking hazard for children under the age of 3.

You should always buy dolls from a reliable trusted seller, and look out for the CE mark (which proves it meets health and safety or environmental requirements) or the British Toy and Hobby Association's (BTHA) 'Lion Mark' - a voluntary code of practice that guarantees ethical and safe manufacture of toys.

What’s the best doll to buy?

The best doll for your child will ultimately depend on your budget and the age of your child. That said, Mumsnetters were fairly unanimous in recommending Baby Annabell, thanks to her soft-bodied comfort, adorable easy-change outfits and engaging lifelike appearance.

That said, in a market that still has a long way to go in terms of inclusivity, we have to give huge praise to Lottie for offering a diverse range of dolls in a world where representation matters.

About the author

Lucy Cotterill is a mum of two and Content Writer at Mumsnet, specialising in baby/child and lifestyle product reviews and round-ups. Having written product reviews on her own blog Real Mum Reviews since 2012, Lucy loves to research and explore the pros and cons of baby products, scrutinising reviews and consumer feedback to help parents make confident purchases that benefit their families.

Originally from a HR background with a degree in Business Studies, Lucy developed a real passion for blogging and writing when her children were young, going on to write for several online publications including US parenting site Pregistry and the Evening Standard. When she’s not manically tapping the keys of her laptop, Lucy loves nothing more than to cosy up with her Kindle and enjoy the latest thriller, or compete in Nintendo Switch rallies with her daughters aged six and 10.

How we chose our recommendations

Recommendations from real Mumsnet users

First, we sought out the trusted opinions of Mumsnet users, to get their feedback on their children’s favourite dolls, including the dolls their children love, play with regularly or that they would confidently recommend to others.

We also looked out for any negative reviews, where Mumsetters highlighted dolls that they felt were poor quality, overpriced, failed to hold their child’s attention or simply didn’t work as expected.

Authentic consumer reviews

Finally, to bring you our definitive list of the best dolls, we thoroughly investigated genuine, in-depth customer reviews on retailer sites such as Amazon, Argos and John Lewis to get wider consumer experiences regarding the products on our shortlist. We looked for consistent criticism and frequently praised features, to help us gain real insights into the dolls in our selection.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide honest and independent advice you can trust and we spend hours scouring the Mumsnet forums and online bestseller lists to find products that real parents rate.

Transparency is really important to us and that's why we're always upfront about where we find our recommendations. We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the ones that our users would recommend to their own friends and family.