Doll play for toddlers

The best dolls and figurines for 1-3 year olds

The image of a toddler playing with a doll or truck is almost the poster for childhood play. For very good reason. It is during this type of play that our children develop symbolic thinking, process their emotions and work out an understanding of the world around them.

The sheer amount of dolls and figurines that are available these days can become a little overwhelming when we are looking to buy for our 1- 3 year olds. Decision fatigue of whether to buy a soft doll or a plastic doll, a superhero or an animal figurine can leave us feeling like we have to have it all.

The following are what I have noticed children steer towards according to different ages. Feel free to pick and choose from the different age groups in accordance to your child’s interests.

Fairy playmobil doll for 1 year old play

Dolls and figurines that 1 year olds love

Chances are that you already have several soft teddies or dollies from when your now toddler was a baby. Around your child’s first birthday you will want to start extending this into other types of dolls that are easy for littles to carry, move and figurines that can be used in sensory play (even a big bucket of soapy water with some animal figurines is a great place to start for sensory play)

7 favorite dolls for 1 year olds

  1. Baby doll
  2. Hotwheel cars
  3. Trucks and diggers
  4. Doll stroller
  5. Soft toys or plushies
  6. Animal figurines
  7. Finger puppets
Animal figurines used in sensory play for 2 year old

2 year old doll and figurine play

At agetwo you will see your child useing their dolls or cars with much stronger and more complex symbolic play. They will go from just putting the baby doll into its stroller to now rocking it, singing to it and gently putting it down so that it doesn’t wake up. Similarly their cars will be taken off the florr and into the mud, they will start to crash and talk and make friends with the other cars.

It is a beautiful phase of symbolic play and is a great time for extending this type of play.

A special note on quantities for 2 year olds: It is often around this age that our homes begin to fill up with toys and the dolls go from one in the stroller to a big basket filled with dolls. The figures move from a few on display to a big bucket. This often leads to less play because the amount of toys on display becomes overwhelming.

Try to be mindful of this when buying toys and also think about how you can store or display toys in a way that doesn’t overwhelm your child. We have loved this zip up bean bag for storing soft toys. It is great quality and very well sized.

6 figurines and dolls for 2 year olds

  1. Doll house ,doll furniture and accessories
  2. Car garage
  3. Barn
  4. Animal figurines
  5. Bug figurines
  6. Playmobil people
Car figurines and colored water play with 2 year old

Dolls and figurines for 3 year olds

By age three figurine and doll play will likely be a huge part of your child’s play time. Build on the collections that you already have by extending the types of figurines and thinking creatively about how to present them.

Around this age children become very interested in transformation and things that change so getting more clothing for dolls or hotwheels that change color in water is a great addition to your playroom.

This is also a great age to start inviting your child into small world play. We love doing this using a low table so that the children can kneel and play and various small world accessories.

6 of the best figurines for 3 year olds

  1. Color changing hotwheels (these are SUCH a hit in our home!)
  2. Doll tie dye clothing set
  3. Wooden train set
  4. Wooden trees
  5. Peg dolls
  6. School bus and figurines
Small world play for 3 year olds

A special note on character figurines

When we think of a traditional Montessori, Waldorf or Reggio Emilia type of learning space there is one thing that is noticeably absent- TV characters. You are very unlikely to find Paw Patrol, Spiderman or the Cinderella in these spaces. Why?

The reason is that these characters are already very established in our children’s minds. Their role, attitude, voice, expressions and even phrases that they use is very clearly drawn out. This means that your child’s creativity isn’t stretched very far and that the play is less exploratory.

On the other hand, most children whether they watch TV or not have a pretty clear idea of which popular characters they like. Should we deny them this interest?

What we follow in our home is the idea of balance. Everywhere our children look (from cereal boxes, screens, clothing, and toys) our children are being advertised to. So in our home we do try to counterbalance that advertising by also having plenty of non-character based images and toys.

We still have several character figurines but they do not dominate our toy collection or the visuals of our home.

Looking for more ideas? Head back to the ultimate gift guide for 1- 3 year olds.