We're Ending the Doll Debate Forever


baby dollIt doesn't take a feminist to recognize dolls are shoved into little girls' arms from day one because they're supposed to bring out their natural "nurturing" abilities. And it's making their mothers crazy.

Before you ask what's wrong with being a nurturer, absolutely nothing. If we had more nurturers in the world, there would be fewer murders, wars and a whole list of violent crimes.

Unfortunately, the doll is so steeped in patriarchy that putting her down may give little girls a chance to be considered more than the little mother, boys a chance to be just as nurturing without being labeled a sissy.

It's a debate that's taking place on many the playground benches -- should I let my son play with dolls? Is it wrong to let my daughter play with dolls?

Calm down, Mom. You're not ruining your son -- or your daughter for that matter. But there is a great option out there:  behold the toy animal. They're equal opportunity toys, and they're there to launch kids into a world of learning to nurture in a way that's second only to a living, breathing animal in their home.

The Stir consulted an expert (aka a 5-year-old armed with a few free samples sent our way plus a few of her own toys thrown into the mix) for a read on which of the animal toys currently hot on the market are actually a hit with the kids:

littlest pet shopLittlest Pet Shop: If you're thinking that old TV show about the animals who lived in a pet shop, you're way off. The millennium version from Hasbro is all about animals in need of a good home -- from the giant Rescue Tails Center where critters can get some extra pampering after being rescued from the streets (or as our expert said: "they can go to the nurse when they're not feeling good.") to the new Blythe "dog walker" series they've debuted this fall to teach kids about one-on-one person to pet responsibilities. Our expert fell in love with these at a (male) friend's house, and has been using gift cards to buy out the line since. They get good use from play dates on both sides of the gender divide, but it is a big line -- expect to be spending once you start.


zhu zhu pets halloween Zhu Zhu Pets: The little hamsters that took Christmas by storm in 2009 are still zooming around playrooms, prepping kids for the day they get the real thing (and protecting parents from having to invite a real rodent into the house). That they've grown to stuffed toys and Halloween costumes this year shows these hamsters aren't going away anytime soon. So let them indulge. Just keep them away from your kid's hair (our expert has "layers" in her locks for a reason thanks to a hamster birthday gift).



Calico CrittersCalico Critters: They're not plush but they're not plastic, making these creatures from "Cloverleaf Corners" hard to categorize as a toy. But that doesn't seem to have stopped kids who have fallen for a line that allows them to pretend their cats, bunnies and other cuddly critters are really people in a small town. Mixing the creatures of the forest kids love but can't touch with their fascination with humanizing animals, Calico Critters have been a hit with our expert who has always like putting clothes on her animals the best. This year's Cozy Cottage starter set was sent to The Stir, and it finally brought some of the love down a level for the younger kids who have eyed their older friends' toys and just wanted to play house their way.


Mix PupsMix Pups: Jazwares' newest addition to the market, these small plastic pups (with stuffed counterparts) were sent to The Stir awhile back and just came out of the closet. They are only in Toys R Us at the moment, but they're a more wholesome version of the recent spate of 'dress 'em up" dogs that have flooded the market (and which will NEVER make this list - ahem). Closer in style to the Littlest Pet Shop animals, the line is limited to canines and allows the kids to play dress up like they would with a doll. . . and like you don't let them do with the real dog.

Fur-Real Pets: It started with a giant fake cat that's so freakishly real my cat will try to lick it if it's left on the couch. Now it's that cat, plus a stuffed dog, plus, plus, plus. According to a recent press release, there's even a new hamster version (confirmed on a recent trip to Toys R Us, although not on the storey's website. They look a lot like the Zhu Zhu Pets albeit in more natural color schemes). The kid is in love, but the true advantage to these life-like animals is for the parents -- you can put off getting a real one just a wee bit longer.

These are just the tip of the iceberg -- one 5-year-old's favorites. What are your kids' favorite animal toys?

Images via lara604/Flickr; Amazon; Toys R Us

fun & games, play, toddler toys


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momof... momof3inTN

My 9 year old son loves plain, old-fashioned, no batteries needed, stuffed animals. He has so many, I can't keep count (and he's expanded from 1 shelf full to 3 now). He has all kinds: cats, dogs, bears, lions, hippos, elephants, even a rhino. He will play with them for hours and hours! And better yet, they are inexpensive! Most of his have been purchased for $3 or less each.

Kittt... Kittty_Katt

my son has baby dolls he picked 1 up one day and calles it his little baby and takes care of it and everything btw hes 2

Beret Jablonski Nearing

My 9 year old daughter loves stuffed animals and wants to be a vet when she grows up (she's being one for Halloween too). This is a girl who ran screaming from dolls as a young child. She wouldn't touch a Barbie with a 10 foot pole and very rarely picked up a baby doll. (She also hated toy kitchens and tea sets.) However, she's always had a "best friend" from very early on: her stuffed panda Nicholas who we won in a crane game at WalMart! ;)


My son loves the Littlest Pet Shop toys because his friend down the road plays them with him (a little girl) but he will often play rough with them, having them fight or be spies, or the like. ;)

Statia Jamiol Manger

I would give my son a doll over those Littlest Pet shop toys, any day.   My son is just under four, and LOVES babies.  We have several dolls floating around the house, and while they were technically given to my 17 month old daughter, my son is the one who has named all of them, and will nurture them.   Given that he has PDD-NOS, I am happier knowing that he's expanding on his imagination and caring for his "baby."  

nonmember avatar Christine

I remember Calico Critters from when I was a kid! So happy to see they are making a comeback and just might have to end up under the tree for my 4 year old daughter come Christmas!

glamlady glamlady

hugsMy son had a baby doll. He was given money one Christmas when he was around 1.When we went shoppping for a toy. He  picked out a baby doll. My husband & all the males in the families were not happy about this. Of course I got the usual He will be gay. Bull. I told everyone He is a little boy. This is what he choose w/his money. Leave him alone. It won't hurt him. Little girls play w/trucks, GI Joe's & so forth.When I was little I liked trucks, baseballs. The "boy's toy's". It didn't hurt me. I was a big tomboy. I still am in a way. Guess what? He carried his baby, blanket, & paci w/him. Slept w/these. Until he was around 4. It didn't "damage" him in any way. I think it made him a more caring person. There are no girl toys or boy toys. There are children toys. Let them pick out what they want to play with. Do not put labels on children. If children were given more attention, love, hugs, encouragement. We wouldn't have all these problems w/children as they get older.  

tazdvl tazdvl

Both my girls love Curious George and they both have 2 of them. They also fight over a stuffed grey cat.

Peajewel Peajewel

My daughter loves all her build a bear stuffed animals.  She likes them better than dolls any way.  She also loves her stuffed monsters that I bought from a Mom on Cafemom. 

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