Little children (and quite a few bigger ones, too) love to play pretend, and a doll is a classic make-believe toy – not to mention a special friend and cuddle companion.


Dolls come in a variety of shapes and sizes – and prices. Some are floppy and cuddly and simple; others are clever, interactive and have umpteen accessories. Most of them are still very white with very pink outfits, we have to say, although we’re pleased to have noticed a few more black dolls and boy dolls, and some dolls with disabilities, in recent months.

As well as being a lot of fun, there are so many benefits of playing with dolls, for both girls and boys. Caring for a baby doll helps your child learn about empathy and boosts their social skills, while other dolls are great for immersing your child into a richly imaginative pretend-play world or role-playing what they experience in their day-to-day life, whether that's going to school, visiting the doctor or going to the shops.

Best dolls at a glance:

Babies and toddlers:

  • Best for hugging close: iFrodoll Personalised Deep Skin Tone Plush Doll Nevaeh, £16.99
  • Best for interacting: Baby Annabell Little Sweet Princess, £39
  • Best for toddlers: Manhattan Playdate Harper Doll, £16.61
  • Best for realistic cries: Cry Babies Newborn Coney, £49.99

Ages 2,3,4+ years:

  • Best for learning body parts: CoCoMelon Boo Boo JJ, £30
  • Best for believability: True and the Rainbow Kingdom 12" Deluxe True Doll, £34.99
  • Best for surprise element: Miraculous Magic Heroes Colour Reveal Doll, £23
  • Best flying doll: L.O.L Surprise Magic Flyers Doll, £36.99
  • Best for playing with accessories: Meagan by Our Generation, £52
  • Best for realistic play: Baby Annabell/Leah/Alexander, £64.99
  • Best for grown-up play: Design a Friend Kristin Doll, £50
  • Best for outfit changing: LOL Surprise! OMG Core Series 6 Sketches + Melrose, £29.99
  • Best for scented doll: Barbie Pop Reveal Fruit Series Doll, £26.99
  • Best for hair styling: BFF by Cry Babies, £22
  • Best for trendy outfits: DesignaFriend Tilly Bumper Set Doll, £50
  • Best for accessories: Monster High Skulltimate Secrets Draculaura Doll, £39.99
  • Best for ballet role play: Ballet Studio Sindy, £30
  • Best for easy undressing: Our Generation Holiday Haven Doll, £24.99
  • Best for bubble fun: Kindi Kids Poppi Pearl Bubble 'N' Sing, £29.99
  • Best for realistic role play: Lottie Muddy Puddles, £23.99

Ages 5+:

  • Best Barbie with sustainable plastic: Barbie Loves the Ocean Doll, £17.33
  • Best for diversity and inclusion: Rainbow High Core Fashion Doll Series 4, £32
  • Best for creating your own character: My Avastars Fashion Doll, £16.99

What to look for when buying a doll

It's important to choose a doll that's appropriate to your child's age. Different age groups play with dolls differently, so a doll that might be perfect for a toddler probably won't hold the interest of a 6-year-old. Here are some things to consider when buying a doll:

  • For babies and toddlers: Softness and size are key here, so look for a big doll with a squeezable body for plenty of cuddles. Young babies will enjoy looking at bold, high-contrast facial features, while toddlers will want a doll they can easily carry around. In an ideal world, when your child's this little, you want a doll that's machine-washable, too.
  • For 2 to 3-year-olds: At this age, your child's social skills are developing rapidly and they will like dolls they can actively nurture and care for. Dolls that can be fed with a bottle or have their nappy changed are great choices, as are dolls that can be dressed and undressed easily. Interactive features – like crying or wetting nappies – are always a hit, too. Children this age are keen to flex their new independence, so pick a doll that's the right size for carrying around and pushing along in a toy pushchair.
  • For 4 to 6-year-olds: Dolls are a fantastic way to help your child explore the world around them and provide inspiration. Of course, princess dolls are great fun and eternally popular but you can also mix things up a bit at this age. Imaginative play with dolls as doctors, teachers, vets and firefighters, for example, give your child the opportunity to try out different roles. Look for dolls with lots of accessories to aid pretend play and keep those imaginations fired up.
  • For 7+ years: Older children are often drawn to fashion dolls, rather than baby dolls. They can have hours of fun dressing up dolls in different outfits and playing with their hair, as well as creating wonderful, and often quite complicated, pretend-play scenarios. As we all come in different shapes and sizes, you could think about reflecting this in your child's doll collection: a mix of body types, as well as a diverse range of skin colours, helps to portray a more realistic reflection of the world.

How can I make sure a doll is safe to play with?

  • Look for the CE symbol. This means that a toy meets regulatory requirements. Dolls without this symbol may not be intended to be used as toys and could potentially be unsafe to play with.
  • Check for the British Toy and Hobby Association's (BTHA) 'Lion Mark'. It's a voluntary scheme brands can sign up to that requires them to meet key safety requirements.
  • Buy dolls from a reputable outlet. If you are buying from a car boot sale or jumble sale, be extra careful that what you're buying meets safety regulations and is suitable for your child to play with.
  • Checking the age range the doll is aimed at. You need to be particularly careful with dolls for children under 3: if they're not marked as suitable for this age range, they may have, or come with, small pieces that could pose a choking hazard.

Here's our pick of the best dolls, as tested by children and rated by their parents

For babies and toddlers:

1. iFrodoll Personalised Deep Skin Tone Plush Doll Nevaeh, £16.99

– Best for hugging close

iFrodoll Personalised Deep Skin Tone Plush Doll Nevaeh with child tester

Age suitability: 0+ | Best for age: 1+ | Size: L14Xcm x W9cm x H34cm | Batteries: None | Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

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The Nevaeh deep skin tone plush doll is one of a range of soft toys representative of dark-skinned girls from iFrodoll. Each of the dolls has a different outfit and hairstyle and every one can be personalised – for free – with a name or birthday on the front of the doll’s outfit, which is firmly attached to her body. The Nevaeh wears a tutu with a layer of tulle-style netting and her hair, worn in a top-bun, is textured to represent Afro hair. With no small parts to worry about, the doll is safe for even the youngest children, and her super softness and size – just right for a toddler to wrap her arms around – means it's perfect to snuggle at bedtime. Nevaeh is also ideal for daytime play as she’s light enough for small children to carry around (a mere 128g) and machine washable, though it’s a shame you can’t change her outfit.

The face of our two-year-old child tester, Tilly (pictured above), lit up when she was handed her Nevaeh doll and she hugged it straight away. “ I felt like the doll really resonated with her and became a friend very quickly,” said her mum, Alexandra, who believes the doll will be a firm favourite for years to come. “This toy really resonates with me as a black parent to two black daughters because representation is so important, and the lack of black dolls in the market can be frustrating. This doll is attractive, appealing and very well-made; for example, there is lovely detail on the skirt. I think any child of any ethnicity will be able to see the beauty in Nevaeh.”

Available at: iFrodoll

2. Baby Annabell Little Sweet Princess, £39

– Best for interacting

Baby Annabell Little Sweet Princess with child tester

Age suitability: 1+ | Best for age: 1+ | Size: 36cm ‎| Batteries: Not included| Awards: Joint Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

A classic Baby Annabell doll who is dressed as a princess and interacts by blushing, singing and making sweet sleeping sounds. The price feels about right, considering this is a quality doll – she is really well made and is a lovely size and weight. She has long hair that can be played with and styled although we thought it might be easy to become matted. She comes with a princess dress, shoes, tiara and hairbrush.

Kirstie, mum of our child tester Imogen, 1 (pictured above) said: “Immy loves kissing her and then touching her little rosy cheeks, this doll has become a firm favourite and is often being pushed about in Immy’s buggy. She is besotted with her making kissy noises when she kisses her and she loves touching her cheeks after they have gone red. This little princess has become a firm favourite.”

Heidi, mum of our child tester Riley, 2, said: “Baby Annabell makes sleeping sounds and closes her eyes when she sleeps which is really cute! When you kiss her on her lips it also makes a sound and her cheeks blush which was definitely my toddler’s favourite feature. Baby Annabell received more kisses than me, to be fair.”

Available at: Argos and Amazon

3. Manhattan Playdate Harper Doll, £16.19

– Best for toddlers

Manhattan Playdate Harper Doll

Age suitability: From birth | Best for age: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 25cm-high soft doll with a built-in onesie and removable dress and shoes. Comes with a mini teddy bear. It’s machine-washable and dryer-safe.

Why we love it: She's very soft, cuddly and well made – and her clothes come off easily and can be washed. Although this doll is marked as safe from birth, we think she's more suitable for children over the age of 1, due to the small teddy bear and removable booties. Perfect for carrying around, snuggling and role play.

Available at: Amazon

4. Cry Babies Newborn Coney, £49.99

– Best for realistic cries

cry babies newborn coney being tested by child

Age suitability: 18 months+ | Best for age: 2+ | Batteries: 2 x AAA (included)

A 30cm-high doll with huge blue eyes and pink hair cries 'real' tears and makes over 20 baby sounds and her dummy helps to soothe her. Coney also falls asleep when you gently lay her down. There are 3 dolls in the Cry Babies range (Coney, pictured, Dotty and Lady).

The main attraction of these dolls is the crying: our child testers loved pulling out the dummy to make their baby cry, before popping it back in and shushing the doll back to sleep. Parent tester Kate who tested this with her 19-month-old (pictured above) says, "Both my children have been mesmerised by the doll's ability to 'cry' a feature that is great for helping both of them learn about emotions and empathy."

"I also liked that it came with the batteries already included and my daughter could play with it straight out of the box and she was very excited to unbox it" shared parent tester Eleanor.

Yes, it's a bit noisy (you can turn the sound off though) and damp (but you don't have to fill the water reservoir up) but there's no denying how much little children are drawn to this wide-eyed doll. We thought the bunny blanket that keeps her snuggly and the pretend milk bottle were adorable additions. Your child can also wear an interactive bracelet that helps Coney to know their parent is near, which older children will enjoy.

Available at: Argos and Very

For ages 2,3,4+ years:

5. CoCoMelon Boo Boo JJ, £24.99

– Best for learning body parts

CoComelon Boo Boo JJ and child tester

Age suitability: 2+ | Best for age: 2+ | Size: 30cm‎| Batteries: 3x AAA (included) | Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

This does seem really quite pricey, but for fans of CoComelon, we imagine it's quite a desirable toy, but it should be a few quid cheaper. This plush doll, based on the YouTube show, features lights, phrases and sounds to indicate where J.J. is hurt and when he is feeling better. Press his tummy and he sings the popular ‘Boo Boo Song’ from CoComelon. The doll comes with a carry case containing 3 brightly coloured CoComelon-themed bandages that you can put on the places that hurt. Press the doll and he complains of an ouch which glows on his head and when you press on the Velcro plaster it stops the area glowing and hurting. It’s really simple and quite delightful. He's cuddly despite all the electronic stuff, but not velvety soft. He has nice gender-neutral appeal.

“I’ve never seen a doll like this before,” said Sophie, mum of our child tester Amelia, 2 (pictured above). “It’s very original. And Amelia is very excited about him – and especially about the plasters!”

Our other child tester, Vinay, 2, said: “JJ Hurt, fix JJ.” Mum Bhavisha said: “My son keeps running to play with JJ throughout the day. He has figured out he has to press the red light to make JJ feel better. My son is getting more and more familiar with body parts with this toy.”

Available at: Smyths Toy

6. True and the Rainbow Kingdom 12" Deluxe True Doll, £34.99

– Best for believability

True and the Rainbow Kingdom - 12 Deluxe True Doll with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Size: 12 inches ‎| Batteries: Included | Awards: Joint Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

This True doll from True and the Rainbow Kingdon is quite basic, but at the same time, lovely. Press True's chest and she sings and talks to you, saying phrases from the show. When you see characters from animations turned into dolls, they sometimes miss the mark, but this doll has absolutely nailed it. We think a slightly cheaper price point of £30 would be a bit more reasonable.

Bridget, mum of our child tester Matilda, 3 (pictured above), said: “This doll has been mesmerising for my daughter since the minute she opened it. She has sung and danced along to the songs and repeated the catchphrases while also watching the TV show and telling her True doll that she’s there on the TV. It's interactive and believable as the actual character. My daughter definitely believes she has the real True in her arms.”

Sheila, mum of our child tester Isla, 4, said: “As soon as Isla realised the doll lit up, she got super excited and said “I want to take this to bed” which was a great idea as Isla is sometimes afraid of the dark and gets put off bedtimes.”

Available at: Amazon and Walmart

7. Miraculous Magic Heroes Colour Reveal Doll, £23

– Best for surprise element

Miraculous Magic Heroes Colour Reveal Doll

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: 11 inches ‎| Batteries: Not required

Have your little one bursting with excitement with this fun unboxing experience. This doll is a must for any Miraculous fan and it features Marinette, one of the Miraculous Magic Heroes. The doll comes covered in shimmer coating inside a blind bag. Then you add water in the provided container, swirl it around and reveal one of Marinette's randomly selected superhero costumes.

You can collect all 3 dolls if your child is a superfan, with costumes that range from Ladybug, BunnyX and Rena Rouge. Along with the doll there are accessories, which are also concealed in a blind bag. A shimmer ball unveils the complimenting items when immersed in water, for example a matching mask, Kwami character and a themed accessory unique to each costume.

"This product is high quality, with an exact likeness to the character. The arms, legs, and head all move which makes play fully immersive for any little one. The hair is brushable and the ladybug earrings were noticed immediately by my child. The doll can stand alone, and the accessories sit well on the doll. The eye mask is kept on with adhesive, which may lose its stickiness if taken off and on repeatedly over time" shared parent tester Jenny, who tested this with their 5-year-old daughter Lyla (pictured above).

Lyla shared, "I love my doll. I love her earrings and her hair and spotty outfit. I wanted this one. The Kwami is so cute, and she has a real yo-yo. I want another one. I like putting the doll in the water to see the outfit, I want to put her in the bath with me."

Available from: Amazon, Argos and Very

8. L.O.L Surprise Magic Flyers Doll, £36.99

– Best flying doll

lol surprise magic flying doll being tested by child

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: 31cm | Batteries: USB | Award: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2023

A doll with a wow factor – it flies! A great toy to play with both indoors and outdoors.

"I really like the way it flies because it flies really high and when you hold the button and jump high into the air with it it flies so high and it’s really cool to watch!" says child tester Amelia, 6, (pictured above). Parent tester Jessica shared, "It really was quite impressive how high it could fly! And you can always put it back in the box and watch the magic unboxing over and over again."

There are 3 styles to choose from; Sky Starling (gold wings), Flutter Start (pink wings and Sweetie Fly (lilac wings). They come in a bottle called the Magic Wishies and when you rub or tap it twice, the bottle shakes, lights up and unlocks ready to be pulled open for the doll to fly right out. To replay the fun all over again, simply put the tot back into the shell and you can relive the exciting unboxing experience again. Use your hand to guide the toy whilst in the air and prevent it from hitting the ground.

Parent tester Jessica shared, "You do need to be careful as it spins so fast to make it fly, it could hurt little fingers if you touched that bit but it recommends getting a book or something if you need it to stop."

Available at: Amazon, John Lewis and Very

9. Meagan by Our Generation, £52

– Best for playing with accessories

Meagan by Our Generation with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+| Size: 18 inch ‎| Batteries: None | Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

Lovely big doll with realistic and soft body and great accessories – including a dog! She has normal clothes – including tights and pants. She has adorable freckles and lovely hair. Her dog with his treats is very cute. We think this is a reasonable price to pay for this doll. She is very well made and Meagan is the dream role-play doll. We think kids will come back to this doll again and again.

Our child tester Hettie, 5 (pictured above) said: “I love that she has a dog and can come on dog walks with me. I like giving the dog treats and playing fetch. She has beautiful hair like me and we can have the same hairstyles”

Available at: Smyths, Hamleys and Amazon

10. Baby Annabell/Leah/Alexander, £64.99

– Best for realistic play

Baby Annabell, Alexander with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Size: ‎| Batteries: None | Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

Although this might seem a lot for a doll, the Annabell, Alexander and Leah dolls really feel like a quality toy and not the kind that will be relegated to the bottom of a toy box. This doll really is good value for money. With 3 variants that can do so many different things (they suck! they pee! they cry!) and they are beautifully made and would make a lovely gift. The real tears are a huge draw and it is nice to see a different skin tone than the predominant white dolls on the market. The boy and girl dolls do stick to the blue/pink tropes though.

When she was playing with the doll, our child tester Agatha, 3, said: “She talks to me; she is happy when we dance” and “Oh no, she is sad, shhhhh, it’s ok, I got ya.”

Mum of child tester Darcey, 5 (pictured above), said: “My recently turned 5 year old and 2.5 year old spent the longest time role-playing with the babies. Both children were playing with them as if they were real babies. The features offer a realistic element. Even my youngest looks at ways to soothe the baby dolls when they are crying. I am enjoying watching them play so beautifully.”

Available at: Amazon

11. DesignaFriend Kristin Doll , £50

– Best for grown-up play

DesignaFriend Kristin Doll with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 5+ | Size: 46cm ‎| Batteries: None | Awards: Joint Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

This fashion doll has lovely rose gold hair which really makes her stand out. She’s dressed in a pink tee with waist tie, grey jeans with metallic gold stars, fabric trainers and a pink knotted headband and comes with loads of accessories so that you can change her look. She also has a hair trolley with clips that can be used to crimp her hair – although our testers found this a bit difficult to do. We thought this was a fair price as you get so many accessories with the doll – it even comes with a bracelet for your child to wear.

Our child tester Kenzie, 5 (pictured above), said: “She’s definitely a 10/10 mummy. Her clothes are so trendy, and her hair is really pretty”. Child tester Annabelle, 8, said “I really like Kristin’s long hair and pretty clothes. I like that I can brush her hair and pretend to style it with the hair dryer and straighteners. The crimper clips are fun but it takes a long time to work. I don’t think I could crimp her whole hair. I really like her stylist trolley and I have had lots of fun playing with Kristin.” Annabelle’s mum, Sarah said: “It’s great that she is a child doll rather than a baby doll, as this means my daughter can role play lots of games like going to school or having her hair styled.”

Available at: Argos

12. LOL Surprise! OMG Core Series 6 Sketches + Melrose, £29.99

– Best for outfit changing

L.O.L. Surprise! OMG Core Series 6 Sketches with child tester

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 4+ | Size: 23cm‎| Batteries: None | Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

These two dolls are so loud and bright and colourful and very posable. Sketches has long rainbow-coloured hair and is ‘big sister’ to LOL character Splatters. Melrose has blonde hair and big purple eyes. They come with lots of 'surprise' wrapped outfits, but they are a devil to get on and off. Little hands may well need help doing this. We liked that they come with a stand so you can display the dolls if you want to. The accessories are cute and come in paper packets except for a fabric one that is a dress bag with a hanger. You get the doll, 2 outfits, shoes, accessories, a hairbrush and a doll stand and children will love the element of surprise when opening the accessories. We thought they were a little pricey but our child testers loved playing with them.

Ellis, parent of our child tester Edie, 4, said: “Upon opening the package, the first thing my little girl said was 'wow'. The dolls are great for imaginary play, especially as there is more than one doll to collect. To listen to Edie play and make conversations between the two dolls is a delight to see.”

Samantha, mum of our child tester Isabella, 5 (pictured above), said: “Isabella loves these new LOL dolls! She loves Sketches’ long rainbow hair and Melrose’s cool guitar bag. She likes the outfits and has been interchanging them with each other. Isabella has been playing with them loads since they arrived and it has encouraged some great imaginative play, this is great as Isabella has autism and imaginative play has been a struggle for her previously.”

Available at: Bargain Max

13. Barbie Pop Reveal Fruit Series Doll, £26.99

– Best scented doll

barbie pop reveal fruit series doll being tested by child

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 5+ | Batteries: None | Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2023

Here's another reveal-doll that offers an element of surprise for children unboxing them. These Fruit Series dolls engage all senses during the unboxing experience, with slime to touch and fruity scents to smell. There are 4 dolls in this range and each comes with different scents including Grape Fizz (above), Strawberry Lemonade, Watermelon Crush and Fruit Punch.

The packaging contains a fruit-scented Barbie doll submerged in slimey goo within the cup packaging. Your child will enjoy fetching the doll out of the slime and can have sensory fun and play with the slime if they wish. Lucy, 6 (pictured above) said, "I LOVE slime it feels so gooey and slimy and it sticks to my hand but I like the feel of it and like to play with it."

Along with the doll are some fun accessories to unwrap such as a pet and fashion items. And to add more to the excitement, the doll's hair and makeup changes colour too.

"I loved opening up all the packets and the Barbie really smells like grapes which is really nice. I love brushing my doll's hair, making her look pretty and choosing nice clothes for her" shared child tester Lucy. Another parent tester mentioned that her daughter aged 3 also liked playing with the doll but wasn't as drawn to the accessories and suggests the toy is more suited to children who are a bit older.

Available at: Amazon and Argos

14. BFF by Cry Babies, £22

– Best for hair styling

BFF by Cry Babies with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 5+ | Size: H20cm | Batteries: None | Awards: Joint bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

Part of the fun of receiving these dolls is playing with their packaging – they come in twistable tubes which show the different outfit combos you can create, as well as a cardboard wardrobe to house the accessories (which, granted, may not last forever due to its flimsy nature but is still a great addition).

The dolls themselves are dressed in fashionable outfits and come with seven different accessories, as well as a magical necklace. Their long silky hair is perfect for styling and they feature sparkly crystal eyes and a body that moves. It’s definitely a more ‘grown-up’ doll than the more traditional Cry Baby dolls and there are no tears here.

Our child tester Pops, 6 (pictured above), really enjoyed playing with hers. “I love it, it’s beautiful and fun, and I love her hair,” she said. Her mum, Sarah, was thrilled to see how long her daughter played with it for and added that it’s great quality too. “This toy is definitely worth the money,” she said. “It is well made, sturdy, strong and looks as though it’ll last a long time even with hours of play. Everything about it is interesting, fun, imaginative, creative and promotes role play.”

There are six different dolls to collect in the series (Jenna, Dotty, Phoebe, Stella, Kristal and Katie) plus the option to buy a twin pack, and each character has their own personality and outfits to match.

Available at: Argos and Tesco

15. DesignaFriend Tilly Bumper Set, £50

– Best for trendy outfits

designafriend tilly bumper doll set being tested

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 5+ | Size: 46cm ‎| Batteries: None | Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2023

This doll is such a trendy toy. She comes with fashionable outfits to change into including a biker jacket, tutu skirt, long-sleeved tops with shiny rainbow graphic, glittery pink trousers, a cosy onesie and a metallic pink tulle dress. Tilly also comes with fabric trainers that you can tie and she has her ears pierced which means your little one can put her rainbow earrings on for her. Other accessories she comes with are sunglasses, a hairbrush, pink metallic heart & star hair clips and a pink heart-shaped cross-body bag too, so that you can change her look.

The set costs £50 which is fairly pricey but we thought this was a fair price as you get so many accessories with the doll – it even comes with a charm for your child to wear on their bracelet. Our child tester Kenzie, 6 (pictured above) said: “She’s definitely a 10/10 mummy. Her clothes are so trendy, and her hair is really pretty”. Child tester Hallie, 5, says "She is magical and it is my favourite toy. I like that it has loads of clothes to change into."

We love the play potential this doll has, Alysia (parent of child tester Hallie) shares, "Hallie hasn't put the doll down since we received it. My daughter has loved getting it ready for a 'normal day', dressing it for parties, and putting it to bed." The storage box it comes with can be repurposed as Tilly's bed – there are lots of ways to play with this doll which shows it will last a long time as long as it's looked after. In the box, you can find useful hair care instructions to preserve Tilly's hair too.

Available at: Argos

16. Monster High Skulltimate Secrets Draculaura Doll, £39.99

– Best for accessories

monster high skulltimate secrets draculaura doll being tested by child

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 4+ | Batteries: None | Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2023

A spooktacular doll that comes with over 19 surprises including berets, bat earrings, eyeball boba tea and more accessories and themed pieces. Her vibrant coffin container packaging can be reused for storing Draculaura and the accessories inside. There are 4 other dolls in the range: Clawdeen Wolf Doll, Frankie Stein Doll, Cleo De Nile Doll and Lagoona Blue Doll.

"I like that she has more clothes and she comes with her snacks!" said our child tester Connie, 4 (pictured above).

Parent tester Lauren who tested this with their daughter Connie shared, "My daughter was very excited and saying 'I wonder what's inside!" All the limbs on the doll are posable too which Connie loves when she is playing."

There are keys to unlock the doors in the coffin container and with colour-reveal technology, the keys can be dipped into water to reveal their true colours – adding more excitement to the unboxing experience.

Available at: Argos and Mattel

17. Ballet Studio Sindy, £13.60

– Best for ballet role play

Ballet Studio Sindy and child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 6+ | Batteries: None

A 28cm-high fully articulated, rigid-bodied doll dressed in tutu, leotard, leg warmers and ballet shoes. Comes with her own ballet barre, ballet studio (the packaging itself), a cardboard mannequin with reversible paper outfits, a crafting card to make ballet props and a teeny magazine full of ballet-inspired games and puzzles.

This is a lovely – and slightly bigger – update to the classic Sindy doll. We like her super-bendy legs, knees and ankles (she's obviously been practising those ballet moves a while!) and her minimal make-up – a nice contrast to some of the most fashion-y dolls on the market. Our child tester Marnie, 8, said, "I love that I can take her straight out of the box and play with her. I put the ballet barre together myself – it was easy and I can put her in so many ballet positions which is cool! I really like her clothes – they make me want to take ballet lessons."

Available at: Sindy

18. Our Generation Holiday Haven Doll, £38

– Best for easy undressing

Our Generation Holiday Haven Doll

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

A 46cm-high, soft-bodied non-posable doll, with open and close eyes, dressed in a white dress, gold bolero jacket, pearl headband, white tights, pants and white and gold shoes.

She's just beautiful, as is every doll in the Our Generation range, and we love how she's all dressed up for a celebration. She's very easy for little fingers to dress and undress, and her pants and tights were a huge hit with our child testers. They all also commented on the softness of her long black curls – although, for a black doll, it's a shame she has blue eyes. Do note that her shoes have glitter on the toes – which can shed a bit.

Available at: Amazon

19. Kindi Kids Poppi Pearl Bubble ‘N’ Sing, £29.99

– Best for bubbly fun

Kindi Kids Poppi Pearl Bubble ‘N’ Sing with child tester

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: 3 x AA (not included)

A 27cm-high plastic doll with big eyes and a multi-coloured ponytail. When you press the shell button on her swimsuit she giggles, sings a 'happy bubble' song, and blows ice-cream-scented bubbles from her mouth. Comes with a dummy, feeding bottle and bubble wand.

Kindi Kids dolls have been around for a while (they have their own YouTube channel, no less) but this one has serious extra wow factor with all those bubbles – which really do stream out very impressively. Our child tester Mia, 3, was thrilled by them – and very delighted to discover that she could pour the bubble mixture into the doll herself by feeding her from the bottle: "I did it, Mummy!" Her mum Kirsty added, "She gets very excited when the bubbles start and loves running through them. It's a struggle to get her to put the doll down to be honest, as she has such a great time with it."

Available at: Amazon

20. Lottie Muddy Puddles, £23.99

– Best for realistic role play

Lottie Muddy Puddles

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 5+ | Batteries: None

A 18cm-tall, ball-jointed plastic doll with long blonde hair, dressed in a long-sleeved T-shirt, striped leggings, corduroy shorts, yellow hooded raincoat and yellow welly boots.

Easy to move and bend into different poses, as well as being able to stand up independently, Lottie is a great play companion for boys and girls. We love the authentic wet weather gear – she really does look ready for some serious puddle jumping! –and the age-appropriate clothing, with boots that were super easy to get on and off.

Available at: Lottie and Amazon

For ages 5+:

21. Barbie Loves the Ocean Doll, £13.99

– Best Barbie for recycled plastic

barbie doll natural black hair

Age suitability: 5+ | Best for age: 5+ | Size: 30cm ‎| Batteries: Not required

The Barbie Loves the Ocean collection features fabrics and accessories made from recycled materials. Huge interest has risen for Barbie dolls as the Barbie The Movie is set to release in July 2023. Giving a nod to sustainability, the Loves the Ocean collection dolls are created with ocean-bound plastics and the packaging is recyclable too. It's also a gentle way to introduce awareness of taking care of the planet and its oceans to young children.

The newest dolls are wearing bright and colourful, tropical-themed outfits that are perfect for summertime. Your child can have lots of open-ended play by using their imagination to create all kinds of fun summer scenarios. This doll has black skin, a wider nose, a curvy body shape and mimicked afro-textured hair which is great attention to detail for diversity and representation. Other dolls in the collection have various skin tones and body shapes. Along with the doll come white sunglasses and removable platform sandals.

Available at: Amazon

22. Rainbow High Spring 23 Fashion Doll Series 5, £32

– Best for diversity and inclusion

rainbow high spring fashion doll series 5 being tested

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 6+ | Size: H30cm| Batteries: None | Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2023

The idea of this new collection of Rainbow High dolls is to push diversity and inclusion, and it features Victoria Whitman who has freckles all over her body. Each of the 6 dolls in the series comes with accessories and a stand. They have long, thick hair perfect for styling (although some of the characters already have short hair also) and articulated bodies that allow for a good degree of movement and help make changing clothes fairly easy.

Our child tester Matilda, 7 (pictured above), was very excited to receive her doll, with Kayleigh (parent of child tester Matilda) reporting that she’d asked to play with it every morning since opening it.

Kayleigh was also impressed with the quality of the toy. “Everything feels high quality, I have no concerns about how well it will last,” she said. "Matilda adores her new doll and has now requested I buy her the other dolls in the Rainbow High series, which I am more than happy to do after seeing the quality of the one we received. Another one added to Matilda's Christmas list!"

Six different dolls are available in the Series 5 collection: Victoria Whitman, Priscilla Perez, Michelle St Charles, Olivia Woods, Kim Nguyen and Aiden Russell who is the boy doll.

Available at: Argos and £32

23. My Avastars Fashion Doll, £22

– Best for creating your own character

My Avastars Fashion Doll with child tester

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 6+ | Size: 28cm | Batteries: None | Awards: Joint bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2022

These blocky dolls have a similar aesthetic to Roblox avatars and are designed to be customised to create your own character using reusable stickers. There are 5 variants and clothes and accessories and wigs can be swapped between the dolls to create different looks and hairstyles with interchangeable buns and bangs. Each doll comes with 1 signature outfit, 1 wig, 1 surprise outfit, 50+ reusable stickers and 1 collector card. There is also an Avastars online game, where the characters can come to life on screen.

The stickers come off quite easily so they are genuinely reusable. This doll makes a good alternative to a regular fashion doll, particularly for keen gamers. Our testers were enthusiastic and were particularly pleased with their size. Caitlin, 6 said: “She is the biggest doll I have – She can be the boss of my dolls and I can play on my iPad with her”. Mum, Gemma, said “My daughter is very excited to play with the doll and record the styles on the game. She could have hours of fun with this doll.”

Isabella, 8 (pictured above), thought it was the “Best toy ever!” and also commented on its size “It’s bigger than the other dolls so it can be the mummy.”

Available at: Avastars and Argos

About the author

Helen is Deputy Editor of MadeForMums, the author of Parenting for Dummies (Wiley, £17.99) and the Head Tester for our MadeForMums Toy Awards. She has written about parenting for Mumsnet, Pregnancy & Birth, Prima Baby, Boots Parenting Club and She Magazine and she's also been Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby. She has 3 boys and a heavy-duty washing machine.

With thanks to Sarah Dawson, for additional research

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Helen Brown
Helen BrownHead of Content Delivery

Helen is author of the classic advice book Parenting for Dummies and a mum of 3. Before joining MadeForMums, she was Head of Community at Mumsnet and also the Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby.