The Pattycake Doll Company is known by doll buyers for having dolls that the regular toy stores don’t carry. They may have one or two Black dolls, we have over eighty. They may have one or two boy dolls, we have over forty. We also carry Down Syndrome dolls and doll’s wheelchairs etc. But about once a week, we get a request for a different kind of a doll… one with a tracheotomy tube. Bald. With a limb missing. With surgical scars. With Spina Bifida. etc., etc. And if you know a good reborn doll artist such dolls are possible… reborn doll artists take a regular doll, and by the magic of their art, they ‘rebirth’ them. With paint and glue guns, Sculpy® and carving tools they can easily make those special dolls.
An example of reborn doll artistry by doll artist Donna Lee
But what if your child is Black, African American, Biracial, Asian, South Asian etc, AND handicapped? What then? And where can you find these reborn doll artists?
Well, based on our discovery this morning of a site called Dolls Collectionary, it looks like it will be pretty easy. What we saw while browsing their site was that many of their artist members ‘reborn’ Berenguer dolls. And from what we know as owners of the internet’s largest ethnic doll store, is that Berenguer makes dolls in many different ethnicities. It’s one of their strengths! So putting 2+2 together, we can now tell you that many, reborners use Berenguer dolls, and Berenguer dolls makes dolls in many different ethnicities. There may be a very small audience for this information… but if you’re one of those parents searching desperately for some way to give your child a doll like them, i.e. ethnic and handicapped, then be sure to check out Dolls Collectionary.
PS: We are always looking for reborn doll artists to refer to these parents. Are you willing to provide free or low cost dolls to handicapped and disabled children? Can you create cleft lips, surgical scars, tracheotomy scars, amputees, bald or other dolls on request? If you’re up to this challenge, and feeling charitable, please go to our “Open Letter” tab.
The Cat in the Hat plush character doll
What could your daughter tell me about him if I gave her The Cat in the Hat plush Character doll above?
Would she tell me he’s funny? He’s bad? He loves to play games? Would she tell me a story based on the book by Dr Seuss or the movie version? How much of what she told me would be based on what she’s already learned, and how much would come straight out of her imagination?
A Waldorf Style Doll
Here’s a Waldorf style doll. Waldorf dolls are the opposite of Character dolls. Waldorf dolls come without a back story and without a character. Their faces are practically featureless, the bare minimum of a suggestion of eyes, nose mouth. Why?
Because that’s the concept behind Waldorf Dolls… that you daughter will create her doll’s personality herself, out of her own imagination. She’s a ‘blank slate.’
I think it’s a pretty interesting concept, although I’m not sure it’s a scientifically proven concept – I don’t know how you could prove that a particular doll style forces a child to be more creative! But since I love the simplicity of Waldorf dolls like this ‘Simply Willow’ by North American Bear, I don’t worry about the psychology behind it.
I think that children are equally imaginative in their doll play whether it’s a character doll or a Waldorf doll, that the stories they make up during doll play disregard the ‘character’ in character dolls anyway. If the Cat in the Hat is one of four dolls in a ‘tea party,’ he’s there as a doll, not ‘in character.’ Do you agree?
I wonder how many children ever ask where dolls come from. I’m pretty sure that they almost all get curious about where babies come from, do they never wonder where baby dolls come from? Maybe because they’ve all seen them in stores they’ve already figured it out for themselves.
Maybe they think that the mailman makes them? Seeing how more and more people shop online and such.
But I know for a fact that most adults have no clue where dolls come from. I know because The Pattycake Doll Company get lots of calls and emails from folks who want to start their own doll stores; they’re thinking they can get their dolls from us.
So then we explain that we neither wholesale nor export dolls. Invariably they then ask the next question: “Can you tell us how we can set up a store just like yours so that we can compete with you and maybe steal all your customers and put you out of business?” Of course they don’t word it exactly that way, but that really is what they’re asking.
But Addie and I are nice people who don’t believe that the customer pie is a finite resource, so we tell them where to get dolls:
Actually, if you want to open any kind of toy store, Toy Fair is the best place to go. Because this is where dolls come from. From approximately 1500 Toy Companies, and the 400,000 square feet of the Javitz center, and the 30,000 people in the Toy Industry who all come to Toy Fair. This is where our ‘babies’ come from.
Javitz Convention Center, where Toy Fair is held
PS: For those of you who want to know where our babies are made… mostly in China, but a lot in Spain.
When you travel, do you take your teddy bear with you?
Researchers have found that about 35% of adults travel with their favorite doll. Usually a traditional teddy bear or stuffed toy.
Next week I’ll be travelling to New York City for the American International Toy Fair, which is why I thought of it. (Toy Fair is where the toy industry meets every year to introduce the new dolls and toys for the coming year.)
This year they figure there will be about 30,000 people at Toy Fair. That means about 7,500 of those guests will have their Teddy Bears with them at their hotels. Statistically speaking of course. I stay at the Wolcott, a grand old hotel on 31st Street, I don’t travel with a stuffed animal, but I’ve always found it interesting that so many people do.
The ornate lobby of The Wolcott Hotel
Psychologists know that carrying a security object along with you when you leave the safety of home is just as comforting to an adult with her teddy, as it is for a two year old carrying his lovey or security blanket. Comfort is comfort at any age.
Everybody who buys dolls wants to make sure they’re safe. That’s a given.
But what does ‘safe’ mean?
Today’s post is about what we do to try and make the dolls we sell as safe as is possible for your children.
In the US we have the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSIA) safety standards, but since most of our dolls are also sold in Europe, they also comply with Europe’s EN71 regulations. (About 10% of our dolls come from Spain.)
After manufacturing, the dolls have to be tested in three main areas: Soft Toy Testing, Plastic Toys Testing and Electrical Toy Testing. Many dolls have to be tested in multiple categories, like this animated lamb that tells nursery rhymes.
Nurserytime animated and talking lamb by GUND
And then there’s all the things they test for. Here’s just a partial list:
- That the materials they use are safe, including flame retardants and dyes, and contain no poisons like Lead, Chromium, Formaldehyde, Nickle, Benzene.
- That the filling materials are clean and new.
- Paints and Dyes: Poisonous? Will they flake, or dissolve in the mouth if a child sucks on them?
- Physical Strength: basically, can your child, pull, twist, squeeze, bend or bite pieces off of the doll that they can then choke on or swallow?
- Also drop tests. If this doll is dropped, will it break into sharp and dangerous pieces?
- Are there magnets, eyeballs, ribbons, buttons or other parts to the doll that can come loose or be broken off?
- and many, many more.
It is practically impossible for a new doll to get made and into your hands without all this safety testing. It costs the manufacturers a small fortune.
Even so, we want your kids to be safe, so we’ll warn you of four big ways you could get an unsafe doll:
- Buy an old doll on ebay or at an antique store or at a used goods store like Goodwill that was manufactured before the CPSIA regulations.
- Buy a handmade craft doll at a craft fair or off of Etsy.
- Leave an older child’s doll around where a toddler can get at it. For example, American Girl® dolls are recommended for ages 8 years or older because many of the smaller accessories are choking hazards for a three year old.
- A doll you have that was safe when you bought it, could over time become unsafe… loose parts, rough play etc.
You know, for all the talk and worries of toy safety, the one thing you actually can control you probably don’t do anyway…
All the dolls and toys in your house are supposed to be inspected regularly, to see if they’re still safe to play with, but almost no one I know of does it!