How to Buy a Doll – 3 quick facts

First of all a disclaimer! Yes I do sell thousands of dolls as the Pattycake Doll Company, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression and assume that I’m all about the almighty dollar. The following suggestions apply to home made dolls too, and in fact, if you know how to make a peg doll, or an apple head doll, or a corn husk doll, or even just a simple stuffed sock doll… please do! Homemade dolls are sweet and personal.

But if you do want to buy a doll for a child, here is what you should consider:

  1. Most important, and the place everyone should start is age. How old is the child? Is the doll you’re thinking about appropriate for that age? Dolls are tested and rated for safety. Pay attention to that. If a doll says ages three and up, there is a reason! Babies don’t see well for the first six months, but their sense of touch is great – so dolls with lots of different finger-friendly textures are the way to go. Especially dolls ‘made’ for touch… like loveys with satin tags or edges.
    WARNING! Choking hazard: May contain small parts, not for children under 3 years.
  2. What do you want the child to do with the doll, and when do you want her to play with it? Do you want her to cuddle it on the couch and sleep with it at night? Do you want her to play with it like it’s her sister or maybe nurture it and play Mommy? Or do you want her to have dozens of outfits and shoes and hairstyles to work with? I’ve just described the differences between a rag doll, a baby doll and a fashion doll. There are many more, but you get the drift.
  3. Finally, try to remember who you’re buying the doll for. You’re not buying it for yourself, you’re not buying it for her parents, you are buying it for her. She is not going to be impressed with how much you spent, or if it’s from a famous doll company, or how big it is. It’s a doll. So if you spend $100 on a life sized doll that you love and that is sure as heck going to impress her mama, you may be shortchanging a sweet little girl who just wanted a pretty new doll to love.

Doll Review: Hot in the wrong way

I saw this story about a recalled doll today: Wal-Mart Recalls 174,000 Dolls Over Burn Risk.

And pardon the pun, ‘it burned my butt.’ You see I think Barbie dolls are great, and totally disagree with the feminists and other carpers who insist that playing with a Barbie Doll is harmful to a little girl’s psyche.

And then I see this doll, which is a Walmart exclusive and sold 174,000 in two years.

To quote the article: The 16-inch doll is packaged with a toy medical check-up kit. The doll babbles when she gets “sick” and her cheeks turn red and she starts coughing. Using the medical kit pieces cause the symptoms to stop.

recalled wal-mart doll

recalled: UPC Code: 6-04576-16800-5 Date code on tag: starts with WM

A doll that heats up? Whose cheeks turn red? Who can be ‘cured’ by playing using the medical pieces? In my humble opinion, this doll is much worse than a Barbie.

First of all, (And I am guessing here) this doll apparently only came in ‘white.’ I make that assumption because there is only one UPC code being recalled. If there were a Black version of this doll, it should have had a different UPC. If I am guessing correctly, I find that kind of insulting.

Second: The package is marked ages three and up. Which means the accessories are going to get lost. Which means at some point you’re going to have a doll that can never be cured? Coughs until her batteries run out? What kind of message does that send to kids?

Don’t get me wrong… I know this is commenting on someone else’s misfortune… and of course I am writing this post ‘in hindsight.’ I am not a Walmart hater. I know that as a professional retail doll buyer, if I had been shown this doll, I might have said ‘great idea’ too. (Although I would have wanted the ethnic version, because that’s what we sell at The Pattycake Doll Company.) I know darn well that the buyer at Walmart would never have knowingly wanted to potentially burn a child.

To paraphrase Kermit the Frog “It’s not easy being a doll buyer.”

Ganz, Gund and Grumpy Cat

One of the strangest coincidences from my many years in the Doll Business: Ganz, GUND and Grumpy Cat!

GUND's "Grumpy Cat"

GUND’s “Grumpy Cat”

I recently read the story below in the trade press about a recall. It caught my eye because, while walking Toy Fair last month, I happened to see the Grumpy Cat plush in the Ganz booth. As I had already been in the GUND booth (we carry a lot of GUND products), I knew that they also had a license to manufacture Grumpy Cat plush.

And I felt bad for GUND, because I think the Ganz recall for Grumpy Cat plush – a possible choking hazard because the eyes can come off – is going to affect consumer perceptions of GUND’s Grumpy Cat plush. (And of course I feel bad for Ganz… I’m sure they spent a small fortune to make their toys safe and meet CPSIA regs… it just goes to show that even the best designers and manufacturers can have something like this happen.)

But in the end, I think parents are going to remember ‘Grumpy Cat Plush,’ and not differentiate between Ganz and Gund. They’re both going to suffer for awhile.
Isn’t that a strange coincidence? Two famous Plush Doll companies, both have four letter names, both start with the letter ‘G,’ and both have a license to make Grumpy Cat plush!

Ganz Recalls Grumpy Cat Stuffed Animal Toys

Grumpy Cat Sitting Toy

Ganz’s Grumpy Cat

WASHINGTON – Ganz, in cooperation with the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), has recalled three styles of its plush Grumpy Cat stuffed animal toys due to a choking hazard.

(You can read the full story by clicking here)




Just what is a ‘Safe Doll?’



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

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Buy a handmade craft doll at a craft fair or off of Etsy.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Doll Safety and The Choke Test Tube

WARNING! Choking hazard: May contain small parts, not for children under 3 years.

You’ve seen this a million times, so often in fact, that you probably don’t even notice it anymore. And that’s too bad, because it’s there to protect your child or grandchild.

Hopefully I’m going to shake up your perceptions a little bit, and bring choking hazards back to the forefront of your brain where they belong.

Picture of Choke Testing Tube

A real choke testing tube, and the home made version

On the left, a choke testing tube. The opening is about the same size as a three year old’s mouth, and that slanted piece inside of the tube is where a child’s throat would be. The CPSC (The US Consumer Product Safety Commission) requires that anything that can be dropped into these tubes and block that slanted bottom be labeled a choking hazard.

You have a bunch of these choke tubes lying around the house right?

But what you do have, and works just as well for our purposes, is the cardboard tube inside the toilet paper roll. So the next time you empty that roll, take that tube around the house as a safety measure. What do you have that (A) fits inside that tube and (B) might be attractive to the little ones?  [ Doll Collecting Grannies take note! This means you too!]

The life you save may be your child’s.

PS: The most dangerous toys are small balls and deflated or broken balloons. Doll hazards include buttons, removable socks and shoes and ribbons and strings over 12 inches. But please also make sure that your older children’s dolls are out of the reach of toddlers. Of special note, remember that 18″ dolls like the American Girls®  are often recommended for children 8 years and older, but they are often shared with their younger siblings. Finally we’ll ask you to regularly inspect all of your children’s dolls for broken or loose parts.

PPS: And please, don’t be that Mommy or Grandmommy who thinks that their kids are so advanced that you can give them a doll meant for older children. There’s a reason that we put the age recommendations on every doll we sell. Disregard them at your own risk.