(Updated October 20, 2021 to add dolls beyond the author’s original list)
Why are Black dolls so important to Black children’s development? Well, a doll is often a child’s favorite companion, providing a source of comfort and entertainment unlike any other toy.
Dolls also teach compassion and social skills, while helping to shape a child’s self-image.
This is why little Black girls are often left feeling confused and insecure—most of the dolls in the toy stores look nothing like them.
With the holiday season upon us, we’ve rounded up some of the best Black dolls.
Brains and Beauty Dolls
Niya Dorsett created the Brains and Beauty Dolls to fulfill a singular mission: To help raise little girls’ self-esteems. So all the features on Malia—and future Brains and Beauty Dolls—were chosen with that goal in mind.
These Black dolls all have natural human hair so children can play with hair that’s similar to their own, and the dolls say 20 empowering phrases to encourage their owner to believe in themselves and achieve their goals. What makes those phrases even sweeter is that they were sourced from mothers answering the question, “If you had to say something encouraging or positive to your daughter, what would you say?”
mater mea fam: You can get a 10% discount off your Brains & Beauty Dolls purchase by using the coupon code mater.
Move over Barbie: Qai Qai just might be the most famous doll on social media.
Qai Qai is Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.’s first doll. (Olympia is the daughter of tennis great Serena Williams and Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian.)
“I wanted her to have a Black doll,” Serena said during a 2019 press conference. “Growing up, I didn’t have that many opportunities to have Black dolls.”
Whether you want Qai Qai to be your child’s first doll or one of many Black dolls they have, you can get her on Amazon.
Minikin Paper Dolls
Artist Adrienne Brown-David created Minikin Paper Dolls “to make sure ALL kids can have a one of a kind, handmade toy that represents them.” These hand-drawn and pre-assembled paper dolls come pre-made, or you can ask for a custom order to make sure your child gets a doll that looks just like them.
(And if you’re looking for a fun at-home activity, you can purchase digital downloads of the paper dolls to cut and color yourself!)
Healthy Roots Dolls
Back in our day, it was borderline disrespectful the synthetic strands that companies used to approximate “Black hair” on dolls. These days, there are a number of brands making Black dolls with natural hair—and Healthy Roots Dolls is one of our favorites.
Zoe (aka your kid’s new best friend) is on a hair journey that any Black naturalista can relate to. After doing a big chop, she’s learning how to love her hair’s natural curl and texture—and she can’t wait to teach your child how to love their hair, too!
These custom, handmade linen dolls are the things of childhood dreams. Harper Iman Dolls offer sweet and stylish Black dolls that “reinforce to children of color how important they are, how smart they are, how beautiful they are, how talented the are, how creative they are.”
And when we say stylish, we mean stylish: Some of these doll’s outfits rival our best looks!
Fairytale Wishes by Casa de Fallon
Casa de Fallon’s line of fairy ballerinas provide much-needed diversity in the handmade, homespun doll space. Made out of wooden clothespins, Fairytale Wishes dolls come in a variety of skin tones and hair colors, and each themed collection (from holidays to Disney) will delight your child.
Mom, fashion designer, and illustrator Ozi was also inspired by her daughters to create her line of vinyl dolls in various shades of brown. All of the Ikuzi Dolls are tea party-ready in pretty, colorful dresses. And their pink carrying cases make it easy to bring them along on any adventure.
Created by pediatrician and mother, Dr. Aisha Bailey, these super-soft 10” plush Black dolls are safe for even the youngest kids on your list. The Ishababies™ collection is made up of eight boy and eight girl dolls, and come in a variety of “flavors,” from Caramel Girl to Mocha Boy.
The dolls are machine washable, making them easy for moms and dads to keep clean.
Debbie Sterling launched her Goldie Blox line of toys in an effort to get more girls to see engineering as fun. Ruby Rails, a Black doll in the collection, is a coder who loves to skydive—is that cool, or what? Your little ones can use their building skills to assemble Ruby’s parachute and send her off on some high-flying fun.
The Prettie Girls! Dolls
Don’t be fooled by the name. These Black dolls are not just cute; Prettie is an acronym for Positive Respectful Enthusiastic Talented Truthful Inspiring Excellent. These dolls are top students who care about their planet and are great friends.
The Prettie Girls! Dolls were created by Stacey McBride-Irby, a former project designer at Mattel and creator of a line of African-American Barbie dolls, as well as a commemorative doll for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s centennial, so you know you’re in good hands.
Lottie Dolls had us at their mission: “We celebrate kids in all their glorious, heart-warming and life-affirming diversity.” Their three Black dolls also have a mission: getting her hometown clean water (the Mari “Little Miss Flint” Copeny doll, pictured above), capturing wildlife photos (the Mia doll), and landing on the front page (the young reporter boy doll).
Your kids will love all three!
Origin Bees showcases the variety of our community with their line of Black dolls that come in different skin colors and hair types—just like us! Their dolls (which range from baby dolls to 18-inch fashion dolls) represent Black, Latino, biracial, and Caribbean heritages. And when you buy one of these cuties, you’re also helping disadvantaged girls around the world, thanks to their GetONE GiftONE program.
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