Black Like Me: Dolls Made for Children of Color
Words: Angela Johnson
Your kids will love getting any one of these Black dolls made with them in mind.
[Updated December 1, 2017 to add Brains and Beauty Doll.]
A doll is often a child’s favorite companion, providing a source of comfort and entertainment unlike any other toy.
But playing with dolls isn’t all fun and games: Dolls can also play an important role in a child’s development, teaching compassion and social skills, as well as 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.
Fortunately, today’s kids of color don’t have to go too far to find dolls that look more like them and less like a blonde stick figure with an eerily tiny waist. Black dolls—whether they have natural hair or soft or life-like baby dolls—are becoming easier to find.
With the holiday season upon us, we’ve rounded up some of the cutest and cuddliest dolls created with Black and brown kids in mind. The best part, you can purchase them all online!
WEBSITE | $85
When Angelica Sweeting noticed her daughter wishing for yellow hair and lighter skin to match the doll she played with, she decided to do something about it. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Sweeting created the Angelica Doll, an 18” vinyl doll with realistic African-American features and a luxurious head of natural hair that can be washed, twisted, knotted, and braided to your little one’s content. Sweeting hopes her dolls will help change the standard of beauty and encourage confidence and self-acceptance in young Black girls.
WEBSITE | $90
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. The 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?”
WEBSITE | $65-$80
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.
WEBSITE | $12-$25
Created by pediatrician and mother, Dr. Aisha Bailey, these super-soft 10” plush 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.
WEBSITE | $50-$60
NakiaK Handmade’s line of soft baby dolls mixes the old and the new in a very darling way. Each doll is lovingly made with machines and hand sewing, and creator Nakia Kamerzell sources all the fabrics, felt, and embellishments herself to create the perfect handmade gift for her customers.
(Learn more about Kamerzell and NakiaK in our mater mea maker series!)
WEBSITE | $40-$75
These adorably hand-crafted crochet rag dolls are available in African-American and biracial hues. Creator Sheila Watkins is meticulous about the dolls’ details down to the outfits and hair. “When I was little,” Watkins says, “we got a Baby Chrissy doll each Christmas. I would blow-dry her hair so that it would melt and become kinky.” She made sure that her rag dolls’ hair—made of synthetic fiber—can be braided and styled into cute kinky and curly dos, so her little customers won’t have the same issues she had with her dolls growing up.
WEBSITE | $25
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.
WEBSITE | $21-$25
Don’t be fooled by the name. These 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.
WEBSITE | $20
Jennifer Blaine was shocked to discover that even in Africa, dolls with darker skin were hard to come by. So the Johannesburg-based entrepreneur launched a line of darker skinned dolls that come with beautiful braids and colorful African-inspired outfits. Though she started small, Blaine is confident that her dolls are making a difference.
“[A] highlight for me is seeing the look on the faces of the kids, whose parents have bought them dolls,” she says. “it is priceless! They are always so delighted.”