Only what you need for your baby. Really. (OK – and some fantastic things you don’t that are pretty cool.)
I wasn’t keen on raising our little girl to just like dolls and kitchens, so I got her a red car about the same time as I got her her first doll. She was about eight months old and wasn’t interested in either of them, so nice work me! I chose the doll very carefully to be soft and safe but still have hair she could play with and a friendly face. Our nanny gave her one with similar features a couple months later at Christmas. Still no luck. Which is to say, if your child is anything like Astrid, s/he will probably be a year old or a little older before he shows much interest in dolls.
The one I settled on next, Corolle’s Cailin, was a winner and still is a year later. He looks like an infant (she has an older one too but her only interest in that one is in the removable shoes), which is probably attractive because he’s littler than Astrid herself, so she feels she can take care of him.
The Corolle dolls aren’t the least expensive, but they’re also not super creepy like some of the all-plastic ones with weird eyes and hard bodies. Cailin’s body is soft for cuddling but the arms, legs and head are plastic, so toes can be counted and eyelids close. The child development expert at Day One noted that realistic dolls are great for mirroring with little kids: they can identify similarities and features and that’s both interesting and stimulating.
Oh – and the dolls smell like vanilla. I’m not kidding. And they keep smelling like vanilla. I don’t really want to know how they make that happen, but it’s kind of nice (even though I don’t usually like vanilla scents): not too strong and sort of soothing.
Clothes are removable and washable and you can buy other outfits if you want (although Astrid won’t allow him to be changed into them because he looks like a different doll, so try out one alternate outfit before you invest in many!) Also, tons of accessories available for later (cribs, bibs, strollers, etc.)
Corolle Mon Premier Cailin 12″ doll, about $23 at Amazon, Caucasian in pink or blue outfit, Asian girl or African-American girl