Move over, Barbie. There’s a new generation of dolls that hope to inspire more than just fashion sense. Whether it’s the latest STEM-inspired American Girl to dolls designed with real-girl proportions, scroll down to see our favorite dolls that empower kids.

Luciana Vega - American Girl's 2018 Doll of the Year

American Girl's newest "Girl of the Year" brings AG back to its girl-powered roots. Meet Luciana Vega, an 11-year-old Chilean-American girl who aspires to be the first astronaut to walk on Mars. Created with the help of NASA and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (both organizations had members on AG's advisory board for the doll), she's also the first American Girl doll to drive girls to dream in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The doll comes with a book that chronicles Luciana's experience at Space Camp as she learns how to pilot a spacecraft and explore the International Space Station.  

Of course, no American Girl doll would be complete without a slew of optional accessories. For Luciana, this means you can buy everything from a miniature Mars habitat and a maker station to a flight suit and tiny Space Camp backpack.

Available at americangirl.com, $115.

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Dolls That Look Like Real Kids

Ever notice that a lot of dolls for kids actually look like grown-ups? Not so for the Lottie Doll, a doll designed to actually look like a nine-year-old girl. What that means is she's got a childlike body (no crazy hourglass proportions!), and she doesn't wear makeup, jewelry or high heels. The collection has plenty of fun characters, from Muddy Puddles Lottie to Wildlife Photographer Mia. There are also two boy dolls: Junior Reporter Sammi and Kite Flyer Finn. All of the dolls have removable outfits and come in adorable little doll boxes that your child won't want to throw away. 

Available at lottie.com, $19.95 & up.

Dolls with Differing Abilities

We all want our kids to be open-minded, but in order to understand other people's differences, it's important that kids see those differences first-hand—and talk about them. Lakeshore Learning's People with Differing Abilities include people with realistic details and adaptive equipment—from a girl in a wheelchair to a boy with leg braces. For younger kiddos, Lakeshore also has a "Soft and Safe" version of these toys that feature children with various disabilities.  

Available at: lakeshorelearning.com, $24.99. 

photo: Wonder Crew

A Doll for Boys

If you've got a superhero-loving kid who wants a doll—but not that kind of doll—Wonder Crew dolls are the perfect addition. The collection of boy dolls (which just won the "Doll of the Year" award at the New York Toy Fair) were designed to have the "adventure of an action figure with the emotional connection of the favorite stuffed animal." They're soft and perfect for cuddles, but they're also superheroes. What's even cooler? Each doll comes with two masks and capes: One for the doll and one for the kid who plays with it. Genius. 

Available at amazon.com, $20.53. 

DC Super Hero GIrls

KAPOW! BOOM! ZOINKS! For little girls who are fans of all things super, DC Super Hero Girls (watch webisodes here!)  are the perfect plaything. All the girls are ready-for-action and come with a special crime-fighting accessory to help them kick some serious bad guy tushie. Choose from Batgirl, Bumblebee, Harley Quinn, Katana, Supergirl and, of course, Wonder Woman. 

Available at amazon.com, $13.27.

photo: Hearts for Hearts

Dolls That Make the World a Better Place

Every Hearts for Hearts Girls doll represents a real girl from a real place around the world. Each girl comes with a mini-book that helps kids see how different life is for kids across the globe: Rahel, for instance, is a 10-year-old girl from Ethiopia who ventures to out of her village to bring back medical supplies that will protect her fellow villagers against malaria. Makers hope the dolls will show girls that, with a little knowledge and courage, anyone can be an agent of change in the world.

For every doll purchased, Hearts for Hearts donates $1 donation to World Vision, a humanitarian organization dedicated to helping families around the world overcome poverty. 

Available at amazon.com, $30.90.

Dolls with Realistic Proportions

You know what's not empowering? Dolls with body proportions that are impossible to have in real life. That's why the makers of Lammily Dolls decided to make a collection of dolls using proportions akin to the average 19-year-old American woman. That means everything from the hands, arms and neck to the waist, legs and feet are realistic. The makers hope that playing with "normal" dolls will help young girls see their own bodies more positively (because sadly, studies show girls start worrying about their looks by age five).   

Available at lammily.com, $25 & up. 

Baby Alive Sweet Spoonfuls

Sweet Spoonfuls is a brand-new doll from the Baby Alive series and features a boy doll that comes with the option of three different hair colors. Little boys can mix up food for their baby doll, feed the baby a bottle, and change diapers after the baby's had enough to eat. Because, dads change diapers too, right? 

Available at amazon.com, $24.99.

Career Dolls Magnet Set

Not all dolls need to be cuddled. Build & Learn's Career Doll Magnet Set is a compact and portable collection that's perfect for entertaining your tots at a restaurant, on an airplane or in the car. The kit comes with two magnetic "dolls" and a whole collection of career-inspired clothing and accessories to bring the dolls' stories to life. Choose from 12 careers including a president, doctor, chef, video game designer, rock star and chemist. 

Available at amazon.com, $14.98. 

Dolls That Come with STEM kits

GoldieBlox is a collection of toys, apps and games designed to challenge gender stereotypes and "disrupt the pink aisle" in toy stores around the world. But what we love about the dolls, specifically, is that they come with a STEM-based activity that will challenge kids to focus on more than just make-believe. Goldie, the ziplining engineer, for instance, comes with a construction kit and step-by-step instructions to build a real (mini) working zip line. So sure, they're playing with dolls. But they're also learning how to use washers, elbow joints and mini-axles. Pretty awesome. 

Available at amazon.com, $24.99. 

Logan - American Girl's Boy Doll

American Girl debuted its first boy doll, Logan Everett, in 2017—a first for the 32-year-old doll company. Standing the same height as the rest of the AG crew, Logan has eyes that open and close and comes with a plaid button-down shirt, a T-shirt, jeans, underwear, and sneakers. His backstory: He's a drummer who plays in a band with the freckle-faced guitar-playing Tenney Doll

Available at americangirl.com, $115.

Does your kid play with one of these dolls? Share with us in a comment below.

—Melissa Heckscher

 

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