Wednesday, November 29th, 2006
Review: Woodkins 2-D Dressable Dolls for Girls and Boys
Woodkins by Pamela Drake, Inc. are flat dress-up dolls for girls. A similar toy for boys is offered, though they call it a “switch it” activity instead of “dress-up” and instead of clothing, boys are customizing the look of vehicles.
The girl’s toy is composed of a rectangular wooden panel that displays a tastefully drawn girl in underwear. Many of the Woodkins variations depict the girl in a scene (by a castle, on the beach, etc.) or as a type of character (a fairy, ballerina, etc.).
You fold open the panel (like a clamshell) to see that the girl is a raised piece of wood lying on a second panel. The idea is that you place swatches of fabric over the girl, roughly approximating her pants and shirt. Then you fold the two panels closed again to see the girl neatly dressed. The top panel acts as a sort of stencil, hiding all of the fabric except the portion that is over the girl.
The doll’s wooden face is removable, swappable among several face variations depicting the doll as smiling, talking, laughing, sleeping and such.
The neat thing is that you aren’t limited to the cloth swatches that come with the toy. Most are 3.5″x4″. You could easily expand the doll’s wardrobe using thin fabric from your own sewing projects or from old shirts, pants, etc. Some smaller pieces, such as a narrow piece of lace, can be used to create a shall or scarf. Ribbon could be used for belts, cuffs, shoes or other details. (None of this is depicted in my boring photos.)
This toy seemed like a real (garage sale) “find” to me because my local toy stores are inundated with less-fun, less-original versions of this dress-up idea. See the Melissa & Doug Dress-up Bear or Maggie Magnetic Doll. Both involve playing with a limited set of wooden or magnetic clothes that you merely place on the doll without much arranging to do.
Woodkins require some degree of tactile skill, though after you close the top panel, you can still shift the fabric to make it fit just right. The girl’s hands, and often her feet, are drawn on the top wooden panel, so that a shirt’s neckline is usually the only critical issue to adjust. Of course, the doll shown in my photo doesn’t have separate feet, giving the pants a sort of pajama-like look.
Woodkins are rated for 4-year-olds, and the reason for that age limit escapes me, unless it’s out of fear toddlers will eat the fabric or the doll heads. My 2.5-year-old daughter loves Woodkins in supervised play.
Technically, a boy could play with this toy. The “Classics” edition of Woodkins has one boy that can be dressed.
Switch It is a toy similar to the Woodkins dolls, except it features a race car, emergency vehicle, speed boat or spaceship. Instead of fabric, your child manipulates 16 plastic layers.
So, for example, the Service Vehicles edition can be made into a fire truck, police van or ambulance, and customized with various plastic decals. I don’t own a Switch It, but the product web site gives an example of the Race Car Switch It letting kids swap out hubcaps, add stripes and change car colors. That seems more like a 4-year-old toy to me, but I’m guessing in the absence of a son.
It’s too bad both of these toys are intended and marketed for specific genders. My 2.5-year-old daughter loves emergency vehicles, and I expect toddling boys might enjoy dress-up.