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.

Four photos of a Woodkins dressable doll. The first image shows the doll's starting position, then the doll with its top panel lifted away, then cloth swatches positioned over the doll, and lastly, the top panel lowered down again over the doll.
For Girls

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.

For Boys

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.

For Anyone

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.


7 Responses to “Review: Woodkins 2-D Dressable Dolls for Girls and Boys”

  1. Beckie Tetrault says:

    My daughter has the little girl and a fairy Woodkins and she LOVES them! They are great open ended type toys.

    November 29th, 2006 at 9:42 pm

  2. alyson says:

    My son loves to play with our Woodkins set. I do wish that the doll were more gender neutral for both my daughter and son.

    March 21st, 2007 at 7:22 pm

  3. alyson says:

    My son loves to play with our Woodkins set. I do wish that the doll were more gender neutral for both my daughter and son.

    March 21st, 2007 at 7:24 pm

  4. My BOaz's Ruth says:

    We have Woodkins dolls as one of the toys in our 3-year old “Dynamo” class (3-year olds born between September and March. April through August go in the other 3-year old class “Blastoffs”). And both the boys and girls play with them. And they love them. Sometimes a bit confused as to why the person doesn’t come off the board. But the boys and girls play with both the boys and the girls Woodkins. They don’t seem to care.

    Though our Woodkins don’t have the scene on the front.

    May 21st, 2008 at 9:36 am

  5. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    PS When they don’t feel like dressing teh dolls, something else our three year olds do is take them “Swimming” — walking (they aren’t allowed to run) around the room, zooming the woodkin up and down in the air, making water noises with their mouth.

    May 21st, 2008 at 9:37 am

  6. ephelba says:

    I went to the Woodkins site and was terribly disappointed. White kids modeling toys with white children on them. There is one “china doll” and one doll with darker skin and dark hair. I am white, but I want my white daughters to learn that beautiful comes in all colors. There is little here to choose from.

    I’ve heard of school administrators saying “We don’t need to teach the kids to be racially sensitive. We just don’t have that many kids that aren’t white.” That is perfectly backwards- it’s the white kids that you have to teach. Children of color learn about racism the hard way.

    Start noticing how many children of color there are in the stories your children read, the movies they watch, the ads in their world. Go to the census bureau and see if the percentages match. They won’t, unless you make an effort by searching out products that have POC in them.

    Please make the effort.

    Sorry so long.

    May 22nd, 2008 at 7:02 pm

  7. ephelba says:

    MY bad!

    I sent a heartfelt email to the Woodkins site saying I wished they sold dolls representing people of color. I went through their site twice and saw two dolls that looked like they did. I received an email from them today saying they sold many dolls of different ethnic minorities.
    “Lizzy (W703) is Hispanic, Kimmy (704) is Asian, Tiffany (W803) is Afro-American, Groovy Girl Yvette (W403) is Afro American or a mix, Hawaii (W911) is a Pacific Islander, Violet (W641) is dark skinned either Hispanic or Afro American.”
    All I can say in my defense is that I could not tell by looking at the thumbnails. I assume that one can tell when one has the product in one’s hands.
    By all means, please support companies like this one who make the effort to make toys for all children.

    May 23rd, 2008 at 7:14 pm