There’s probably no child on earth who hasn’t had a doll of one kind of another. Whether it is a Native American’s corn husk doll or a boutique doll from Europe tailor made for its little well-to-do-recipient, the joy of getting that sweet little imitation of life is always wonderful to see.
Although children probably stop and wonder how baby dolls are made at some point, parents don’t always know the answer themselves, but are curious too! To satisfy your own curiosity and that of your child, continue reading!
The Pre-production Process
As most of today’s dolls are made out of plastic in factories that can crank literally thousands of them out per day, that’s the kind of doll this overview will focus on.
First of all, the doll needs to be designed – its special features need to be discussed, the materials, outfits and color schemes decided on, and ultimately approved by the higher-ups in the toy making company. The design is usually finalized in CAD software so specialized machines can start making moulds for the dolls’ various body parts.
Before the dolls can be made, materials need to be chosen. The doll’s body is usually made out of either a hard or a softer, more rubbery kind of plastic. In recent years manufacturers are increasingly becoming aware of harmful chemicals and are avoiding their use in the plastic. Nylon is usually used for the hair if the doll has any, while the fabrics its clothes are made from and the colors with which they’re painted are non-toxic too.
Making a Doll
Once the factory has everything to make the doll in place, the process begins by heating the plastic until it assumes liquid form. This is the stage where the doll’s skin color is determined, and color is added to the plastic to make it just right.
Once the plastic is hot enough, it is injected into special moulds called roto moulds, named so after the rotating motion they go through. As the plastic cools and the mould rotates, every square inch of it is coated with plastic, making for a hollow body part that is then extracted with a satisfying pop and set to cool.
Once all the body parts have been made, they go onto an assembly line where they’re checked for defects and assembled. Since they’re interchangeable, this process is fast and efficient. If the doll’s eyes weren’t a part of the initial head cast, they are inserted after the rest of the doll has been assembled. Meanwhile their clothes are being sewn separately and are made ready for dress-up.
When all of the doll’s parts have been screwed in tightly, more delicate, and hands-on work can begin. This involves sewing the doll’s hair on, and possibly even styling it manually in the case of higher-end models, and delicately applying the finishing touches to its facial features. This is also when the baby doll’s outfit is put onto it, or sewn on in some cases.
With the dolls fully assembled, it’s time for quality control – there are dozens of possible defects like sharp bits left over from the moulding process, stray hairs or stuffing that’s sticking out, faulty stitching etc., which need to be identified and taken care of immediately. All doll manufacturers have to adhere to strict safety regulations as the end users are small children in this case, and extra care needs to be taken to protect their health.
Provided a baby doll was given the green light by quality control, it moves on to be packaged along with any accessories it might come with. Stacks of boxes with the new dolls are then usually placed inside bigger cardboard boxes which are sealed, put onto pallets, and transported via forklift to trucks, which then take them to designated warehouses. From there, they’re shipped both locally and around the world to the delight of children everywhere.
One might argue that this kind of production process takes away some of the dolls’ charm. While that may be true, it drastically reduces the price of and time required to make each individual doll, making dolls whose quality is continually increasing accessible to more children than ever before.