There are some great options for plush toys, whether you're shopping for the Christmas holiday or another occasion. (For more gift ideas check out our gift guide).
Dolls and plush animals by Noukies is the brand I am most familiar with (and they have been in business the longest) so I admit to being a little favorably biased. My daughter was introduced to the Noa doll (see photo on right) when she was an infant and now more than 4 years later, this doll is almost as soft as when we got her. She has been washed multiple times, thrown, caught in a door, tossed in the tub and has held up very well (her skirt had a mesh-type lining that frayed and had to be cut out but the rest of her looks wonderful). We have since bought Lola the Cow and Paco the Donkey and although they don't get as much abuse they are still very well made.
There are a host of characters from hippos and lions to other dolls and more plushes for boys and girls (although I think there are more choices for girls). Besides plush toys, they offer blankets, rattles, pull toys and rockers. The one major down side is since FAO Schwarz stopped carrying the brand, it can be difficult for U.S. customers to locate and buy them. There are several British online merchants who will not ship to the U.S. and Amazon rarely has them, leaving parents with the option of having a friend in Europe or the United Kingdom buy and ship for you or purchasing them on ebay. There are often items on ebay but if you're searching for a particular character (such as Noa who is not readily available), you could be waiting a while and paying a hefty price tag. However, I think the cute factor, durability and the fact that my daughter still adores her Noukie dolls 4 years later (she still snuggles with Noa every night) makes it worth the effort.
Prices varies from $8 to more than $100 depending on the character, its size, the toy (ie rockers are expensive) and merchant location.
These dolls are so "ugly" they're cute! The Ugglydolls tend to look like little stuffed monsters but like those found in Disney's Monsters, Inc, these cuddly creatures are not scary. They're covered in a soft fleecy material and the stitching is very kid-friendly (although I still wouldn't leave an infant with any stuffed animal unattended).
We've only had two Uglydolls for a few months, the Pink Ox for my daughter and Little Ugly Turny Burny for my son, but they're popular toys in our household. My son is only a few months old and the Little Ugly is a great size at 7-inches tall and light enough for him to grasp during playtime. Ox is one of the larger plush toys at 14 inches tall and is perfect for a toddler or preschooler to tote around. My daughter plays with Ox, sleeps with her and sometimes even uses her as a pillow.
Because we've only had them a short time, I can't say what their lifespan will be although there's no reason to think they can't hold up being washed and handled for years. Like Noukies, there are several characters that will appeal to boys and girls. They also make other items including clothing, blankets, adorable action figures, tin toys and more. Their site also has a fun arcade section with games for older kids.
Unlike Noukies, you can find these dolls fairly easily: directly through the company's website, on Amazon and through other specialty stores in your area. The Little Ugly Dolls tend to cost around $10 while the larger ones are sold for about $20 and there even 2-foot dolls for $50 but you can find them for less, particularly on Amazon, depending on the character.
Little Ugly Dolls (7-inch) tend to be about $10; 14-inch dolls are usually $20 and 2-foot plushes are typically $50.
Disney's Pook a Looz are a snuggly addition to any child's household for a reasonable price (for most characters). I don't own one but I have seen them and they appear to be kid-tough and kid-friendly. The really neat thing about these plush dolls besides the cuddle factor, is the wonderful selection of favorite Disney characters for boys and girls. Just some of the Pook-a-Looz character lines available include:
The Pook a Looz plushes are typically 12 inches but there are some 10-inch toys and can range in price from about $12 to more than $30 depending on the character and its popularity. They can be purchased at the Disney Store, Toys R Us (although they had a limited selection of plushes) and Amazon. Right now, the Disney Store is selling certain Pook A Looz for 2 for $20.
As with many Disney themes, they don't stop at plush toys. There are Pook A Looz pins, keychains, Wobblers (which appear to be the Pook-A-Looz version of Weebles) and wind-up toys.
Pook-A-Looz Plush Toys can range sell for about $12 to more than $30 depending on the character and the retailer although the Disney Store is selling some of them for 2 for $20. Pook-A-Looz Wobblers, keychains and wind-up toys tend to sell for about $6.
Parenthood NJ Picks