I’ve never let go of my love of paper dolls, ever since I played with them myself. (No, not last week with my kids; I mean a loooong time ago.) While our paper dolls apps on my iPhone get a ton of play, so do the regular old paper variety. A little more mess, but also a lot more creativity.
It’s funny that recently the New York Times covered them like a new trend, even though we (and plenty of design blogs) have featured plenty of paper dolls over the years. In any case, nice to be validated!
Since they’re here to stay, I hope you enjoy this nice, tight roundup of some of my very favorites, and some new favorites too. Trust me, we spent a lot of time weeding out the terrible ones.
Bonus: All of our picks are printable, all of them are free.
Last year we hit the paper doll motherlode, with the discovery of Teri Pettit’s site offering every single Betsy McCall paper doll printable in high-res, from 1950-1961. I must say I have a heart for the 1959 Betsy McCall Visits the United Nations page, since that’s about the age that my own mother went on behalf of Girl’s Nation. And how cool is it that she’s holding a UNICEF box?
Since we first discovered Tiny-Us and their wonderful, modern paper dolls, they’ve added some fabulous new styles including a superhero and Japanese princess. There’s also a series of Valentine’s paper dolls which double as greeting cards, and even ones in which you can include your own child’s face. Officially they’re free, but they are part of a charity project, so donate what you can, and 100% goes to local children’s charities.
If you’ve got a kid obsessed with Snow White, Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty, first of all, don’t panic–they’ll outgrow it (ha). Secondly, Paper Dolls by Gail has some very decent renditions of Disney Princess Paper Dolls and while there aren’t too many outfits, I think it would be cool to print them in black and white and let your kids color them themselves.
Dot and Roscoe
Artist Martin of The Black Apple has appealed to our dark side for a while now, and her Dot and Roscoe paper dolls that she kindly created for free download aren’t quite dark, but they’re so evocative they do lead one to create more imaginative stories than just walking that super cute doggie.
Victoria and Daniel
These printable paper dolls by illustrator Lotta Bruhn were created to celebrate the Swedish Royal Wedding in 2010. Because the bride and groom didn’t get married in their skivvies, you’ll find some fun modern tuxedos and royal function dresses in modern shapes that are easy for younger kids to manipulate if they do the cutting themselves.
Be My Paper Doll Valentines
For another fun vintage option, the Be My Paper Doll Valentines by A-Meri-Card offers four pages with a Valentine theme. There are two boys and two girls, but I sort of love “Jimmy,” with his flying ace outfit, and an apple for the teacher. Very 1957–or so I’ve been told.
Tiny Littles Paper Dolls by The Toymaker
How great to see such a range of boys and girls of different ethnicities. These printable paper dolls from talented toy maker and children’s book illustrator Marilyn Scott Waters, come with a small range of cool historic outfits, including information about each. Love that Scout gets to be a cowgirl. Halloween outfits too. They’re free, but you can subscribe to her newsletter (which looks great for loads of craft ideas!) or leave a donation via Paypal if you choose.
My kids are cracking up at the Liddle Kiddles baby paper dolls, with a combination of “that’s so cute!” And “that’s so weird!” Also, they’re matching them up to the American Girl Dolls, deciding which is a baby version of whom. Big hit in our house, clearly. And six pages of outfits means lots of late-’60s space age fun with the wacky wardrobes. Just make sure you’re printing the dolls the same size as the wardrobes. (And psst…an X-acto knife would come in very handy with these. )
For Downton Abbey-era fun, 1920’s Polly Pratt Valentine’s Paper Dolls are so frilly and over the top. There’s also a page of school friends including more outfits. Can you imagine sitting in school all day in those dresses? Phew.
One of our favorite crafters has offered a whole page of free downloads, including these colorful, modern, and free printable paper dolls. My girls love the look of these and the simplicity is great for younger kids. Just know you’ll have to cut your own folding tabs on these.
Patty Reed Designs
Created by the former illustrator of all those gorgeous Simplicity Pattern kits, the free printable Patty Reed Paper dolls have that vaguely 70’s feel, in a good way. And it’s nice to see a little more ethnic diversity than what most of the vintage styles offer. I’m partial to the younger dolls, but I could see where your kids might prefer playing with “the big sisters.” Either way, the numerous wardrobe choices for each of them will certainly keep your kids busy on the next cold weekend day indoors.