There are a lot of beautiful, wonder-full toys out there. I do adore many of them. (If you want great toy stores in the twin cities, try Peapods, Wonderment, The Essence of Nonsense) But really, often, the simplest are the best. I especially love handmade waldorf or stiener dolls. But I think Maria Montessorri was right, that it is the very poverty of [toys] which speaks to the soul of the child, along with the care which a parent takes in making them.Toymaking With Children, a book I highly recommend. You don't need to be an artist to make these kinds of toys, and they are the best, really all a child actually wants. I have noticed that Gibbie consistently chooses to play with these simplest (crude, even) of babies over much more beautiful dolls. These are the ones he loves and takes care of. He oh so carefully made this basket into a bed for them, arranging the blanket, trying different situations with the pillows, guarding them from Ezra! Gibbie was aghast that his brother wanted to cover the babies with a blanket, "he covers their faces!" Ezra later added other babies to the carefully arranged cradle-bed when Gibbie was napping.
To make a cradle doll:
-find soft fabric--extra receiving blankets, pieces cut from soft old shirts, flannel.
-ball up some rags to make a head. let some hang a little lower than the head to give the neck stability. Wrap them in something so that it won't fall apart.
-cover this with the soft fabric
-Tie a cord or strip of cloth around the outside fabric to make the head and neck.