cuddle+kind: dolls

These are adorable, hand-crafted dolls and for every doll sold the company provides meals to food-insecure children around the world. Going in to this review, I assumed this wasn’t a typical product review for me. It didn’t seem necessarily green or environmentally friendly, they don’t employ innovative manufacturing or marketing techniques, nor is their manufacturing process something that can be replicated on a mass scale. But they are providing something very valuable for the planet and my good friend just had a baby so I made an exception. Plus they are so cute!

66 million primary school-aged children attend classes hungry every day.

cuddle+kind

ABOUT THE PRODUCT

cuddle + kind makes hand-knitted dolls that are sold online. These are high quality products that are targeted for an upscale market. According to their website they use premium natural cotton and are handmade by artisans in Peru. Marketed as “heirloom quality”, these are meant to last for generations. There are two sizes you can order: 13″ doll for $50 and a 20″ doll for $72. Whichever size you buy, they promise to provide 10 meals to kids around the world. They also offer inspirational prints based on their dolls.

Photo Credit: cuddle+kind

I saved some of my favorite plush toys to hand down to my kids. I recently took them out of the box and turns out they were kind of dirty and dusty and not as cool as I remember. It was a bit underwhelming. My kids were kind of meh about them and I didn’t feel attached like I thought I might. But it was fun for a minute to reminisce and show them what I loved. Toys can provide emotional support and comfort for children, a vital part of childhood. It’s one of the things I loved about working in toys. How many of the toys produced today will evoke that response? Or will be precious treasures our kids will be able to save and pass on? The way kids play today is different and most toys are made to last six months at most. But not these precious dolls by cuddle+kind.

USING THEM

I purchased the Avery 13″ doll, assuming it was fairly gender neutral for my friend who chose not to find out the gender of her baby. It took four days to receive my doll after ordering. Super fast! It arrived in a plastic bag wrapped in branded tissue paper.

Avery doll. Photo Credit: Kimberly Offenberg

These are high quality and you can tell by all of the details they put into making them. There are sweet little accents like pockets, cloth buttons and stitched-in clothing. The head on my lamb is a thick crochet. There are two sewn-in-labels made of cloth instead of plastic like most plush toys. There is a third label on the wrist, a “signature wristband”, which says “one doll = 10 meals”. I’m on the fence about the importance of that label. The seams all feel very solid and secure. No gaps if you tug on them like other plush out there. It has a medium amount of stuffing, not overstuffed so as to be stiff. It’s squishes but still holds its form nicely.

ECONOMICS

As mentioned, these are designed for an upscale market. These dolls will not be competing with low end or even high quality mass market plush found at Walmart or Target from makers including Aurora, Gund, or Animal Adventures. The quality and designs are simple and modern, and with a starting price point of $50 they feel more like they belong in a Pottery Barn catalog.

ANYTHING ELSE?

cuddle+kind provides 10 meals to a child in need for every doll sold. According to their website, “45% of deaths in children under five are caused by poor nutrition – 3.1 million children each year.” They have partnered with humanitarian agencies to provide healthy and nutritious meals to school children in 66 countries, including the United States, Peru, Canada and Kenya. Some of these organizations help the communities build gardens, teaching them how to farm and build life long skills. As of the end of 2018 they have provided 7.4 million meals. They’ve stated that for many children, the meal at school is the only meal they will eat that day. This might be the saddest thing I’ve read. And makes me so grateful I’ve been able to help in some small way. If you’d like to read more about their mission, click here.

Our goal is to provide one million meals a year.

cuddle+kind

WHAT PROBLEM DO THEY HELP SOLVE?

When I started this I thought I might be focused mostly on the food program, assuming that plush toys aren’t very damaging. In fact, in my previous life I designed plush toys, working directly with many plush factories in China. Compared with plastic toys they seemed way less damaging. As with many things, I’m finding, you can almost always dig up some negative element of the life cycle. Upon further research into plush toys, there are some interesting points raised about environmental and health concerns with the production process. So below I’ve spelled out a few issues that are worth mentioning. However, I’m not convinced that plush toys are the biggest threat to the environment, let alone the biggest threat in the toy industry.

Maximus. Photo Credit: cuddle+kind

If you were inclined to buy a doll or plush toy for a child and chose one of the myriad options out there now most likely you would be buying a product covered by polyester fibers. Polyester fibers are plastic fibers made using petrochemicals and during the manufacturing process could contaminate water. Additionally the stuffing could contain additional petrochemicals and/or pesticide laden cotton. Sometimes the textiles are coated with a fire retardant and may contain other metals such as lead or cadmium. While this might not be the largest of environmental disasters, it still contributes to the overall demand for crude oil. cuddle+kind dolls use polyester stuffing and knit cotton, which do not necessarily eliminate these concerns.

With that said, they do promote fair trade practices, providing equitable wages and flexible hours to allow moms to earn a living. I can certainly appreciate that! I can’t vouch for their manufacturing process and there are certainly larger questions about labor in developing economies, but I like that this is something they are making a big deal about. They talk about it in several parts of their website, making it a fundamental tenet to their company philosophy.

Violet doll. Photo Credit: cuddle+kind

DO I RECOMMEND THEM?

Yes! Of course there is a huge financial barrier but if you are thinking of buying a gift for a new baby, and if it’s a financial option for you, consider buying one of these very special dolls. You will feel good, it is unique and your friend will feel happy about receiving something that is doing good for the world. A world their new precious baby is coming into. Why not help to make it a little better from the get-go?

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