By Pamela Chan, Contributor

Since my daughter received her Maplelea doll, she’s enjoyed caring for her and taking her around town. Taryn has gone to school for Show and Tell, to ballet class and other social events. It also sits on the edge of my daughter’s bed while she sleeps.  “What kind of doll is she?”, other children and their parents ask. “She’s a Maplelea doll”, my daughter replies. If Maplelea needs a Brand Ambassador, my daughter has certainly put the name to memory. When I was a girl, there weren’t as many options in the 18″ doll category. One doll that I had seen in craft magazines – modeling doll clothes that you could make – was 16″ tall. I didn’t know anyone who owned this doll and I always thought it would be a dream to own one. A Maplelea doll would have been just as exciting for me.

The Maplelea company was founded ten years ago. The dolls are designed to be age appropriate for young girls, create an interest in Canadian culture and heritage, and be affordable. The company achieves this by offering the dolls directly from their website, catalogue and call centre. By selling direct to the consumer, this high quality product can be more affordable. The dolls come with a catalogue that is brimming with stories, photos and accessories options.

What You Receive

The Maplelea doll is 18 ” (46 cm) tall, designed in Canada and tested for international and Canadian Safety Standards. If you already own an 18″ doll, all of the clothing and the accessories in the catalogue will fit that doll. (The many clothing patterns for 18″ dolls that you can find on Pinterest will also fit the Maplelea dolls.)

The doll is delivered in a high quality and sturdy blue box. The box can be used to store the doll’s accessories or repurposed for some other use in your house. At our house we always reuse attractive packaging. I was delighted to see the doll arrive in this box. We use our box to hold art supplies on our art table.

The eyes open and close, and the mouth and facial expression are formed to look pleasant and thoughtful. When you look at the doll sitting on its own, it looks like it is contemplating a pleasant thought. Taryn comes with an outfit that includes a turtleneck, khaki skirt, tights, hiking boots and hair clip. Her family story places her in Banff, Alberta, so this outfit would be perfect for going on a hike. The body is soft and huggable and has molded vinyl arms, legs and face. It can hold objects in its hands – if you’d like to buy accessories such as a backpack or bag – and wears high quality footwear. Even though it isn’t a porcelain doll, the surface of the doll – its “skin” – has a soft and realistic complexion rather than a plastic look. The wig on the doll – its “hair” – looks thick and shiny and feels like real hair. The hair texture is well suited for brushing and braiding.

The journal that accompanies the doll includes 64 pages. Half of these pages are illustrated and include biographical information about the doll. The other half of the pages are available for the new owner to use. There are forms with questions and prompts about topics that would be of interest to a young girl. These journals are either bilingual or trilingual.

Each of the dolls has a story that has been written about them and is described as living in different parts of the country. The extra clothes and accessories that can be ordered fit with the lifestyle a real girl would live in that part of Canada. Girls from other provinces and territories can learn about what is happening in different parts of the country when they read about these dolls. In the catalogue you can also see photographs of real owners with specific Maplelea dolls. It’s fun to look at client submitted photos of girls around Canada with their dolls.

You can also purchase accessories; themed outfits; furniture such as table and chairs, a bed and closet; a classroom set up; and, pets and their accessories. The range of topics covered currently includes themes and items such as:

  • horse riding and farm life;
  • attending a cultural event such as the ballet, carnival, East Coast Music Awards, circus or music festival;
  • Ukrainian dance and Scottish dance outfit;
  • contemporary clothing reflecting Inuit heritage including a traditional parka, tunic dress, Inuit amautiit (traditional outer garments) and Pang hats;
  • clothes for high country hiking, clam digging, camping, shopping and going about town; and,
  • clothes for ballet, ice skating, gymnastics, ice hockey, fitness, soccer, running, snow boarding, snow shoeing, ringette, cheer leading, basketball, volleyball, tennis, karate, jazz dance

In addition to the named dolls in the catalogue, there are 12 dolls with different lengths and colour of hair, eyes and skin tone. You can make your own doll choice if the themed dolls don’t quite meet your needs.   Two colours of eye glasses are available if a girl who wears glasses would like a pair for her doll.  At our home I was pleased to receive Taryn because my daughter is Eurasian. I’d like her to have a doll that has similar features to her own. It would be nice to see the main characters have hair styles that are different hair lengths and textures, although the additional 12 dolls include wavy and curly hair.

If a girl likes to play school, there is an extensive Maplelea School Set that includes a foldout classroom, worksheets, lesson and other decorations and accessories. You can see more about the school in this video.

Pirouettes and Pliés

We received the 9 piece ballet practice set with the Taryn doll. It includes a hand-beaded and sequined bodysuit, 2 layer wrap skirt, knitted wrap sweater, dance tights, knit leg warmers, embroidered bag, embroidered towel, ballet slippers and bun maker. An additional journal page about Canada’s national ballet is include. On the Maplelea YouTube site you can find information about how to use the bun maker. This set is well thought out and looks beautiful on the doll. My daughter enjoys bringing her doll to ballet class where it sits on a chair while my daughter takes her class.

My Conclusions

These dolls are recommended for girls who are 6+ years of age. They are also not recommended for girls who are 3 and under due to the small parts. Once a girl is able to look after a doll carefully, this would be the time to get a Maplelea doll. This is a doll that begs to be groomed, used in open-ended play, handled carefully and taken about. The Maplelea catalogue even includes a backpack with a front pocket designed for the doll. This is a super idea and I’m thinking it would make a great birthday gift for my daughter.

The main investment is the initial purchase of the doll. Since the doll comes with an attractive outfit, further purchases of other outfits and accessories are optional. You could even make your own outfits and accessories. That said, the selection of items in the catalogue is really appealing and there are many options for further purchases or gifts from other friends and family.

The Maplelea doll is described as being a Canadian doll for Canadian girls. You can hear a synopsis of the values and ideas that the company promotes in the Real Canadian Girl music video (see below). It is also a doll that could appeal to non-Canadian girls and doll collectors – both those who are interested in Canadian culture and those who simply like the dolls or like the themes of some of the dolls.

Disclosure: I received a sample of a product to facilitate my review. No other compensation was provided and all views and opinions stated on this post are 100% my own.