Uthando Project

TREE Dolls

If you’re planning to make dolls for TREE, please read our latest guidelines, which we updated in May 2014, following the visit of Bertha Magoge, Director of TREE.

To sum up, we need the priority being given to making hundreds of boy and girl dolls, with black hair, no beads or buttons, bright, simple-to-dress clothing and a long, easily-tied child wrap.

TREE Guidelines

First of all, TREE can use as many dolls as we can provide, as they work with 40,000 children each year. They are hugely appreciative of our dolls. Please don’t worry if you have sent a doll that follows our past guidelines (including buttons or a doll wrap) – it will have been used and loved.

Softness and strength.

Dolls for TREE are often knitted (for softness and strength), with one item of removable clothing and a child wrap. The long ‘child wrap’ (at least 140 cms long by approx 35 cms) is made of soft fabric or knit fabric. It can be easily knotted by a child to tie their doll on their back. Smaller children can use this wrap to wrap the doll in, or as a doll blanket. To nurture the doll is to nurture oneself.

Boy dolls.

TREE definitely needs more boy dolls, in a 60:40 ratio of girls:boys. One way of making boy dolls look boyish is to pull out the side “skin” and make into ears. Try embroidering with straighter lines for eyebrows and mouth. Also make the hair ‘wig’ smaller for boys, starting it at the top head seam to allow the brow to be broad and clear. Avoid using bright red for boys’ lips. Try different browns or ochre colours.

Black hair.

Different textures of hair and clothing are important for little fingers. For children of this age, who aren’t familiar with the world of fancy hair weaves, we really want all hair to be black.

Avoid beads.

 Sewn dolls with shoulder bags and extra clothing can suit the older children. A child wrap is again ideal. Avoid any beads, buttons, button eyes or jewellery for these pre-schoolers and to protect smaller brothers and sisters when the Family Facilitator visits the home with a bag of toys, blocks and puzzles. Instead, be creative with decorations made from braid, felt, knotted fabric, embroidered or appliquéd patterns or images.

Animal dolls

TREE also appreciates lots of knitted balls, animals and a few large hand puppets for use in the crèche by the facilitatorMonkeys are popular, also old men, grannies, footballers in green and gold or black and white uniforms, plus dolls with lots of accessories, eg beanies, scarves, extra top or simple skirt packed in a doll’s shoulder bag.


Please secure beanies at the back of the head with a loose stitch, not a safety pin. Consider all the different fastenings (velcro, cords, ribbons, but not buttons) to give the children practice in “doing up”. Stitch any belt or threaded ribbons to secure at the centre back.

Future designs

 Because TREE’s children are aged 0–4 (they can enrol in Grade R when they turn 5) we are designing more soft doll toys which can be held by small hands and which make a sound when shaken. We will soon have patterns on the website for sewn, knitted and crocheted little “shaker” dolls.

Uthando Project