DIY Doll Nursery

(For Ages 2+)


  • Cardboard
  • Bedding like pillowcases and sheets
  • Towels
  • Two pieces of rope
  • Tissues
  • Tape
  • Dolls or stuffed animals

Prep Time:

  • 5 minutes

Recipe for Fun!

Everything you need to create a pretend nursery for your child’s dolls can be found around the house! Note that many of these ideas involve cutting, tying and other skills that are either dangerous or too complex for children to do, so they require parental help. The good news is that creating dramatic play areas, like DIY doll nurseries, will encourage your child to engage in imaginative play independently - and create a fun spot for playdates.

Emotional Skill-Building Tip: While you are helping your child create their DIY doll nursery furniture and accessories, treat their “baby” like a real baby and point out things that may make their doll uncomfortable. For instance: “The blanket is bumpy, should you smooth it out for baby?” Show care with the doll’s head and neck, and handling the toy in a gentle, loving manner. Children practice real skills in play - and they will appreciate your experience and put your advice to work while pretending to parent their dolls and stuffed animals.

3 Ideas for Creating a DIY Doll Nursery:

  • DIY Doll Nursery Cradle from a Shoebox: Young children love to imitate the rituals of childhood in play. Putting baby down for a nap, or tucking them in a night is core to dramatic doll play. Creating a DIY doll cradle from a shoebox or cardboard box is simple:
    • For a shoebox: Place a shoebox inside of a standard-sized pillowcase. Push the pillowcase down inside the shoebox. The pillowcase will act as a liner for the cradle. Fold a towel into a rectangle and place it inside the box. The towel becomes the cradle’s mattress. For a pillow, have your child fold a washcloth in half.
    • If you are using a larger cardboard box, fold all the box flaps inward, tucking them down to reinforce the sides of the box. Fold a twin-sized flat sheet in half. Drape the folded sheet over the box, pressing it down inside the box. Fold the excess sheet under the box neatly, so the box is still level. Fold a beach towel to match the dimensions of the box’s interior. Use a folded pillowcase or guest towel as a pillow.

  • DIY Cardboard Doll Swing: Kids don’t just love to swing, they also love having their turn at pushing others. But most little ones don’t get the opportunity because it’s dangerous for them to stand behind others on the swing. But, this dramatic play idea solves that - and lets kids swing their dolls or stuffed animals to their heart’s content:
    • Find a square cardboard box 12x12x12 or smaller. To check if a box will work, place your child’s doll inside. If the doll’s bottom fits inside the box, it will work as a DIY doll swing.
    • Choose one side of the box to be the front of the swing. Along both corners of this side, cut the box halfway down.
    • On the same front side of the box, cut two holes for the doll’s legs to go through.
    • Now you will attach the two pieces of rope. First, make sure it is long enough to reach from the top of the doorway or tree branch to a spot near the ground where your child can reach. Punch two small holes near the top of both sides of the swing. Make sure that the holes are level with each other, and the holes on the other side of the box. Loop each piece of rope through both holes on each side of the box and tie the ends together.
    • Hang your child’s new DIY doll swing from a doorway or on a tree branch outside.

  • DIY Doll Hospital: This play space will recreate the hospital environment for newborns, so kids can expand doll play to include pediatrician, nurse and parent.
    • DIY Doll Hospital Bassinet: In the real hospital, babies are placed inside of plastic bassinets. This is easy to recreate realistically at home by placing a folded towel inside of an open, transparent plastic storage container.
    • DIY Doll Hospital Bracelets: With scissors and plain white paper, kids can create bracelets for each doll in their care. Scotch tape both keeps the bracelet secure and has a similar look and feel to the real thing.
    • DIY Doll Bandages: If you don’t want to hand your child a box of real adhesive bandages, give them a roll of masking tape. Masking tape is less sticky than real band-aids, and can easily be removed from both doll “skin” and the floor, furniture, etc.
    • DIY Doll Mask: A folded tissue and two hair elastics can serve as a doll medical mask.

What children learn from playing with dolls: Boys and girls learn empathy, caretaking and build their imaginations when playing with dolls. They also build executive functioning skills during independent, unstructured play, like the ability to regulate their own behavior, and control their emotions.