The more positive dolls

Most of the research carried out so far has lead to negative comments about barbies and baby dolls giving young children the wrong idea about body image and their role in life. I wanted to take a look at the companies offering toys with a much more positive outlook.

The following images were taken at the London toy fair.



The first image shows rag doll style toys, which would only be popular with a younger customer, the second image shows a more lifelike doll, they were plastic but flexible unlike Barbies. They have a similar body to young girls with flat chests and bodies which aren’t super skinny. These dolls are dressed in quite adult styles of clothing which I do think is a good idea now I have seen how many people have said their children enjoy giving adult roles to their toys, however the clothes are still modest and appropriate for children.


The Only hearts club are an American company offering an alternative to Barbie. The online store gives character descriptions to the dolls. This big and little sister combo has an inspiring character description, its great that this company are telling customers back stories about how the dolls are keen to learn and the good examples that the younger dolls should follow.

It’s Kayla and her little sister, Sydney! Sydney and Kayla love to wear their matching Only Hearts Club jackets. Kayla is proud that Sydney looks up to her and wants to be a member of the Only Hearts Club some day.

A little sister is always looking up to her big sister…watching, learning and imitating, so each Only Hearts Girl™ has an important responsibility to “listen to her heart and do the right thing,” to take care of her little sister, and to set a good example for her. In addition to the Big Sister…Li’l Sister™ sets, Only Hearts Girls and Only Hearts Li’l Kids™ are also sold separately, so you can collect and match your favorites!

Lily stands 9 inches tall and Jessica stands 4 inches tall. Both feature a soft poseable Polyester-filled body with vinyl head and hands, glass eyes and high quality rooted hair.”



What should toys be?

What should toys be?

Some notes on what sort of toys should be given to young children, can we aim to design toys which have the added benefits of educating or encouraging children to be happier and more accepting of themselves.

Breastfeeding doll

This Toy designed for children as young as 2 allows them to ‘breast feed’ their baby doll.

Barbie Syndrome

Although it sounds ridiculous a particular Barbie released in 1965 kick started ‘Barbie Syndrome’ The Slumber party Barbie designed for children shockingly came with a barbie sized book titled ‘how to loose weight’ with ‘don’t eat’ on the back cover.


Barbie Syndrome is the desire to have an appearance or lifestyle exactly like Barbie. Even though the doll has unobtainable body proportions women and girls often seek ways to become a real life Barbie representative. 

There are several women who are living proof of Barbie Syndrome, one being Valeria Lukyanova and Olga Oleynik. 



Bild Lilli, the first Barbie?

Although Barbie is the best selling toy worldwide with 2 being sold every minute, A different doll, Bild Lilli was really where Barbie started, some may even mistake Bild Lilli for a Barbie doll.

Barbie was first conceived when Ruth Handler watched her daughter Barbara at play with paper dolls, and noticed that she often enjoyed giving them adult roles. So, she suggested the idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. Not much happened with the idea first, but then Ruth went on a European vacation and found a German Doll named Bild Lilli. The body type was exactly what she’d been thinking so she bought a few and brought them home. After a few tweaks with the help of Engineer Jack Ryan, The doll was altered enough to be a new creation, Barbie. In 1964, five years after unveiling Barbie at the International Toy fair, Mattel finally bought the rights from Bild-Lilli in Germany.

The first Barbie dolls were manufactured in Japan, with their clothes hand-stitched by Japanese homeworkers. Around 350,000 Barbie dolls were sold during the first year of production. Her first outfit was a white and black zebra patterned swimsuit. Today, three barbie dolls are sold every second somewhere in the world and the line is responsible for more than 80% of Mattel’s profits.

However Bild Lilli was based on cartoon drawings of a Prostitute. And the Bild Lilli doll was a novelty item sold to businessmen in Germany, it was never designed with the intention of being a toy for young girls. 


Creating myself as Barbie


I was interested to find if there are any companies allowing children to create dolls similar to them. When typing this in a search engine the top result was ‘Mattel barbie styled by me’ I styled my Barbie on Mattels website, you are able to name Barbie and then choose one of six pre designed Barbies all the same but with different skin tones and hair colours. then you dress your Barbie in four outfits, one casual, which included corsets and mini skirts, along with platform heels, there was one pair of jeans and one T-shirt on the list meaning there was only really one appropriate outfit to dress Barbie in. The other two outfits were party/cocktail dresses , very short and low cut, and the fourth was a customised pink T-shirt with your name on. The whole range of clothing and shoes for Barbie were quite limiting and very adult, hardly the types of fashion and styles I would associate with a child.

Boys have stereotypes too.

I think it is important to remember that both girls and boys have stereotypes, we automatically associate video games with boys, as the image below suggests and girls are associated with pink and shopping. It is equally as wrong to assume boys are only interested in ‘typical’ boys toys and masculine colours.


boys_toys_grande girly_girl_gift_ideas_grande

“The term “tomboy” is used when referring to a girl who is masculine, and the term “sissy” is used when referring to a boy who is feminine. We need to state what we consider feminine and what is masculine. According to the established sense in the society, femininity and masculinity are tightly bound to gender. Men are supposed to be masculine. They are expected to be strong, rough, to have high stamina. They are not supposed to wear skirts(the Scots are an exception) but trousers, and should avoid colors like pink and violet. These are “feminine” colors. The man in the family is usually the person who should provide money and build a career. On the othere hand, women are supposed to be tender and loving mothers and wives, to wear skirts and to walk on higheels. They are should not have a career, but should take care of the kids and the house.

It seems that these perceptions have been existing forever. That is because from early childhood, we are thought by our parents that pink is for girls, and blue is for boys. The trucks and weaponry toys are for boys and the dolls are for girls. Than, it is not surprising that we accept gender stereotyping and try to fit in the rigid models of feminine and masculine.” (

It seems that the majority of parents are reluctant to give their sons toys aimed at girls such as easy bake oven or a doll.

The perfect Toy?

A formula for the perfect toy has been created in order to create it’s ‘play value’

The equation created by psychologist Cliff Arnall is designed to calculate a toy’s ‘play value’ based on factors including cost, the amount of time a child is expected to spend with it and whether it encourages social interaction. 

A toy that scores 40 or above is considered to to be of excellent value.

Professor Arnall developed the equation after a study of 5,000 parents and children, commissioned by British toy company Worlds Apart, revealed that 65 per cent of youngsters receive Christmas presents they don’t like or don’t play with.

Parents are required to assess a toy against criteria such as creativity and whether it is durable enough to be handed down. 

Each of the five criteria should be given a score out of five and then totalled.

Separately, the amount of time in hours the child is expected to play with the toy needs to be multiplied by the length of time in months the child is expected to keep it.


Mentality of the future?

The image that Barbie portrays only encourages disappointment and could potentially lead to this kind of mentality…


Toymakers challenged on gender stereotypes

The article linked below talks about two sisters and the campaign the founded to ban gender stereotypes within children’s toys. The sisters were both pregnant around the same time one with a boy and the other with a girl, this is when they noticed they were receiving gender specific gifts for the babies and they felt as though small children aren’t given a fair chance to choose what toys and clothes they would like. They then began the organisation Pink Stinks, “Pinkstinks is a campaign that targets the products, media and marketing that prescribe heavily stereotyped and limiting roles to young girls. We believe that all children – girls and boys – are affected by the ‘pinkification’ of girlhood. Our aim is to challenge and reverse this growing trend. We also promote media literacy, self-esteem, positive body image and female role models for kids.” 

The campaign is not here to say girls are not allowed pink, its saying that both girls and boys should choose what they like, rather than having products forced upon them. They want the pink toys to be available for both boys and girls, and the boys toys to be marketed for girls too. They also want to stress the point that there are many ways to be a girl, not all include barbies, pink, easy bake ovens and hair and beauty.

It has been said for a long time that Barbie in particular is not a toy which promotes self confidence and good body image, this article on bbc news explains what a human would look like with Barbies proportions. It will be interesting to try and find out if Barbie really does give impressionable young minds the impression they should aim to be as perfect as a thin, blonde plastic doll.