beauty

The dolls we'd like to see more of

Many a little girl and boy has weathered the ups and downs of childhood with a toy doll by their side.

It's not hard to see why kids love them. They're sturdy, easily transported, and make excellent characters for the kind of fantastical plots that only exist in a child's imagination (seriously - not even Quentin Tarantino could dream up the narratives being acted out in childrens' bedrooms right now).

Yet if there's one downside of dolls - aside from the fact their hair won't grow back after it's been shorn off by a naughty brother - it's that they all tend to look the same. It's rare to come across a figurine that isn't Caucasian in appearance with flowing hair, ultra-feminine clothing and impossibly slender proportions - or, in the case of male dolls, impossibly rock-solid muscles.

In a world where no two people look the same, and where cultures are mixing together more than ever before, dolls represent such a narrow cross-section of what people and children actually look like. It's hard enough to teach kids to accept and love their appearance as it is - wouldn't it be awesome if toys could offer a hand in that department? If we had any say in it, here are the kinds of dolls we'd love to see more of.

1. Hearts for Hearts Girls

Hearts for Hearts Girls are a double whammy of awesome.

The dolls (pictured above) represent a diverse range of cultures and countries, including Belarus, Laos and Ethiopia, with each doll dressed in authentic fashions from her region. One of the most recent additions is Shola from Afghanistan (right), who sports a vibrant hijab. Considering you don't see many dolls on the market that Muslim girls can identify with, Shola is quite remarkable.

But that's not the only reason these dolls are so great. Each one comes with her own story, inspired by the experiences of real girls struggling against challenging circumstances around the world. For some, it's political unrest; for others, extreme poverty. As part of the company's mission to "empower girls to become agents of change in their communities", a portion of the price of each doll is donated to children's causes in the countries they represent.

Dolls that look like real little girls AND make a difference? That's one to add to the Christmas list.

2. Dolls for Downs

Connie Feda decided to create dolls with the physical features of children with Down syndrome after her daughter Hannah, 13, complained that none of her dolls looked like her.

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"I want Hannah to see a doll with Down Syndrome and see something beautiful, because that’s what I see when I look at her," the American mum told Huffington Post earlier this year.

Connie launched Dolls for Downs, a line of boy and girl toys which measure at 18 inches and bear typical Down syndrome characteristics, such as almond eyes and flat noses. Buyers can even opt for their doll to have a heart scar to make it look even more realistic and relatable.

The figures also come with changeable outfits (equipped with zippers, velcro, buttons, ties and snaps) designed to teach their young owners important motor skills.

"Every kid deserves a best friend. Every kid wants to fit in. Often children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities find themselves out of the social loop. Dolls, to any child, offer companionship. To a kid with Downs or another disability, a doll can offer so much more," the Dolls for Downs website states. Amen to that.

3. Barbie with realistic proportions

Since she first arrived on the scene in 1959, Barbara Millicent Roberts has been something of a celebrity in the toy world.

There's a lot to love about Barbie - she's had several fulfilling career paths and a committed relationship, and she's a proud real estate owner. But her appearance is far from realistic. A woman with Barbie's proportions would not be able to support her body weight or even lift her head, and essential organs would not physically fit inside her body. That's a little problematic.

Instead of portraying unattainable ideals about the female form, what if Barbie just looked like the kinds of bodies kids see every day? A 24-year-old artist and researcher, Nickolay Lamm, decided to give it a shot.

Lamm created a 3D model with the proportions of the average 19-year-old American girl and placed her beside her famous Mattel counterpart - and she looks pretty great. Perhaps Lamm could do the same with Action Man or Ken next - after all, not every little boy will grow up to have a rock-hard set of abs or a perpetual tan.

If kids could play with dolls with an array of body types and skin colours, it could make all the difference to how they view themselves and others as they grow up. Besides, variety is the spice of life - surely the same applies in the toybox?

If you could improve the dolls available for kids these days, what would you do?

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