These mums are giving our kids a choice as to what types of dolls they play with and for that we say thanks.
I consider myself lucky that my daughter doesn’t really play with Barbie dolls… yet…
Oh, she has a few, but she’s more prone to cutting Barbie‘s hair off pretending to be a hairdresser than dressing her in a wedding gown and walking her down the aisle with Big Ted.
Occasionally, I see her plonking spikey-haired Barbie on top of Sven, the Frozen reindeer, and riding her over the top of an imaginary ice mountain, but my four-year-old is much more infatuated with Arendale than Malibu.
Sure, she has other dolls but they are more the odd-looking baby-type ones that wee when you tip water down their tiny plastic mouths.
It could be the influence of two big brothers but she gets more delight from making her ‘baby’ wet her nappy than from any other form of play with her.
So I am well aware that so far, SO FAR I have managed to dodge the Barbie bullet.
But my daughter is just four, and the future is long.
I wonder how I will feel if she does become entrenched with that cosmetically enhanced plastic goddess? I wonder how I will react.
For many mums there is a very real concern that hyper-sexualised dolls, like Barbie may be harming our children. They fear they may be a factor in contributing to a range of issues we worry about our children experiencing.
We worry they will have body image problems. We worry they will develop eating disorders.
We worry that the dolls are too grown up, that they encourage our daughters to be too aware.
We worry about the way our kids are simply growing up too bloody quickly and we yearn for them to stay lost in childhood for as long as possible.
According to a survey by Mission Australia, poor body image is among the top concerns for young people with girls as young as five, reporting weight concerns and wishing they were thinner.
And so we say bravo to a team of New Zealand mothers who have established a line of dolls that simply celebrate childhood.
The Beetle Bottoms range of dolls was created by mum Fiona Whyte and her daughters Sarah Hill and Madison Holroyd with an aim of keeping kids kids.
They have strived to show racial inclusivity and natural healthy children’s bodies, not exaggerated, hyper-sexualised adult bodies.
“Children's dolls teach children about the world. They communicate what is normal, desirable and accepted,” says psychology major and mother of 3-year-old, Sarah Hill.
Co-creator Madison Holroyd said, “Children feel a huge pressure to be and look like the doll they played with. Many popular dolls on the market put adult pressures on children.”
“They show unrealistic body ideals and are often sexualised well before they are ready.”
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They aren’t the first to create a range of normal looking dolls, and of course, it is terrific for parents to have choices they can make when it comes to what they believe is best for their children to play with.
But it does bring us back to the question. Are dolls harmful for children?
As much as I personally dread the day my daughter moves from Elsa to Barbie, as a survivor of a long term eating disorder myself, I do not worry that playing with a doll could see my daughter mentally ill with an eating disorder.
I know, from personal experience that the reasons why young men and women develop such conditions is much more varied and complex than playing with Barbie.
I know that in trying to minimise the chances of this happening there are so many other ways we can model to our daughters' good body image – starting with showing them our own comfort in our own skins.
But I can understand the concerns, and I do share those of many mothers that our children are growing up too soon.
Again though, I can’t see any way to solely place the blame for that on the shoulders of a plastic doll.
There are so many reasons, social media, TV, movies, YouTube, the clothing we dress them in, the advertisements they see, and yes, on some levels the toys that they play with that factor in to rip away the magic of childhood.
In trying to hold onto this magic, we need all the tools we can get.
So again we say bravo to this new wave of toy designers who are helping give us parent’s choice.
The choice to bring children up the way we want.
How do you feel about "grown-up" looking dolls?
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