My grandmother was ushered into a small room inside the Mattel Showroom at the 1959 New York Toy Fair. The people at Mattel wanted to get her opinion separate from my grandfather about a new doll they were introducing.
After the presentation they brought my grandparents together to ask what they thought about the new Barbie doll. My grandfather hemmed and hawed while my grandmother looked at him and said, “You ordered them, didn’t you?”
She saw the value in the aspirational play of the Barbie. Children could dream big and be whomever they wanted to be.
Barbie gave rise to a whole new category of doll play. Now there were three B’s – Baby, Bestie, and Barbie.
Baby Dolls have been with us since the beginning of play. Their longevity is of no surprise. Children love to do two things – role play and mimic their parents. Baby Dolls give them the chance to do both.
Children use their inherent nurturing nature to care for Baby Dolls as much as they see their parents care for them. Baby Dolls help teach children empathy and caring.
Some dolls, however, are portrayed older, as toddlers up to tweens in age. These dolls serve a different purpose. They become a child’s Best Friend, a doll the child does stuff with as opposed to doing stuff for.
Ask an adult about her favorite doll as a child and likely she will bring up one of her Bestie dolls. They did so much together that it was almost like having a sibling.
Bestie dolls help teach children communication and socializing.
Barbie created a whole new category of Aspirational Dolls, dolls that children aspired to be. They fostered a whole new level of imagination and helped children dream bigger.
If you read the post about Directorial vs Participatory Play you likely recognize that while Baby and Bestie Dolls fit both styles, Barbie tends to be much more attractive to Directorial Play.
One element all three dolls have in common is imagination. They all fire up the children who play with them. In fact, the less the doll does, the more the doll is loved.
Why? Because the less a doll does, the more the doll is
created in the imagination of the child. The child gives the doll a name, a
voice, and a personality.
The next time you go to buy a doll, do it with a little more purpose. Think about the Three B’s. Are you buying a Baby, a Bestie, or a Barbie-style doll? Are you looking to encourage empathy, social skills, or dreaming? Does the doll have accessories (with or sold separately) that encourage creativity, or does it have actions that limit imagination?
Remember. You are buying more than a doll. You are buying a lifetime of memories and learning.
Phil Wrzesinski, National Sales Manager, HABA USA
Phil, like his grandfather and father before him, has been in the toy industry his entire life, helping thousands of parents make the best choices of toys for their kids.