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Monday, June 29th, 2015
I’m looking at new toys for our holiday issues. On Friday I had about three dozen kids helping me and in the next few weeks I’ll have dozens more. It gets me thinking about the (many) toys I’ve bought my own kids, and what they love and what gets ignored. A few truths I’ve learned:
Classics stick around for a reason. A pair of roller skates was a huge hit on Friday, and a train set. Almost no child will turn down a toy car. And maybe the most successful birthday party favor I ever gave out was the year we gave each little guest a playground ball, which many of them still had years later. When in doubt about what to buy, go back to basics.
Toys that kids can play together are awesome. That’s why every preschool has a play kitchen. We tried out a toy vet center that got a lot of love, in part because the 2- and 3-year-olds could swarm it together. Many kids also cooperated with Lego kits. And there is always Barbie…many times my daughter would disappear into her room with a friend and a crowd of Barbies and only resurface hours later for a snack.
Crafting and building kits are tricky. They are all the rage, because anything that requires building calls itself STEM-worthy. But every year I have only a few kids who are focused enough to get through a building kit, and the rest start and then abandon such toys. If you’re buying a present for someone else’s kid, I would say avoid toys that require construction unless you know the kid is really into it. Same with puzzles.
Remote-control toys get a big wow but can die out fast. We’ll have several on our list because kids love them. But why must so many batteries quit on day one? And I’ve noticed that these aren’t the toys kids reach for when bored. The RCs come out to impress playdates. But maybe that’s enough.
If your kid has a favorite character, anything with that face will be a winner. But toy companies know it, so for every legit great Frozen-themed toy there are some that are just cheap. Out of toy-testing I realize I need some great Paw Patrol toys this year…the little testers wanted anything with those pups on it!
But step away from the plush aisle. My kids are crazy in love with their stuffed animals but like most kids, they have too many. While there will surely be some talking plush among our year’s best toys, for the most part, kids don’t need more soft friends.
My final advice if you are out shopping for toys: Don’t overthink it. Does it look like something you enjoyed as a kid, or would enjoy now? Then it will probably be a safe bet. My little toy-testers are invaluable, but I also get a kick out of watching what the staff plays with. Fun is fun, no matter what your age.
Jessica Hartshorn, as the Entertainment Editor for Parents magazine and a mother of two, is surrounded by toys both at work and at home. Literally surrounded.
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Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
For the record, I was obsessed with Barbie dolls as a little girl. My mom still has bins and bins and bins of my old Barbies and Barbie-related accessories in our basement, half for sentimentality and half for the times my younger cousins need a distraction during long family events. Even if they weren’t Barbies, if there was a figurine that I could manipulate into an unnatural gymnastics pose, or dress up in shiny velcro outfits, or give an impromptu “hair makeover” to, I most likely owned it.
And like most young girls, I used to have major self-esteem issues when it came to my body. I didn’t (and still don’t) have stick-thin legs with a gap in-between, I most definitely didn’t have bright blonde hair (I’m more of a mousey, stale chocolate brown), and my skin isn’t creamy, tan, and flaw-free like Barbie’s. But as a child, this wasn’t something that consciously ran through my mind—I just stuck with the fact that I would forever be a pudgy girl with crooked fringe, gapped teeth, and bruised knees—and I continued to play with a doll that had warped proportions.
Luckily, some have opted to change the toy-doll landscape for the better; enter Lammily, a doll that touts the slogan “Average is Beautiful.” The doll made waves in March when she was first conceptualized and introduced by her creator, artist Nickolay Lamm. Lamm’s goal was to create a toy that utilized the proportions of an average 19-year-old woman so that boys and girls alike would have something to play with that actually looks like a normal girl.
Plus, Lammily can be customized with stickers that feature freckles, scars, tattoos, bruises, and other marks of the real, honest-to-goodness side effects of adolescence. Some of the stickers included, such as acne and stretch marks, aren’t pretty, but they’re authentic—which is exactly the point of the Lammily doll in the first place. She looks like a sister, a friend, a classmate, your babysitter; she can look athletic, bruised, eclectic, or artsy. What’s more, her flexible limbs bend in ways that allow her to do things normal Barbies can’t.
Although some think that the Lammily doll won’t make much change, I wish that I would have at least had the option to choose a doll that wasn’t a total reflection of the extreme physical standards girls constantly face. “It’s just a plastic toy, it doesn’t make girls have self-esteem issues!” is a common echo across the comment sections of articles about Lammily, and true, it is just a doll. But the point is that now children have options for how they play and what they play with.
When given the choice, kids maybe won’t always jump at the politically correct toys, but at least now they have the freedom to choose at all. The new market for toys that empower girls, like GoldieBlox, is an exciting prospect. I’m hopeful that Lammily will take off (seeing as she already has over 22,000 preorders in place, it’s a good bet) and continue to evolve with even more dolls in all shapes, colors, ethnicities, and sizes.
As an experiment, a group of second-graders were given a Lammily doll to examine and review. The results? Overwhelmingly positive. See for yourself below.
Image of girl holding doll via Shutterstock
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Barbie, body image, Brooke Bunce, dolls, fashion dolls, goldieBlox, Lammily, Nickolay Lamm, self-esteem, toys | Categories:
Big Kids, The Parents Perspective
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
Barbie is adding a new hobby to her resume: she’s joining the Girl Scouts. As the dolls roll out in stores this week, real life scouts can also earn a Barbie “Be anything, do everything” participation patch—the first time Girl Scouts has ever worked together with a corporate sponsor. And as you can expect, some consumer groups are upset about the partnership, saying that putting the unrealistically perfect Barbie in the wholesome uniform sends a bad message.
“Barbie is basically a terrible role model for girls, and she’s not about what the Girl Scouts’ principles are, which have to do with leadership and courage,” Susan Linn, a psychologist and direct of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told Today.
Both the Girl Scouts and Mattel stand by the new doll, saying that Barbie inspires young imaginations and encourages girls to follow their dreams. In fact, earlier this year, Mattel released Entrepreneur Barbie, and in the past, the doll has been everything from a presidential candidate to a firefighter. It seems only natural that she would don a green patch-covered vest eventually.
Yet the debate continues.
If the Girl Scouts feel the new doll fits their ideals, why can’t that be good enough for everyone else? As a child, I played with Barbie dolls often. I wasn’t looking for a role model; I simply saw it as a chance to invent new characters and stories with my sister. The toys allowed our imaginations to bloom. (We were both Girl Scouts at the time, and I’m sure we would have loved to dress our dolls like us.)
As for the little ones who aren’t involved in a scouting program, this new doll will raise awareness about the organization. If it encourages youngsters to check out the Girl Scouts and learn more about leadership and courage, then really, what’s the harm?
That’s not to say that none of the concerns are legitimate. I do understand the worries about shoving product placement in front of young children, and sure, I’ve never seen such a stylish Girl Scout uniform in real life. But let’s face it: little girls are going to continue playing with Barbie dolls. If my 5-year-old niece develops an interest in becoming a Daisy Scout after picking up one of these toys, I’d say the good far outweighs the bad here.
Tell us: would you buy a Girl Scout Barbie doll?
What career will your child have?
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