Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Barbie Doll Perspective

By: Christine Cox, The Choosy Mommy

“I weigh 41 pounds!” exclaims my soon to be 4 year old Capri from the bathroom scale. Her dad laughs. “You are getting so big.” And I think to myself, she has no idea what 41 pounds really means, besides it being a number that randomly pops up on the scale. But when will this number matter to her? She is so innocent about her body image and those around her, although she thinks it is fabulous that both of her grandfathers look like Santa Claus with their big bellies (and for all she knows, that is what grandfathers are supposed to look like)! But at this age, many little girls are starting to play with dolls, especially Barbie, that portray a body image that can’t be physically achieved and isn’t realistically healthy. When does the Barbie doll perspective start to do more harm than good for girls?


It seems in today’s world, girls, even pre-school aged girls, are influenced more and more by celebrities, characters, brands, toys, shows, etc. The power that these influencers hold can seem like it is beyond a parent’s power to educate. But here is the thing, when specifically talking about Barbie, I believe it is solely up to the parents to teach their children what is best about this toy…she can be anything she wants to be and to not take her shape and looks into consideration. Essentially, girl power! Let’s talk a bit more in depth about Barbie’s image though, the thing that seems to effect girls the most.

Managing a healthy lifestyle starts at home at a young age. Parents do have the power to guide children in the right direction as far as what is and is not healthy for their growing bodies. This doesn’t mean girls shouldn’t play with Barbie (or boys shouldn’t play with superheroes for that matter) because Barbie doesn’t set realistic body image goals for them, but instead means the parent should use Barbie as a teaching tool for what a girl could achieve in the world.


In my home, Barbie represents the many careers a woman can have and when you work hard, you can have the luxuries that Barbie has (the cars, homes, boats, clothes, etc.). I have heard Capri say that her Barbie is a mommy, a doctor, nurse, vet, teacher, works at the grocery store and post office, etc. And that is because I actively engage with her during Barbie playtime. We learn about the different jobs Barbie has and never once has she even mentioned that Barbie is “skinny” or “pretty” or “tall”. And now the “curvy” Barbies are a hot commodity but she hasn’t ever noticed their difference in the store.

I was truly a Barbie girl. Through and through it was the thing I asked for most for birthdays and holidays. My mother recently expressed to me that she never told me when she thought I was gaining too much weight. Those pre-teens years were stressful enough and she didn’t want to be a negative person. Instead she educated me on what was healthy for my body and helped me find activities to do that secretly burned calories (because I thought we were just having fun). But she does remember a time that I yelled at her for not telling me that I was gaining too much weight. Puberty! But was I comparing myself to my favorite toy, Barbie? No. I was comparing myself to my peers.

So back to my original question of when does the Barbie doll perspective start to do more harm than good for young girls? Studies show girls as young as 4-6 years old start to worry about their weight and could possibly look to Barbie as a body image role model because she is trendy and a popular toy among their age group. However, I feel that this can all be reversed when parents are involved in active playtime, pretend time and properly communicate about a healthy lifestyle with their children and beyond into their teen years. When parents are the role model, girls won’t need to look to a doll for how they should aspire to look.

This wonderful toy should be looked at as just that…a toy. I don’t feel the Barbie doll perspective could have an effect upon young girls if the parents educate them on what a healthy body is and that people come in all shapes and sizes. The earlier we educate children on this, the better the chances are that they will ultimately be comfortable with the beautiful bodies that belong just to them, and that they will prefer to live a healthy lifestyle.

About the Author: Christine Cox is the blog master for Choosy Kids. She has always had a passion for writing and is honored to contribute her work to this blog. Most of her writing inspiration comes from her daughter, Capri, who is fun-loving and full of energy, and son Cam, who is learning new things everyday. Click here to learn more about Christine.

21 comments :

  1. I love the lessons that you're teaching about this. I love Barbie's as a kid! I don't have a daughter but if I did I agree that it's all in how you frame it! Barbie is very progressive these days :)

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  2. Hope ton of people read this and start to change the idea of perfect body weight or what boys should and shouldn't play with etc.

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  3. This is so good and I have thought about it a lot since having three daughters. Such an important thing to think about as moms!
    -Joanna @ Strong Girl Collective

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  4. What a great perspective! Yes, toys only influence kids in negative ways if parents let that be the message they're okay with. If you explain how social, outgoing, and friendly Barbie is, that becomes the focus, instead of her size.

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  5. I loved barbie as a kid... words from a grownup and negative self talk around children does much more harm than a doll!

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  6. I definitely think parents establishing a a difference between Barbie dolls and regular body types is important. Kids should know Barbies are just cartoon representations of people.

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  7. I remember playing with Barbie as kid, I wasn't that into to her and I don't really know why. At the time, I don't think her body shape had any influence on me, but that was a long time ago. I can really see how kids are more aware of celebs, but it's important to remind them to be themselves, be happy in themselves and realize celebs are paid to look this way and also most photographs are airbrushed and retouched to change their appearance.

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  8. I agree, with proper guidance, our kids won't see Barbie's body as an image that they should imitate. It's all about getting involved with your kids and showing them your perspective.

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  9. I agree. As with any other toy, it's still the parents' responsibility to guide and influence the child.

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  10. I absolutely agree with you that parents have so much impact on how children see themselves. When it comes to morals, ethics, and values children are most impacted by family--family is the most influential. I believe we have a ton of power as parents to do so much good in our children's lives and in helping them form a positive image about themselves. :)

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  11. Definitely agrees on this one. Playing barbie can be great fun for your child, but some barbies have a grown-up, ‘sexy’ look.
    This might seem fun and innocent, but it can also create an image of women that you might not be comfortable with or want your child to copy. So parent's guidance and influence is a must.

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  12. I played with barbies all my life and I don't think its was a problem for me. My mom also never stress the weight or makeup thing ether. Even to this day after 3 kids while yes I want to be fit... so I can keep up with 3 boys I don't stress about how I look all the time.

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  13. This is really true. I played Barbie when I was young and I don't mind if I don't look like her.

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  14. I played with Barbies all the time when I was younger too. I never wanted to be like them either. I hope that all girls are happy with the way they are and don't think they need to be model thin.

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  15. It is right, parents should educate kids about reality. I admire Barbie dolls but I have no plans of looking like them.

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  16. Thought provoking post really. Love what you pointed out at this article.

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  17. Barbie is one of my favorite dolls when I was young. I never envy her shape, in fact I don't idolized it.

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  18. I agree with the fact that it isn't the toys or games that are doing so much to adversely affect some children and their outlook on life. It is what the parents do or don't do as children are playing with these toys! Great perspective.

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  19. Not a lot of people think of it like this, but it is good to look at things from different perspectives!

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  20. A doll can be used as teaching tool but to be honest I let my son play with Dolls, nothing wrong wiht that Takes a lot more to bring up a child. Great share!

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  21. Yes, kids should not worry about their weight and looks. This can lead to a lot of troubles. Every parent should read your post.

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