Warning: This post contains ranting.
Today I unexpectedly found myself with some free time and visited the Big W store at Kingston near Hobart. I haven’t been able to get there for some time so my looking at Barbie’s has been confined to checking out what’s in Target and the occasional run through Toy Kingdom in the city. I don’t even check the internet that often any more.
I haven’t missed window shopping for Barbie’s as much as you’d think because as I’ve mentioned frequently I’m not a fan of the current playline dolls. Most of them have blank expressions in their eyes and too wide smiles for my taste. I also dislike the current bodies and the trend to plastic moulded clothing. This trend has certainly got a lot worse. I’d say a good half the dolls I saw today had painted on clothing. The superhero Barbies do, dancers and mermaids often do now and today I saw a new (to me) line with a one piece swimsuit painted on to the doll. Where will it end? Does anyone remember that Barbie was meant to be a fashion doll? The outfits they made for playline fashion dolls, and that was all of them, in the sixties were so beautiful and well made. I didn’t have many genuine outfits for Barbie, Skipper or Sindy but those I did have were so detailed. That’s why I am collecting old Sindy outfits now. Even the generic doll fashions that we mostly bought or were given were much better quality than those they make today. It’s such a shame.
Admittedly the doll I saw was a Water Play Barbie but I’m not really sure if that was meant as it’s safe to get Barbie wet or Water Play is just another name for a beach Barbie. Either way they must be making pretty poor quality swimsuits if you can’t get them wet. What about if they need a wash?
This is one that I saw. Water Play Raquelle and personally I didnt’ think she was as pretty as the photo here makes her look although Raquelle is probably the nicest of the current playline. I have included the blurb as it is typical.
“Raquelle looks sun-sational wearing a fabulous patterned one-piece swimsuit that is right on trend and so her style.
Girls will love playing out beach days, pool parties and summer vacation with this adorable doll.
Collect all the Barbie® water play dolls (each sold separately) for a real beach party!
- It’s a beach day — and this doll looks sun-sational!
- She wears a fabulously patterned one-piece swimsuit.
- Colors and design match today’s trends and doll’s style.
- Collect all the Barbie® Beach dolls (each sold separately) for a real beach party!
- Doll Includes doll wearing non-removable swimwear.stand alone.
- Doll cannot stand alone.
Battery Required: No | Batteries Included: No
Age Grade: 3+
Country of Origin: CN”
I think part of the problem is here in the blurb and it’s something that has annoyed me for a long time. “Age Grade:3+”
Mattel are making playline dolls to suit the youngest age group. They don’t want too many small parts because their target group is likely to eat them! They are not making dolls that offer more imaginative play for the school aged child. They are just offering them formula’s, mermaids, princesses, pop stars with a built in story. Life In The Dreamhouse was a step in the right direction but they haven’t taken it far enough.
I’ll say again that I have no children so perhaps my observations are those of a disgruntled collector of cheaper dolls but I think a lot of toys are going down this road. Take Lego. We loved Lego as children even though it was far more basic than now. You could not get wheels, engines or people and it only came in red or white but it didn’t stop us from making all sorts of things. We made a lot of houses but we had our own version of cars, planes or whatever else we wanted. Now you can buy sets to make all sorts of things but do the kids think of other things to do with them or just build what’s on the picture on the box?
I think that Mattel get that the collectible dolls which are often bought by adults need to be more detailed but even with these they tend to go the other way and assume that all collectors like their dolls NRFB. They are so expensive that you think twice about doing anything to them. The Basics were good because they were meant to be deboxed but I know a lot of people were put off by the difficult to pose bodies. I can see that but I loved their faces and they were the last time I really got excited about a line. Fashion Fever were a great playline because there was a lot of variety in their looks although some were rather similar and would be harder to pick once played with. They did have great outfits and were meant to be played with the way little girls play with dolls – and some big ones :). Even the earlier Fashionistas are starting to look pretty good to me in hindsight.
Well I am still a fashion doll collector so despite the disappointments of today’s dolls I’ll keep looking for that elusive special one that says “Buy Me”.
I rarely buy my Barbies from Target unless they are the pink label or something like that, I very rarely if ever buy the fashionistas anymore as they don’t fully articulate them anymore, they were great body donors. The clothing on the other hand, is getting better. I buy mostly from barbiecollector.com but occasionally, I can get a collector barbie at Target or walmart for a good price. The problem is little girls don’t play with Barbie at the ages of 8, 9, 10 and 12 or 13 like we used to- they are too busy with boys and phones and video games. My doll club talked about this recently how the love of fashion dolls is vastly different than it was in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s when all of us played with Barbie, Tammy and Sindy. I think the kids are wired different, my own daughter disliked Barbie and liked those ugly bratz dolls.
Yes Lisa, you are right, pre teen girls don’t seem to be playing with Barbie as much. I think it’s sad that they grow up so early these days. I don’t know if there is a way to put the genie back in the bottle now. I suppose dolls don’t really stack up against boys and social media more’s the pity. If I buy collectible Barbies it has to be from the internet as hardly any of the stores in Hobart ever have them any more.
I agree with you. Painted-on clothing makes these dolls into nothing more than cheap licensed marketing. And the “3+” designation is a liability dodge for the US so they don’t have to comply with safety regulations (like choking hazards and lead content). The lack of clarity between grade and age sounds like an English-as-a second-language Chinese translation.
On legos (I have two boys): I bought made-up kits and taken-apart jumbles for my kids at garage sales. The new kits don’t give many blocks and are hyper-expensive. Kids tend to follow non-verbal instructions and build the unit on the box.
The new box kits are for specific projects and are used like model cars and airplanes used to be. (Only without the glue and paint and details.)Since this is too boring to do twice, the kids lose interest. Then they need a new “kit”. The kits are themed with the current corporate marketing promotional as are the dolls. ie Pirate movie means pirate legos. Star wars movie means star wars legos. Mermaid movies means mermaid dolls, backpacks, clothes, lunch kits, coloring books, mermaid cookies, pencils notebooks. One year everyone is a mermaid. The next year everyone is a princess and mermaids are out. All little girls wear “Barbie Pink” here.
Modern toys are marketing. Keep treasuring the real things.
So true Alice. Most toys now are tied to marketing gimmicks of some kind. I think that it was better when we were young. You got the tools and your imagination did the rest. We were lucky enough not to be restricted to girls toys so as well as dolls we played with trains, model cars, toy farm and zoo animals and various types of construction toys like Lego. We had wonderful games and could play with the same set of toys all day unlike children now who seem to have very short attention spans.
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My kids have nice long attention spans and creative imaginations. But I’ve not sent them to schools or allowed television or those awful addictive electronic games. They read A LOT, are accomplished musicians and gentle souls They invent their own entertainment because they always have had to.
When other kids come by, they seem to require a high level of constantly changing stimulation. Many are loud and tend to hit and wreck things.
Hmmm. It’s not rocket science understanding what’s happening to our children (who grow up to be our adults).
I totally agree with everything you have said here. But I did want to offer another thought about the Lego kits. My oldest daughter K is very structured in her play. Even when she was a little baby girl, she would organize her toys rather than “play” with them. My younger one makes up games and stories and plays, and she’s actually kind of teaching my oldest how to do the same. When K was younger, we gave her some Legos we found at a thrift store–a huge bag of them–and she said she liked them but she had no clue what to do with them. Then, a couple years later, a friend gave her a Lego kit for her birthday. Lo and behold, she put that thing together and LOVED it. The little girl doll that came with it went on trips and had some adventures, and she’s gotten more of the kits. It was the instructions that, for her, made all the difference. Her mind just works that way. My younger one doesn’t need any of that. She builds freely without kits, but it was very enlightening to see K get interested in Legos because of the kits. That said, I also wish sets of basic pieces were easier to find. I appreciate and relate to everything you said. I wish the toy companies would start taking note of posts like this.
Hi Kathy thanks for your input. Not being a parent myself my observations are a bit one sided but I do know that everyone has different learning styles. I guess your older daughter is more visual needing to see a demonstration of what can be done while the younger likes to experiment. The main thing is that once started she makes up the stories and adventures. I don’t have a problem with Lego selling kits but I think they should have basic starter sets and you should be able to top up buying basic non themed pieces so the sets can be expanded to do other things once the original kit has been built.
I am always happy and relieved when I hear about children who have long attention spans and can create their own adventures. It’s not really their fault if they don’t. Manufacturers, a lot of them anyway, are more interested in how they can sell more units than in whether the kids have fun with them. If they have too much fun they might not be interested in next years new toys. 🙂
You make such a good point about the painted on clothing. They are so frustrating. Even more frustrating are online tutorials on how to pain a swimsuit or underwear on a doll. It never turns out as good as the tutorial makes you think it will. I’ve seen several and it’s a giant mess.
It makes sense that these dolls are aimed towards a younger audience. It is a real shame that they don’t focus on older school aged children and high quality clothing. She is a fashion doll and I feel like the current direction loses sight of that.
I do too but sadly school aged girls seem to grow out of dolls much earlier than when I was a child. I think this is partly the fault of adults who tell them “You are too old for dolls/toys.” and partly peer group pressure. I wish there was a way to change it and I wonder if bringing back the quality play dolls and fashions and accessories would help. After all the children who love to play with dolls today are the collectors of tomorrow.
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So very true! I had a friend who’s sister was 8 and she teased her for still playing with dolls. I always thought that was a prime age for playing with them.
One ray of hope may be the monster high dolls. I’ve seen teenagers get excited about them, and they seem to be capturing imaginations of girls of all ages. I think they look smashing, but I’ve never handled one so I can’t attest to their quality.
Yes, the Monster High and similar looking dolls seem to be very popular. They are gradually taking over the Barbie Aisle although I didn’t know that teens liked them. They don’t appeal to me personally (large heads, skinny limbs) but if they keep girls interested in dolls longer that’s great. I agree around eight should be the prime age for doll play, old enough to be safe around small parts and with more developed ideas of games to play. Yet just as they reach this age girls are suddenly wanting to transform into mini teenagers. Sad.
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I can understand not liking the aesthetic. I know Mattell made a few Barbie lines that tried that, and they always seemed disproportionate to me. I am too invested in Barbie to want to buy any of the Monster High dolls, but I appreciate their creativity.
I’m hoping that my little girl likes doll play for a little longer before growing up. I think having the right characters to play with will help, but we’ll see. They grow up too quickly anymore.
I had been collecting some of the beach Barbie dolls, but they had real bathing suits and Bikinis. Those painted on suits are nonsense, don’t get me started on those paddle hands they have and those dolls cost around 10 Euros here. What are they thinking?
My girls have been totally into Barbie and they played endlessly with them, they were never into the gimmick dolls though. The first cut came with the end of Fashion Fever, that was when middle daughter lost interest in Barbie and was more into My Scene. My youngest was still into the Fashionistas, as long as they were poseable. Her friends, who always said they were too old for dolls still played with them when they came to our house. Not poseable anymore, no interest at all. She has a small collection of Monster High Dolls that are inhabiting her shelves, but she went from playing to on and off collecting now.
Lego was one of my favorite toys too. We built our simple versions of European sights. My girls also had their Lego time building cities, no kits involved. They just weren’t interested in the kits with movie themes. Maybe because we strictly limited television time.
I think the fashions were what made Barbie so popular with girls, at least they were the reason I was mad about her. A fashion doll with painted on clothes is a paradox. When I look at the majority of todays Barbies, I only think how boring except for the poseable Style Fashionistas. Pink glitter, princesses, fairies, stiff dolls and now the painted clothes. It’s highly doubtable, that kids with that play experience will become collectors one day. Especially when they quickly sell their dolls on the fleamarkets when they start school.
I wish Mattel would go back to the roots, and make less but quality dolls and give them real fashions again. As it is Barbie is getting less and less shelf space in the stores and I really would be sad to see her completely vanish.
Yes, me too Andrea, that’s my fear, that she’ll disappear through lack of interest eventually.
I feel that companies don’t so much research what children like to play with as dictate to them what the next trend is. Your experience with your daughters makes my point about playline Barbies much better than I could. Give children toys that allow them to use their imaginations and they will play with them for much longer. And fashion dolls with no fashions are indeed a paradox, well said.