Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Barbies, Gifts and Balance

This isn't the post I intended to write about...I was thinking about being PC when it comes to how our culture...Well I'll get to that later.

Yesterday on GCM we were discussing Barbies/Bratz etc...Do you buy them for your daughters: why/why not?

I had never thought about it really. But the more I did the more I realized. I don't want my girls playing with Barbies. There are several reasons for this.

1) I didn't play with Barbies as a child. And when I did at my friends houses I was bored out of my mind. Spending hours digging through the masses of junky little accessories to get them all dressed up, get their hair untangled and send them on a "date" (or whatever my little friends decided was the fantasy of the day) was BOOOOORING.

2) More importantly *I* feel they are junky toys that CAN impede full expression of creativity.

3) I don't like how they dress- and that Barbie is specifically a WOMAN and tends to dress like a slut. Just sayin.

Here's what I shared on the board (well I shortened and edited a bit).

My sister and I were not-not "allowed" to play with Barbies. But my parent never bought them for us.
We had American Girl Dolls to dress up. On our 8th (or 9th?) Birthday we got our first American Girl Doll. It was stressed how expensive these dolls were and we were to take extremely good care of them- they were a huge privilege.

My Mom sewed so she would duplicate the outfits for us (and taught us how to sew and often let us help her with these projects.) and every year we'd get to pick a "accessories" package we wanted from the catalog.
American Girl dolls were more realistic, they were girls, and there were so many styles of clothing you could put them in- I had modern clothing, historical clothing, all different decades of things we could play with them. I remember a long stretch where my doll was Laura from Little House on the Prairie .

I plan on getting the "looks like you" basic dolls (and a felicity for me...I've always wanted felicity) for my girls when they are old enough to take really good care of them. I can't wait for them to be big enough to play American Girls with. (I'd still pull mine out if I had time- and it wasn't eccentric to do so ;0)

Now onto body image which was mentioned on the thread...

It's not so much that I'm worried about body image. Though I think Barbie and Bratz definitely send the wrong message. More than that I just think there are better options out there. I would rather the playing options be more open to original or historical play than stuck in, "I'm a barbie girl in a barbie world". I played Barbies with friends growing up and I personally found it really boring dressing and undressing them to go to parties or on dates (that's how my friends played).
I had a doll house my Mom made (to look like the Magic Cabin Dolls) and I preferred playing after books I'd read- making boats out of paper and moving the family onto the raft- making my own extensions for the house out of shoe boxes. I couldn't dress or undress the dolls (they were hand made out of wire and cloth and wooden dowel ends) But I spent more time at that wooden doll house making up adventures and living out life in my imagination and having more fun than any thing. I could only stomach an hour or so of barbies with friends (and I loved playing with my friends I just preferred house to barbies).
I have that dollhouse for the girls and I plan on dusting it off when RJ's 4 and making her some new dolls (the originals are barely hanging together- I think I did surgery with tissues and paper towels to keep them together).

I went on to share that I think those Bratz/Barbies plasticky things can limit play- I mean there are only so many kinds of outfits for them mostly mainstream "going to school, party and night out" whatever.
The house my Mom made me was a rectangular wooden house with 4 rooms and a few beds- little pillow-like "mattresses", a couch and I made the rest of the furniture out of wooden blocks, random odds and ends I'd find around the house and paper...It was so much fun- The Borrowers was a favorite game of mine. To "dress up" my dolls I would take scraps from the my Mom's sewing "room" I especially loved when she was working on a wedding dress- I'd rig up wedding dresses and have a whole lot of fun.

Some other Mom's pointed out the difference in personalities. That is true, my daughters may not enjoy the kind of play I did...And just because they prefer one kind of toy over another- that doesn't make their play any less important. I want to give them options but I want those options to be GOOD options.

Children process and experience life through play... When some thing traumatic happens (getting a shot at the doctors for example- often they'll play doctor over and over again want to give their parents a shot to process the pain and scary event) they play it out to work it out. When they want to try some thing they wouldn't be allowed to do they use their dolls to play it out and process and understand new concepts about what's appropriate, boundaries- what breaking the "rules" feels like etc. (Read Playful Parenting on this- eye opening look at play, how parents can use it to help their kids...It's an awesome read!)

So circling around *I* still don't want my girls to play with Barbies. I do not want them in the house. I don't want cheap plasticky chokable toys with matted hair and slutty outfits here.
I do however want there to be options, for them to have choices in the kinds of play they have available. If they prefer small dolls to dress up (over American Girl or my wooden doll house) Then this might be a good option The Only Hearts Club dolls- the are a pretty awesome new doll! I like these, they are still small chockable pieces and I'm sure the hair would get matted (though our girls will be expected to take care of their toys- but dolls age). But they look like real girls and they don't dress like little hookers (ie bratz). And apparently the books that the dolls are based on talk about moral issues and about listening to your heart when making tough decisions- doing the right thing. Much better role models than Bratz (which gotta say again, not a fan- the name itself is enough to make me shake my head).

All this made me think about gifts in the coming years, and as much as we love and appreciate people wanting to show our girls how much they love them. I need to say now right off the bat as I'm looking at the big 3rd birthday this year (when choking hazards are lifted ;0). That if we receive any toys that we feel are inappropriate, there is a good chance that some one from Good Will will be playing with them, not the kids in our home. I hope that's not harsh but some thing to keep in mind.
We'd like to avoid any thing plasticky (with gazillion pieces that will be lost with in a week or will have to be played with under close supervision because of babies in the house). No "my little pets", Disney princesses, Barbies, Bratz, My Little Ponies if you HAVE to buy some thing girly The Only Hearts Club (carried at Target I believe) miiight be okay.

But more importantly we LOVE toys that spur on the imagination. Basic toys or things that aren't necessarily toys! Even things that you might have sitting around the house. Some rope for making double dutch jump ropes, old fabric or hats you have sitting around for dress up. Wooden toys, board games, car games, cars, building toys...Yes we have girls. But Riley is an engineer at heart- we think she'll will LOVE playing knechts with her Daddy. And we'll never have too many books- we LOVE books!

Also shopping at Good Will for old silk scarves (for dress up!), checking out the fabric stores remnant area for silky or fun fabrics ...Just some ideas.

I hope this doesn't come across rude...But I know when *I* buy a gift I want it to be some thing that the person will enjoy and think of me when they use it. We've been given some wonderful gifts the last couple of years, and we appreciate and feel blessed by every gift we receive...BUT as we get into the ages where the more "iffy" gifts might start appearing I wanted to share my thoughts and make sure we were all on the same page. Maps are helpful- we all love knowing where we're going- consider this post a helpful little map.

1 comment:

  1. AH HA! Someone that agrees with me :) I don't favor barbies @ all. Of course if Lou really wants one I will buy her one, but I prefer "Little People, BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS, RC cars, she has a mechanical pony that I am scared sh!tless of (LOL), and coloring books, SHE actually prefers blank paper & a pen lol. her fav is her little people castle in which she fondly calls them "my pee pole, nana's pee pole".

    I think barbies give off the impression that you have to be anorexically skinny, blonde, and FULL of make up... besides barbies goal in life is to make Ken happy & that is NOT want I want Lily's impression of women to be.

    She loves to take things apart, use screw drivers, dig in the dirt, plant things... mommy's make up (grr), "organizing her laundry"...

    My point to this endless ramble is that there are many sides to a little girl & I do not think we as a society should make girls play with "girl toys" & boys play with "boy toys".

    Love you Hannah!


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