COMMENTARY: Dolls: Inspiring Kids Through Play

For years, Mattel‘s Barbie has been held under very close scrutiny for her appearance. She is often criticized for her unrealistic body type and the kind of message that sends to girls. But, of course, Barbie’s good qualities should not be overlooked. She is a smart woman with quite an impressive resume. Another quality Barbie is famous for is her vast array of careers. Barbie can be anything that she wants to be—and so can the kids that play with her. I use Barbie as an example because she is probably the most popular and widely known doll on the market, but there are many other dolls out there that have positive messages for young girls attached to them—and they come in many different shapes and sizes.

zelfsMoose Toys has introduced the Zelfs, collectible dolls that live in a “fab-itat” in the secret garden of Zardenia. This dolls, a little reminiscent of Troll dolls, feature colorful, spiketacular hair that can be style in all sorts of different ways. Each Zelf has its own unique persona and a Zelf power that is represented by a Zelf mark. The Zelf currently on my desk, Angelala, has the Zelf power of kindness. Each Zelf also comes with matching charms and hair accessories (Angelala’s got a pretty fabulous harp). The new line includes small, medium, and large Zelfs, and the Venus Fly Trap Spin Salon Playset that twirls and swirls each Zelf’s hair with the push of a button. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Dolls Aim to End Bullying, Teach Virtues

Bullying is often written off as a normal part of childhood—growing up as a boy with a girl’s name, I was an easy target for schoolyard taunts. But it might be fair to say that this current generation of kids has it harder than ever. Consider Lee Hirsch’s recent documentary Bully, the countless news stories about youth being victimized by their peers through social media, and the It Gets Better Project aimed at ending the alarming trend of kids senselessly taking their own lives.

myfriendhugglesAt Toy Fair, I was pulled aside by a man holding up a child-sized doll with an adorable face and yarn hair. I later learned the doll was part of the My Friend Huggles line, which is among a growing number of toys that have a larger message. My Friend Huggles seeks to teach kids virtues such as kindness, fairness, and generosity. Each doll features a satin ribbon with a poem about the doll’s virtue. In addition to the regular doll collection, the My Friend Huggles line also includes a brother-sister duo dressed as anti-bullying superheroes.

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