Mom, can I have a Barbie? I’ve dreaded hearing that question for 5 years now. I’m actually quite surprised it took this long but in the deepest recesses of my soul, I’m glad it did. So, how did I answer? Honestly. I sat my five year old daughter down and let her know that I’m still having a difficult time figuring this whole Barbie thing out. Giving a doll with an unachievable body type to my daughter has always struck a discordant note within me. I’m ok with her going to a friend’s house and choosing to play with their Barbie dolls. I don’t draw attention to it or make a big deal about it, but I just didn’t want her to have continuous access to Barbie dolls at home. I realize that my stand may be controversial for some but I don’t think it needs to be. I know some people love their Barbies, and I respect that. I’m just not a huge fan myself. Here’s the thing, I don’t feel like my general apathy for Barbie dolls has deprived my daughter. She has a ton of toys. She plays with LEGO, trains, dress up, musical instruments, puppets, potato heads, puzzles, board games… the list goes on and on. So does she really need a Barbie doll? If I choose not to give her a Barbie, will she end up on a psychologist’s couch talking about her pain of being denied a Barbie as a child? Suffice it to say, I was somewhat apprehensive about dealing with this issue but thought the best way to handle it was to be completely frank.
First, I pointed out that most Barbie dolls that we’ve seen aren’t really shaped like the women in our lives – women like her grandmas, aunties, family friends etc., who we consider to be beautiful inside and out, but do not fit into the idealized dimensions of a typical Barbie doll’s frame. I asked her to share the reason behind her sudden interest in getting a Barbie and she succinctly solved the problem for me by stating that she wanted a doll with hair she can comb. Oh! Now before you think I’m getting out my soap box, and petitioning for a full anti doll policy to be ratified by government (lol), let me lovingly correct that notion by saying that it is quite far from the truth. Brie has carried around her much loved ‘Baby Dollie’, given to her by her Auntie Boo Boo, since she was a year old, and has also been gifted with a number of Groovy Girls from her God-sisters. She has many beautiful and beloved dolls but none whose hair she could easily comb. This was a wonderful opportunity for us to find a good solution to her Barbie query that satisfies both of us. Our solution: get a doll that looks like her, a doll with caramel skin, and long dark hair. She was happy, I was happy and we were both excited to go on this doll finding adventure together. I promised to gather as much dolly related information as I could find and bring it back to her so she could make the final decision on who would be her newest doll friend. So, I went on a researching binge and learned so much about the different multi-ethnic dolls out there, that I feel like my head is about to explode. That got me thinking, I couldn’t be the only mom interested in finding multi-ethnic dolls that her child can play with. So if you’re a mom, dad, aunt, grandparent, family friend etc. who’s interested in what dolls of colour are currently on the market, I really hope that this post helps you find an adorable little dolly friend for the child in your life.
My search started at American Girls where I could customize a doll whose colouring looks a lot like my dear daughter, but at over $100 before shipping, the price tag was way too steep for me. I then found out about ‘So in Style‘ dolls, which are mixed-race dolls of a Barbie variety. I then found Sophina, one of the Moxie Girlz (kind of like Bratz dolls but more modestly dressed with a lot less makeup) who came with her own campfire as a possible option – I always like a girl who is prepared. Another interesting doll option was the Zeenie Dollz. Each one possesses a secret identity and unique eco-power to save and protect the environment. I love the concept and that part of the proceeds from the dolls were donated to organizations working to preserve the environment and endangered animals their habitats. I also liked that hey are made entirely of recyclable and non-toxic plastics, and their packaging is made of biodegradable plastic material, but I still felt like they weren’t quite right for us.
Also, there was a line of mixed race Barbie-esque dolls from a company called Mixis but none of their mixed dolls looked like my mixed baby. After that, I came across a company called Double Dutch Dolls. If you’re into Barbies, their dolls seemed relevant to the times and I liked that they had a chapter book tied to the doll’s stories. They’re not the ones for us, but would be perfect for other girls who are probably 9 and older. At this point, I chose to narrow my search to dolls approximately 18″ or so in size, and found some great options for us.
Some of my top picks are as follows: Starpath Dolls were a good option that happen to come with a personalized book. Madame Alexander, Springfield Dolls, and Dollies and Me also seemed to meet a lot of the criteria we had laid out. The first honourable mentions goes out to Journey Girls’ Kyla doll, who looks great and has a quite affordable price point. The second honourable mention is the brand new Lammily Doll. I love that this doll is made according to typical human body proportions. It’s sad that these dolls are not going to be available in retail stores. However, at $25 a pop with $7 shipping to Canada, it’s an affordable option especially when one considers the price of an American Girl doll. The fact that this doll is promoted as being fit and strong and wears minimal makeup also appeals to me. My only reservation is that they are not currently offering more variety in terms of how this doll looks. It would have been great if the designer Nikolay Lamm offered these dolls with different shades of colour, with different hair textures etc. I can only hope that future Lammily Dolls reflect the larger demographic as a whole. All that being said, I’ve chosen to be a backer because I think it’s a step in the right direction.
That finally brings us to two of my favourite options. First is a Maplelea Friend doll, which comes from the same company that brought us Road to Avonlea products and the Anne of Green Gables dolls. I like that these dolls are trying to be a reflection of Canadian girls from coast to coast. I think my little Canadian girl will like having a little Canadian doll. The second option is from Hearts For Hearts Girls. Each doll represents a real girl from a real place around the world. I love that a portion of the purchase price from each doll is donated to children’s causes all over the world.
Well there you have it readers, my daughter asked for options and that is exactly what I got for her. I hope this post helps you find a little dolly friend who’s the right fit for a special little child in your life. I included links to all of the doll sites, I hope that helps. Now, before I take these myriad of options to my dear daughter, I would love for you to weigh in. Please share if you know of any other good doll options out there where little girls of colour can see themselves reflected in the look of the dolls that they care for and play with.