Sunday, November 27, 2016

Beyond the Pink: Plastic Crossbows, Young Inventors and Dolls of Diversity


As the holiday season approaches, parents and relatives will experience new added features in the toy aisles. Along with traditional Barbies, board games and stuffed animals, toys that reference science and technology will be present. Outdoor-related toys, such as Nerf, have been coveted by boys for years, however, the brand has expanded its market towards girls. Rebelle, the Nerf line of brightly-colored bows and arrows and foam-shooting guns, appeals to girls who enjoy being adventurous. Roominate, a collection of engineering toys that allow children to construct colorful amusement parks, dollhouses and other cityscapes, has defined a new branch of engineering-inspired entertainment. Girls may build their own houses and dance studios for their dolls, which helped shape their "spatial skills," as a STEM study found. Roominate also encourages education and diversity with their library, laptop station and rocket ship playsets. These gifts inspire girls to not just play with them, but embrace the feeling that they created each part themselves.

Hasbro's "Nerf Rebelle" and Roominate's engineering kits put smiles on creative girls' faces

Besides toys that promote adventurous or scientific attitudes, themes of diversity are becoming present among traditional dolls. Websites, such as  expand the market to children with disabilities and health complications, "smashing the stereotype" of perfectly-constructed dolls with unrealistic body types. If children with cochlear implants or prosthetic appendages see these toys from a young age, they may feel that their condition is accepted in society instead of being perceived as different from everyone else. Tinker Bell dolls fashioned with hearing aids, Legos walking with seeing-eye dogs and Star Wars Stormtroopers sporting prosthetic legs inspire young people, as well as adults, to recognize that toys sharing their same disabilities remain as heroes.

Likewise, Mattel has recently revised its collection of Barbies with its addition of tall, curvy and petite dolls. The brand will expand to 33 new dolls, with various skin and hair types that reflect realistic body proportions. "We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty," stated Evelyn Mazzocco, senior vice president of Barbie. Children usually mimic the actions of others and by accepting different cultures and body types expressed in the toys they play with, their own self-esteem may benefit in the long run.

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