Growing up, my parents never bought my sisters and I Barbies. It seemed like all our friends had them so I assumed our Barbie-less house became that way because my parents didn’t have extra money to spend on “such nonsense.”

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After visiting a friend from church one afternoon, I came home with a bag full of long-legged ladies. My friend had dozens of big busted Barbies and was happy to share her stash with my sisters and I.

My parents were disappointed I hadn’t asked permission first, but I made a pretty convincing case that playing with Barbies was no different than playing with our dolls.

Turns out I was wrong. Something changed in us when we switched from playing with our dolls to playing with Barbies. When we played with our dolls, we became their mother. When we played with Barbies, we became Barbie herself.

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The role we assumed when we mothered our dolls was a nurturing and caring one. We “fed” our babies, diapered and dressed them, and rocked them to sleep. Subconsciously, we were practicing the skills we now use as mothers. We were learning to look out for the needs of others.

When we played with Barbies, we impersonated her character. We went shopping for high heels and mini skirts (let’s face it – most Barbies don’t come with a modest wardrobe!), sun-tanned on the beach, visited the salon, and prettied ourselves up for our hot date, Ken. The “ugly Barbie” (the one I gave a bad hair cut) was labeled “the mean girl,” and consequently, the butt of all our jokes. When we played with Barbie, we looked out for our own interests. We made way for #1.

Are Barbies a healthy toy for young girls to play with? Consider the following facts, taken from here:

  • If Barbie were an actual woman, she would be 5’9″ tall, have a 39″ bust, an 18″ waist, and a size 3 shoe.
  • At 110 lbs, she has an anorexic BMI of 16, calls herself “full-figured,” and would likely not menstruate.
  • If she was a real woman, Barbie would have to walk on all fours in order to support her unrealistic proportions.
  • Over $1,000,000,000 of Barbie dolls and accessories were sold in 1993 alone, making Barbie one of the top 10 toys sold worldwide.
  • Slumber Party Barbie was introduced in 1965 and came with a bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs with a book entitled “How to Lose Weight”. The directions inside stated simply, “Don’t eat.”

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Is a Barbie ban in Christian homes recommended? That’s the call of each individual mother. Perhaps  more advantageous than a Barbie who invites a girl to indulge in the interests of self, are toys designed to help a girl build biblical character and prepare her for real life. One of my favorite places to find such toys is  Vision Forum. Their toys are geared towards equipping girls for womanhood and boys for manhood.

Big sister, little sister

Only Hearts is a realistically proportioned, soft-body, Barbie alternative I recently discovered. The dolls look like young girls rather than grown women, and are generally equipped with clothes that are less glitzy and more modest. How the Philippians 2:4 dynamic plays out with these dolls compared to Barbie is something I can’t speak to from personal observation, but my guess is that because these dolls are created to engage in wholesome activities like farming and babysitting, they are a better choice than Barbie or Bratz.

Let us be mindful of the toys our daughters play with. The seeds we sow today we will reap tomorrow. And in our challenge to raise women of a meek and quiet spirit, who willingly give of themselves for the sake of others (1 Peter 3:4; Proverbs 31), let us be careful to choose toys that encourage our daughters to place the interests of others ahead of their own (Philippians 2:4).

Jacinda

Jacinda Vandenberg is a wife, mother to 3, homemaker, and second-generation homeschooler. She blogs at Growing Home, a site dedicated to holistic homemaking. When she’s not gardening, cooking, or crafting with her sweet babes, you’ll probably find her writing about her passions with one hand and holding a large mug of coffee in the other. Jacinda is also the author of How To Grow Your Blog And Manage Your Home and How To Design Your Blog For FREE! You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or visit her home on the web.

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{ 36 comments }

Narelle October 1, 2012

God sent me a light bulb moment about Barbies a few years ago. DD was probably about 6 or 7. I shared with her a number of the thoughts you’ve posted above and how I could see that playing with them wasn’t God’s BEST, for her. She agreed, gathered them up and put them in the kitchen bin without issue. We bought her a baby doll and have watched her play go back to being ‘others focused’.

Mary Phariss October 1, 2012

Thank you for posting about barbies. I was not really a fan growing up and have not bought my 4 yr old daughter any barbies. She has collected a few from cousins, but doesn’t really play with them. My husband agreed that we are going to just throw them all away. Thanks also for the mentioning of Only Hearts Club. I never knew about them!! I went to the website and became a kid again!! We will definitely be looking into some of these dolls and play sets for Christmas and birthdays.

In Christ,
Mary

Danielle @ More Than Four Walls October 1, 2012

Great post Jacinda.

At this time I don’t have any girls but your post reminded me of my childhood and my friends and I played similarly with our dolls. We were friends with Barbie, no moms.

Thanks too for the link to Only Hearts. I will be sharing that with my readers.

Blessings!

Shari October 1, 2012

Thanks for sharing this! We need to promote edifying movies and toys and books more for our children!

Sarah G. October 1, 2012

I played with Barbies growing up and never thought a thing about them. Maybe it was the way my parents treated them or something. It was just another doll for me. I didn’t use any really immodest clothes and actually had a lot of fun sewing jumpers for my lady dolls. I would crawl underneath the dining room table and have them all with me – it was their house, with each chair being a bedroom. *nostalgia*

That being said, the Barbies being sold nowadays just look trampy. Why they have to market dolls that look like prostitutes to little girls I’ll never know. At this point, I wouldn’t have a problem unpacking my old Barbies from storage for any future daughters, but I don’t think I’d buy any of the current ones for sale!

Arianna V October 1, 2012

I used to play with Barbies when I was younger. I remember being more interested in making outfits for them, or naming their children than anything else. My daughter recieved her first Barbie from her grandma a month ago at a birthday party (she is 2 1/2). My mom was kind enough to try to find a “modest” outfit (this Barbie is an equestrian, so she is outfitted to ride English style- with boots, pants, and jacket- oh and a plastic pony) and even mentioned that she looked for one fully clothed, which I appreciated from her. I didn’t know if my daughter would have much interest, but for the first week or so “Girl” as she was named was just one of the babes. My daughter would change her clothes, brush her hair, give her a diaper change (or in most cases, see if she needed to go potty since we are into potty training) and even make sure she was properly cleaned in the bath. I found my daughter tucking “Girl” in one night in her bed, reading her the Bible and singing. I think she even pretended to nurse her once. So, I agree with the way Barbie is usually played with, but my little one saw Barbie “Girl” as just one of her baby dolls. As of right now Barbie is in the toy bin with many other toys… so we will see if this changes as she gets older. I appreciated this post!

Jenny K October 1, 2012

I must have been a strange child. When I played with my barbies, they lived in a cardboard box that I decorated. They had an awesome barbie kitchen that they cooked meals for their family in. Barbie was the mom, Ken was the dad and they had about 4 babies that they took care of together. Sure they had fun driving around in their sports car…with the kids crammed in the back. LOL. I also never looked at Barbie as what a woman is supposed to look like. I assumed “real” women looked like the women in my life. My mom, grandma, aunts, etc. Barbie was just a plastic doll.

I’m still on the fence as to whether or not my girls will have barbies. If they do, I will be making their clothes because no one is allowed to dress like that in my house. Not even a doll.

Patty Page October 1, 2012

I played with Barbies growing up—I actually had the Skipper doll. I spent many hours making clothes for her, and my sisters and I had cardboard boxes that we made into rooms and houses. It was great creative play. I’ve bought them for my girls as well (they’re grown up now) and I was able to find one’s with decent clothes—my girls also made clothes for them. I agree that the image Barbie portrays can be unrealistic, sensual, & worldly—-but since that wasn’t what was emphasized in our “real” world, for us it was just great imaginative play.

Leanna October 1, 2012

I played with Barbies growing up as well, but to me it was just playing house. All I’d ever wanted to be was a “mom”, so I’d make families (some having 8+ kids) and would play house, church, and nursery with them. I had mostly modest clothes for them, and I enjoyed making my own. My sister and I had all the baby sets, which we LOVED! My mom explained to me once why some people didn’t like Barbies (unrealistic body figure, etc.) but I never looked at them that way, to me they were just for playing house! I’ve still got all of them today, including the popsicle stick playpens and cribs that I made, and even the church “pews” 🙂
I must say that the Barbies they sell now are VERY skimpy and I would be careful about which ones I would buy, but should I have a daughter one day I would love for her to enjoy the same imaginative play my sister and I did.

Kristi Johnson October 1, 2012

I played with Barbies growing up. Sometimes Barbie was a mom with kids. Sometimes she was a civil engineer digging in the dirt pile in the backyard. Sometimes she was a movie star. I also had the advantage of having an aunt who on a regular basis crocheted doll clothes for those “fashion doll” from the craft store. If my barbie didn’t have the best clothes for the situation….get ready for this one… I IMAGINED THEM.

The doll isn’t the problem. It’s just a hunk of plastic. Just like any other toy or tool it is how you teach your kids to use it (or allow your kids to be taught by others). If your kids act out things with their toys that you think are unhealthy then it’s your job to get down on your hands and knees with your kids an show them how to play in a way that is wholesome.

Suzanne October 1, 2012

I have the fondest memories of playing with my barbies:-) I would act out Barbie being the Mom and mothering her little ones, Dawn and a few others. Countless hours were spent cooking meals and also doing the wash and hanging it outside. Ken went off to work and came home and did what Dads did. I agree with Patty, the image of Barbie can be portrayed as unrealistic and sensual , but that was not taught in our home or even that bent introduced to us so for us we just had some great times imagining all kinds of domesticity with our barbies. My daughter has them and plays the same with them as she does her dolls.

Christy October 1, 2012

My parents never bought me or my sister a Barbie doll. My aunt bought me my first along with the Barbie jetliner.. I remember “playing” with it, but not like I did with baby dolls. After my sister bit the toes off Barbie I really had no real intrest in playing with her. I believe my sister had one or two Barbies and a Growing-up Skipper. (Truly, that doll embarassed me. I was “ashamed” that I did not develop like Skipper did.)

We did not allow our daughters play with Barbies for a long time. We did not want to leave the impression of the world has for women on their minds. Somewhere along the line, they had been given Barbie dolls. We “caved in” and did not stand our ground on the “no Barbie” rule.
The ones they do have are the more “modest” ones, if there is really such a thing. Our daughters have played off and on with Barbies, but they preferred baby dolls when there was not a new baby in our home. Our youngest daughter is almost 8, and she dutifully carries her baby doll, in it’s carseat, to church with her. Sometimes “Purple Baby”, named for the color of her outfit, is signed into the nursery, and sometimes she sits in church service with us!

Thank you for the reminder and the links to something better than Barbie!

Crystal @ Serving Joyfully October 1, 2012

Great post! I don’t think all your points are applicable to every child, but at the same time I think there is more negative than positive about barbie.

Staci October 1, 2012

We chose not to do Barbies with our 3 girls because even though I have certain rules that would apply to the Barbies, come Christmastime my family would be buying all the accessories for Barbie and they don’t live/believe like we do. Then *I* would be the one disappointing my kids by not allowing them to open the gifts, not play with the gifts, take the gifts back, getting slack from my family, etc. I personally played with Barbies, and while this isn’t easy to admit, I had some abuse from an adopted child in our family, so my Barbie and Ken had sex. Yes, they had children and I mothered them, but the main memory I have is Ken and Barbie sleeping together, one on top of the other, and me cutting off all of Barbie’s hair. LOL Did my mother know I played with my Barbie dolls this way? Umm, no! To her, I was just “playing” with them in their house, car, pool, etc. I would just prefer, personally, not to give that company my money as a Christian when they make the dolls’ clothing so trashy looking. Plus, now they make Barbie vampires, Justin Biebers, etc. They just seem like a really wicked industry. That said, I have friends who let their kids play with Barbies and we are still very good friends. To each their own when there is no clear dividing line.

DonnaJ October 1, 2012

I so agree about the Barbies. I had some when I was little ~ and my daughter was given a few by friends when she was little. But, she was far more fascinated with the tiny food, pots and pans, and miniature accessories than the doll. She also loved the little Kelly dolls in the barbie line. She had a mini school room, playground, etc. for them. Her favorite doll, by far, was her AG Bitty Baby Doll. She loved that baby and mothered her all the time. Even when she got the bigger AG dolls, bitty baby was still loved. Since my daughter is 16 now, Bitty Baby usually sits in her little wooden high chair and watches over the room. I would always choose a baby doll over a Barbie.

Jessie Bates October 1, 2012

I played with Barbies all the time when I was a kid. For me it more about setting up the house and having a large family and taking care of them. Both of my daughters play with barbies and do the same thing. One is always the mom and one is always the daughter.

Sarah October 1, 2012

I appreciate reading about the different experiences in the comments. I don’t like how Barbies are made and sold these days, and we won’t have them for our kids (same with Disney princess stuff). But I won’t freak out if they are exposed to them at a friends’ house. Kids are different and God’s grace is sufficient for all of us, but I know my own kids and they would almost certainly be influenced for the worse if these images were commonplace in their lives.

Jill's Home Remedies October 1, 2012

My Husband and I don’t allow our girls to play with Barbies for the exact reasons you stated. Great article, Jacinda!

Jamie (@va_grown) October 1, 2012

We had Barbies growing up and mostly played things like “career” and “dating” imaginative play because that seemed to be what was portrayed for Barbie on the boxes and books that came with her. We didn’t play much “family.” More parental guidance for us might have made a difference there, and I don’t necessarily think that Barbie dolls are all BAD. But I do think we have to look at our kids limited time (and our limited resources!) and see if Barbie is the BEST option for our kids to focus their play on/with.

We chose no Barbie for our household because we feel so many of them are absolutely NOT APPROPRIATE for our family and it’s easier to just find something else than waste time and energy sorting through it–especially for other family members. (I thought the Bratz concept was bad, but have you seen Monster High?) We enjoy the Barbie movies, but we don’t do Barbie toys. We stick with our American Girl or just baby dolls.

Dana October 1, 2012

I also wrote about Barbie and how she affects little girls’ playtime. You can read it here {if you’re interestd}:

http://www.siefker-stuff.blogspot.com/2012/07/keeping-little-in-your-girl-pt-5.html

Great post!

Jenna October 1, 2012

I always put my Barbies in families. I had five Barbies and two Ken dolls growing up. My Barbies were mothers to my Strawberry Shortcake dolls. I made clothes for them too, based on clothes that my mother wore, so they were modestly dressed. My 4-year-old daughter has Barbies. In fact, she has my old Barbies along with all the clothes I made for them. She tends to play with them the same way. Therefore, I don’t have a problem with Barbie. I do not like the clothes they sell for Barbies now, but I couldn’t buy any anyway because they wouldn’t fit my bustier Barbies from the 80’s anyway that my daughter has. She doesn’t watch any of the Barbie movies or own any of the Barbie books, so the only context she knows to play with these dolls in is the religious, family-oriented context in which she is being raised.

Stephanie October 1, 2012

Your post has some good insight! I have never thought of Barbies in that way with regard to dolls. My parents never bought barbies. Actually, I don’t remember them buying us any toys as they didn’t have extra $$ for that. Our grandparents would give us a doll at Christmas. My friends had Barbies..and everything that went with them. I asked my aunt for the Ice Capades(sp?) Barbie for my 12th birthday…I loved watching ice skating on tv. A dear lady, who used to babysit me made a wardrobe of modest clothes for her. That is all I had for her plus her ice skating outfit. I didn’t play with her much, mostly just brushed her hair. lol. Thank you for your post!

Sherri October 1, 2012

I played with barbies all the time growing up. I had the townhouse, the airplane, the camper and anything else that had to do with barbie. I really just played with them as though I were playing house with my dolls. However, not just some barbies but some dolls as well, in these days are made to dress and look very different from the barbies I played with as a child. Also, we should be careful what kind of behaviors and attitudes our children are exposed to. That is what we may see them playing out with their dolls.

Marie-Louise October 2, 2012

I loved barbies and played with them a lot. I think you’re very right about kids playing what they see. I did it all the time. For example: In the morning someone in our street walked by carrying her baby in a special cloth. In the afternoon my barbie had one too. It made my mother laugh, she said: “you’re coppying that woman. You’re always playing out with your barbies what you see around you.” I didn’t have any barbiebooks and never watched TV or movies as a child. I just played home/school/vacation with the car/dressing them/ doing there hair etc. So I agree with you about beiing careful in exposing our children to bad behaviors and attitudes. I see it at my job (childcare for children ages 4-12): children play what they see on TV including kissing/shooting/kicking/wizzard “with special powers”.. It’s hard to explain why they shouldn’t do it when they see it on TV all the time! They say to me that they know it can’t/shoudn’t happen in reality. So I reply: we don’t play it either because when you play it all the time, you don’t know what’s normal anymore.

Joyce October 1, 2012

All of these Barbie & pretend posts are making me nostalgic! I had Barbies & regular dolls when I was a kid, but I just saw them as such. Great post!

Joluise October 2, 2012

I grew up with rules, the does and don’t, so as an adult I’m not a fan of banning. Girls should have a variety of toys and she doesn’t need to play mother to all. A Barbie or 2 won’t hurt any child. I had one and my mum made her gorgeous clothes which I loved and we had a lot of fun. My son played with my Barnie doll when he was little and in the end broke her by converting her to a gun. Boys will be boys.

Virginia Jones October 2, 2012

My girls are grown up now but I remember the change that came over them when they had barbies. I got rid of the ones they had for the same reasons. We had many a discussion about them and how they are shaping the ideology of girls today. I am still amazed at how christians have allowed the worldly thinking to come into the church. I am so thankful for the teachings of the Word and have tried my best in instructing my daughters in becoming godly wives and mothers. Thank you for writing this article.

Jennifer~Renewing Housewives October 2, 2012

I’m sure you’ll get many that disagree with your post, but you hit the nail on the head here:
“When we played with our dolls, we became their mother. When we played with Barbies, we became Barbie herself.” So true! I wanted to look like Barbie, not a chubby baby! Barbie always looked fake to me tho, and I really preferred Strawberry Shortcake LOL.

We have 5 daughters. I despise Barbie and they are not welcome in our home. Keep speaking truth Jacinda!

Hannah October 2, 2012

My parents never let Barbies in the house while we were growing up. I didn’t really have a strong feelings about it one way or the other until I read an article that asked the question, “Would you mothers invite a fully-developed young woman in to your home and let your daughters dress … undress … play with her like they would a Barbie?”

Dressing and undressing baby dolls is one thing … most of us are likely going to be mothers and change diapers innumerable! But dressing and undressing a grown woman??? If we wouldn’t do it in real life, why do it for pretend?

Kristy October 2, 2012

My sister and I grew up with Barbies. My mom sewed us dresses and skirts for our dolls and we mostly played “family”.

That being said, we are a Barbie-less house. Our two little girls, ages 8 and 6, have plenty of fun with Faith and Friends and Only Hearts dolls… not to mention their many baby dolls.

Barbie looks like a tramp these days. We don’t bring her into our home for the same reasons we don’t bring in the pop stars for our girls to idolize. It simply isn’t the culture we’re trying to nurture in our home.

Amanda October 2, 2012

Thanks for the post; I think many of your points are valid. My sister and I had many, many Barbie dolls growing up, but we mostly played princesses or house with them (homesteading, in particular, after my grandmother found a couple of homemade, Barbie-sized prairie dresses and bonnets at a craft fair.) I do remember that we never treated them like baby dolls, though; there was always a distinction. I do not know how I will approach Barbie dolls if/when I have a daughter, but your post certainly gave me some thoughts to take into consideration should that time come.

Elise October 2, 2012

When I was young I played with Barbies that my parents had bought me. I have since then decided I do not like Barbies but we did play with our Barbies differently then what you are discribing here.

My parents monitered what Barbies we were playing with. There were some Barbies that looked pretty and I wanted to get but my Mom wouldn’t let me because she said that Barbie looked sleezy. The Barbies we played with had modest clothing (grant it, our wardrobe was not very large), and we would get in big trouble if we left our Barbies laying around without any clothes on. We had Barbies and G.I. Joes. We would have weddings and play house with our Barbies. Dad would go to work and then when he came home the children would race to see him and he would give his wife a kiss. We were lucky to have a wide variety of ages in our Barbies. Babies, children, and older children. We had a Barbie set intended to be a baby sitter but we turned it into the Mom and her child. We had a Moses Barbie set too. I have no idea how Mom dug up these jems out of the trash can but she did. I cannot ever remember making one of the Barbies mean. We sometimes made them stupid, and they would end up falling off the balcony of our play house. Still, Mom managed to train us to play with them nicely. It was only when we went to our friends house that we played the way you are describing and I remember it not being as much fun.

We also had lots of dolls. LOTS of dolls. A play kitchen, highchair, and crib.

Paula @ All Things Moms October 2, 2012

I have never liked Barbie because of her skimpy wardrobe and with my daughter only being 2 had not yet thought about how we would handle the Barbie phase. Your post brought out a great point in regards to who your child becomes when playing. Just another reason we will be having that ackward “No Barbies” talk with my family.

Everyday Mom October 3, 2012

I grew up playing with Barbies and I allow my girls to play with Barbies. As a child I remember my older sister and I pretending Barbie was getting married (we had a bridal dress and veil for her) to Ken. They were going on a honeymoon. They were setting up their new house. He was going to work. Children reenact life through their play. This is how they learn, problem solve, and discover the world around them.

The writer says, “We went shopping for high heels and mini skirts (let’s face it – most Barbies don’t come with a modest wardrobe!), sun-tanned on the beach, visited the salon, and prettied ourselves up for our hot date, Ken.”

Aside from not dressing modestly, are any of these things bad? Going to the beach, getting your hair done at a salon, and getting ready for a date are all NORMAL things.

Deborah October 3, 2012

Linked to your article on our website, you’ve expressed our sentiments exactly!

Meg Newell October 11, 2012

My daughter has always enjoyed playing with Polly Pockets; more modest, and though she assumes the role, it is the role of mom & wife. Her Pollies (each named & with unique characteristics and you must NEVER confuse them) have all been married to Karate Guy, Batman, and Spider Man for as long as we can remember. I am delighted to report that the last time I “caught” her playing Pollies was last week, with her 2 friends, on her 13th birthday. YAY!!

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