What child doesn’t enjoy playing with toys? Toys are a developmental tool that help children learn by molding minds through play, experiments, and concept building. The Mattel doll known as Barbie is 60 years old this year. Many girls have played with Barbie through the years. Most girls with disabilities can play with Barbie dolls, but it would be wonderful for them to have a Barbie they can relate to.
For years, the big problem with Barbie was that she came with one body type and only had blond hair and blue eyes. Nowadays, she comes with different skin tones and hair color. However, in February, Mattel revealed a new line of Barbies: One has a wheelchair and another has a prosthetic leg. The new Barbies will hit the stores in June.
As a mom, educator, and someone who has cerebral palsy, I am thrilled about the new Barbies.
In my childhood, I searched for anything and anyone who had a disability like me. Of course, in the early 1980s, toys depicting disabilities were next to impossible to find. I remember looking through a magazine that catered to parents with children who have disabilities. They had an advertisement for a line of dolls with different disabilities including one in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, they had an outrageous price so I never got one.
Eventually, American Girl Dolls became popular. My mom bought me one that looked completely like me, wheelchair included. I kept it and let my daughter play with it when she was old enough.
I remember when Barbie released “Share-a-Smile Becky” with the girl in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, it was only for a limited time and didn’t last very long. I have one but never opened it. I hope this new line lasts a bit longer.
I think it’s amazing that Mattel is making Barbies with disabilities again. Aiming for authenticity, Mattel consulted a girl who has a disability, Jordan Reeves, a 13-year-old disability advocate. Reeves has a missing forearm, so she helped Mattel create a prosthetic that girls could use in their play. Mattel also consulted a hospital and wheelchair design specialist to make Barbie a more accurately depicted wheelchair. Included is a small ramp so she can access the Barbie Dream House.
I can just imagine how a girl would feel to see a Barbie in a wheelchair with all the rest of the Barbies. It gives a very positive message to those without disabilities. Children will learn that people who use wheelchairs and prosthetic devices or have other differences are beautiful, too. If children see more people with disabilities, they are less likely to discriminate or feel awkward around them. Disabilities should be seen as a normal part of society. The new Barbie line is a step in the right direction.
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