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Posts tagged ‘Play’

A Doll for a Twin

This is the image used on the Facebook page "Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let's see if we can get it made", which campaigned for the creation of a bald Barbie.

Mattel very recently announced on Facebook their newest project, bald Barbie. Referred to as a “fashion doll”, Mattel’s decision to create this new doll was prompted by a Facebook campaign. With over 150,000 “likes”, the Facebook campaign was started by two mothers who called for the creation of a hairless Barbie ( The mothers’ intentions were for this doll to serve as a coping device for young girls with and/or exposed to hair loss that was brought on by some illness. Mattel stated that accessories for the doll, such as: “wigs, hats, scarves and other fashion accessories” (, will be offered in order to ensure equality in play with both bald Barbies and traditional Barbies.  Additionally, Mattel will not be putting this new doll on the shelf; rather, they will donate the dolls to children’s hospitals in order to ensure that those children who need these dolls most will get them.

Mattel stated in their post: “Play is vital for children, especially during difficult times” ( The plea made by the mothers on Facebook along with Mattel’s decision to submit to these mothers’ requests shows the importance these groups place on play, doll play in particular, and their belief in play’s therapeutic capabilities. The significance of dolls is also noted in Chin’s chapter: “Ethnically Correct Dolls: Toying with the Race Industry”. In this chapter, Chin discusses the makers’ of ethnically correct dolls strong feelings about girls, specifically African American girls, having dolls to play with that resemble them. Chin states the makers’ intention for creating these dolls, she writes: “Ethnically correct dolls(‘)…purpose is to make kids feel better about themselves as they play with toys that look like them” (359). The ethnically correct doll manufacturers’ objective is to build self-esteem amongst African American girls; they believe that black children playing with white dolls endangers these black children’s self-concept. The driving force behind the creation of ethnically correct dolls and the soon to come bald Barbies is this idea that children need to relate to their doll, mostly in regards to appearance, in order to experience the full benefits of play. The Facebook petition page states: “This would be a great coping mechanism for young girls dealing with hair loss themselves or a loved one” ( The hope is that Mattel’s new doll will help boost the self-esteem of children undergoing hair loss, and “bring joy to children who need it most” (

A disparity that exists between ethnically correct dolls and Mattel’s bald Barbies is the rate at which these dolls are obtained by the children who need them most. As noted above, Mattel plans to distribute their new dolls to children’s hospitals, easing the burden of these children in need from having to seek out and purchase these dolls. In contrast to Mattel, manufacturers of ethnically correct dolls, such as OLMEC, are looking to make money. If you cannot afford or lack access to a store that sells these dolls, you are unfortunately out of luck. This was the case for most of the African American Newhallville children Chin worked with. The Newhallville children appeared to manage just fine with their white-skinned dolls, but this is beside the point. In the minds of the makers of ethnically correct dolls, Newhallville children and other children in similar positions are the kids most in need of these dolls, yet they happen to be the children most deprived of them.

Whether or not one believes that children need to physically look like their doll in order to experience play’s full effect, the bottom line is that dolls are an extremely important and beneficial component of play. All children deserve to possess a doll that brings them the utmost comfort and joy.



All Girls Are Princesses

A Little Princess movie cover (1995)

One of my all time favorite movies is A Little Princess. It is based on the 1905 book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The story line follows a young girl named Sara Crewe who is born and raised in India to her wealthy soldier father. He sends her to an upscale London boarding school to receive a formal education. The headmistress, Miss Minchin, is cold and cruel to say the least. Then, when she receives word that Sara’s father was killed in the war and would not be paying for Sara to stay at the school, she tells Sara her only choice is to live in the attic as a servant or else she will be kicked out on the street. Sara never loses hope or the ability to see the good in everything. Her father always told her elaborate stories about princesses in India and she used those stories to keep the other girls at the boarding school feeling positive. They would meet her in the attic nightly and secretly listen to her optimistic stories. Miss Minchin does everything in her power to keep the girls from using this power of imagination. She believes it to be a waste of time and that they should be doing more productive things with their time. She even takes Sara’s locket, the only part of her father she has to hold on to. (Spoiler alert) In the end, she finds that her father is much closer than she thought. He is alive and recovering from an explosion with the help of a friend from India. They are reunited and Sara takes one of her new orphaned friends with  her and her father back to India after ensuring that Miss Minchin is fired.

Needless to say, the moral of the story is that imagination is a powerful tool that makes life better and can helpThe orphaned girls tell stories in the attic you through hard times. Another main point is to never lose hope in yourself or others. This is a powerful message to send to children considering, the issues we have been discussing in class. Combining my love for this movie and my new knowledge from class, an idea from our Chudacoff reading came to mind. “Advertisers quickly learned that they could merge a “backstory” of fantasy with a product to create a meaningful relationship between product and child.” (course packet) I realize this is not necessarily a product advertisement but this movie is definitely pro-imagination and the writers use this dramatic story line to drive home the point that children need imagination in their life.

We discussed in class whether or not children should tap in to this source of creativity when they play or if play should be focused more on productive ideas like easy bake ovens or toy work benches. My answer is no. The ability to be optimistic and make light of a challenging situation begins with the ability to see the good in everything. I believe this starts with the ability to be creative and expand the definition of real life.

A very important line from the movie is when Sara says “All girls are princesses”. This brings to mind the Free To Be You and Me readings and discussions. I believe this movie is very relevant to this piece. The story, “Ladies First” seems to say that girls should not claim to be ladies or princesses based on the entitlement that comes with it. However, this movie shows that this gender idea can be used for good to make a young, troubled girl feel special and loved.


Technology in Today’s Toys

According to the article “Go Directly, Digitally to Jail? Classic Toys Learn New Clicks” (Stephanie Clifford, the New York Times, Feb. 25, 2012), retailers in the toy industry are beginning to modernize classic toys by integrating technology into them. Despite the fact that Barbie, Monopoly, and Hot Wheels have sold millions throughout past generations, retailers feel the need to modernize these classic toys. Monopoly can be played on a digital tablet that can count the money, taking away the pain of all the simple math. An iPad screen can now be used to watch Hot Wheels blaze across the track, as if imagination wasn’t enough. And Barbie? Oh, she just has as a camera embedded in her stomach, which allows children to take pictures and even transport the storage files (with the help of parents.)  The cause of these technological advancements is said to be a result of a disappointing 2011 for retailers, including Hasbro and Mattel, as children are wanting more tech-savvy toys, such as the LeapPad LeapFrog Explorer. John Alteio, director of toys and games for Amazon, says the reason kids want modernized toys is because they want to play with toys similar to the gadgets they see their parents using. While many toy retailers are beginning to modernize their toys, some critics think that the trend will soon fade away due to the high price of the toys compared to the toys that are cheaper because of the technology they do not possess.

This ties into our reading of Bradbury’s “The Veldt” focusing on technology taking over children. This is because children are beginning to lose their imagination as technology becomes more and more prominent in their lives. They are upset if they cannot have their tech-savvy toys, such as when the parents take away the technology from the kids in the short story. In order to steer our young generation in the right direction, retailers need to decrease the amount of technology in toys or, like in the story, a bad ending may be inevitable.

Video Girl Barbie

Wax Rainbows

There are a few combinations in life that create magic.  Things that simply belong together and would not be nearly as grand standing alone.  Peanut butter and jelly, cookies and milk, both qualify.  There is another combination though, that for me, defines my childhood.  It is what occurs when you combine melted wax with color pigmentation – Crayola Crayons.

I remember the sheer joy I felt when opening a new 64-pack of the crayons in the early 70s.    The perfect fit of each one as it stood tall  in the custom-made box with built-in sharpener.  I would spend hours experimenting with the different shades  in my coloring books.  The only downside of coloring was when a crayon broke.  What a shame to no longer have perfect rows of lean soldiers.  The afflicted crayon could never stand straight again and you knew it was only a matter of time before others fell victim to play.

As we read in Chudacoff’s chapter, Children at Play, many toys were targeted specifically for boys or girls.(180)  Not so with crayons.  Both sexes could enjoy coloring.  Parents were happy because crayons were inexpensive, and stimulated the imagination.

Two chemists, Howard Smith and Edwin Binney came up with the non-toxic formula in 1903.  They named their new company “Crayola” which means “oily chalk” in French.  The exact Crayola formula is highly guarded, but you can see how crayons are made in this 1974 Sesame Street video.

uploaded by KitsuneDarkStalker on youtube, 2007

Over the past 109 years, colors have been discontinued, added, and changed.  The history behind the names is quite fascinating.  On the Crayola website, you can find a chronology of the names.  Today there are more than 100 colors and the appeal for crayons continues for both the young and young-at-heart.


Model Airplanes

I’ve been in love with airplanes from the moment I was born. The hospital in which I was born lies on the approach path for my city’s international airport. A straight line from the center of the runway’s north end to the hospital would cover about 2 miles. My mum says that after I was born I cried incessantly, and the only thing that would soothe me was the screech of aircraft as they passed overhead. My first word was “avión”, Spanish for airplane. With this in mind, it came as no surprise to my family when toy airplanes became the toys I cherished the most.

The Approach to Toncontin Airport. The hospital where I was born is about 2 miles behind where this picture was taken. Photo credit to William Decker.

I liked every kind and brand of model plane, but had a particular fondness (granted, obsession) for models of Honduras’s national carrier, SAHSA. Planes in a Honduran airline’s colors are not exactly in high demand, so there wasn’t anyone making the planes other than the airline itself. They had models custom made for them by a model maker in Miami, then used them as displays in their local offices and in travel agencies. My grandfather was a stakeholder in the airline, so armed with that and the help of my charming smile I saw to it that a considerable amount of these models found their way into my possession. Back then (early 90’s) the models should have been about 75 bucks a pop, but considering SAHSA went bankrupt in 1994 they are virtually priceless now.

Model SAHSA Boeing 727 courtesy of

Gary Cross mentions in the first paragraph of page 37 in “Modern Children, Modern Toys” (course packet page 55) that

“Toys were both vehicles to introduce the ‘real world’ and fantasy objects shut off from that world in the child’s ‘secret garden’.”

This perfectly sums up my experiences with my model planes. My playtime consisted of this: I would set up two “airports” on opposite tables across a room. I envisioned the floor as an ocean, and both the tables represented islands. I would then proceed to micromanage each “airport” using my imagination and my recollection of airport infrastructure. Each plane would “land” at an airport, then would be given time to unload its passengers on “stairs” (Honduras didn’t have jet ways at the time); the cargo would be taken to the imaginary terminal (usually a box of cereal lying flat), the jet would be refueled, new passengers loaded, then it would take off once again with the other “island” as its destination. As Cross mentioned above, I was in my own world of sorts, however I tried to make that world as similar to the real world as possible. During my playtime I did more than just mimic the real world though; I began to understand it. I realized why airplanes used radios to communicate with a control tower one day when I attempted to land one of my jets while another was just lining up with the runway for takeoff. Something that was easy for me to fix there, but would likely end in a horrifying accident in the real world.  Through having a line of models waiting to unload their passengers as a result of me not balancing out the arrivals and departures, I realized why airlines’ timescales were so dependent on the efficiency of many moving parts.  Keeping track of how many routes a particular plane had flown that day taught me to add. Balancing the routes flown so that all my “fleet” participated equally taught me to multiply, divide, and subtract. To quote Cross, I was learning “how to be productive through purposive play” (course packet, page 55). The creation of my own little world in which I could move all the pieces without any repercussions ultimately allowed me the freedom to understand and thus prepare for the world ahead on my terms. At least the airline world…

Toy Horses

Plastic Toy Horse

As Gary Gross said “parents expected playthings that imitated current adult roles. [1]” With this mentality, there is no doubt why growing up with a farming father I was showered with agriculture animal toys. My favorite ones to play with were the plastic toy horses. With them, I would imitate everything my father would do in real life. I pretended to feed them by laying them on the grass so they could eat or dipping their head in the water so they could drink.

To me the rocking horse was pure amusement, but its creation was intended to provide additional benefits. Dating as far back as the 17th century, where King Charles I of England rode one as a child, toy horses were used to advance child development. The rocking horse would provide a form of exercise that helped build balance and coordination in the child. Additionally, it embedded in them the basic skills of riding a horse-mounting, proper seating and riding, holding on, dismounting. The model horse became so popular, adults practiced their use as well. Knights in the Middle Ages rode on wheeled horses to improve their jousting techniques just like children practiced their riding skills on rocking ones[2]. Unknowingly, I was gaining more than enjoyment out of my toy horses. I was improving my physical skills and preparing for the future role I was to hold in the farm. If I showed I could took good care of my toy horses, it displayed I had the knowledge required to take care of a real horse.

Georgian Rocking Horse Hall Museum Washington USA

Initially, the rocking horse was made of materials such as barrel,  wood and cloth[3]. Due to the abundance of the material, the rocking horses were very affordable. Rich and poor alike could own one. For this reason, it became such a popular toy everywhere. Today toy horses are still abundant and being created in additional materials such as plastic, metal, and glass. Unlike the old days where the rocking horse was simply the bareback figure of the horse, today they closely resemble the real ones by being equipped with saddles, horseshoes, and riders gear. Children now are more prepared than ever to learn everything necessary to become great horse owners.

[1]  Cross, Gary. Kids’ Stuff.  Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: Harvard University Press, 1997 (pg49) 
[2] “The History of the Rocking Horse.” Casam LLC, Tampa, 2012
[3] Rolo, Jeffrey. “History of the Rocking Horse.” Alpha Horse, 2011

American Girl- Dolls & Books.


American Girl Samantha Doll and Book (

When I was 10 years-old, there was only one toy I truly desired for Christmas that year. More than anything, I wanted an American Girl Doll. Having had access to their line of books at my elementary school library, as well as my many friends who were mailed the monthly American Girl catalogues that displayed the latest accessories for your miniature pal, I was groomed to desire one of the delicate and interesting dolls. The dolls and their corresponding books series, were introduced by American Girl Company in 1986 (acquired by Mattel in 1998) with the intent of “introducing historical characters to give girls an engaging glimpse into important times in America’s past… Gentle life lessons throughout the stories remind girls of such lasting values as the importance of family and friends, compassion, responsibility, and forgiveness,” according to the American Girl website. Just as Sterne emphasizes the importance placed on play not only being entertaining, but also used as educational stimulation, the strongest selling point to the American Girl series is the fact that they represent historical eras of time. Not only are little girls combatting boredom with the dolls, but ideally, also learning historical information. As previously mentioned, the dolls are also supposed to emphasize a certain set of values to their girl consumers. According to an article in The New York Times, “This return-to-innocence approach has corporate appeal.” In 2004, the company had reached $350 million dollars in sales, and looked upon as a more suitable toy to Barbie (who ironically was also created and manufactured by Mattel.) Similar to the points Cross makes in “Modern Childhood, Modern Toys” concerning gender roles, the American Girl dolls not only emphasize the classic maternal qualities dolls often invoke, but also on what defines an American girl: responsible, compassionate, and age-appropriate.