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Punjabi Indian Dolls by Apne Dolls

Importance of Dolls Resembling You

Ever heard the expression ‘Mini Me’…

It’s quite the rage for us to go out (predominantly online going out) and source custom gifts personalised for loved ones. You can pretty much print your face on anything these days be it cushions, clothing, cakes, cards, masks, body art, balloons, puzzles. We just love our association with our belongings. Have you ever really questioned why?

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“A study published by the Body Image Journal found that Barbie dolls projected an inappropriate and potentially dangerous representation of what the human form should be to young children.

Researchers say that the dolls made girls who participated in the study see having a skinny body as something to aspire to – as we know, Barbie is exceptionally thin.

The research was carried out in Australia and 160 girls aged five to eight were analysed. Scientists concluded that the girls only had to play with the toys just once in order for the overly skinny ideal to be ingrained in their minds.

International body image expert Marika Tiggemann told the Herald Sun that parents should look for alternative dolls for their kids.” As reported by Joshua Barrie in the Lifestyle section of The Mirror.

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We at Apne Dolls love this article from on Dolls and Representation…

“Recently, there have been several news stories about consumers demanding, and toy companies creating, more diverse representations of dolls for children. This includes more dolls of colour, dolls with disabilities, and dolls with different body types as well as other physical characteristics like eye colour, hair texture and skin complexion. Dolls are one of the first and most common toys for children and they provide a great deal of playing and learning potential. Because they also serve as a reflection of children, dolls should include the diversity that is reflected in our society.

Here are a few examples of representative dolls in the news:

  • Mattel, the toy company, recently announced the addition of Barbie dolls that come in three body shapes: petite, curvy and tall. In addition, Barbie dolls now come in seven different skin tones, 30 hair colours (including blue), and 24 hairstyles and textures.
  • A toymaker in England named Makies has released a line of dolls with disabilities. They were inspired by a social media campaign called Toys Like Me. The campaign encouraged parents of children with various disabilities to customize their toys, making them look more like real people. The company created items like hearing aids, walking aids and facial birthmarks for the dolls.
  • A toy company called Malaville, started by model Mala Bryan, created dolls that come in different shades of brown with a variety of hair curls, coils and textures. They also wear African and Caribbean inspired outfits.
  • Two adopted African American sisters, Patience and Jocelyn Dingle, who love to play with dolls, wrote a letter to Mattel asking if the company could make more dolls that look like them. 

 (To see photos of some of the dolls, see the Dolls Are Us lesson plan.)

Age 7 and up Questions to Start the Conversation

  • What do you think of the new dolls?
  • Why do you think these dolls are being made?
  • Do you think dolls should look like different kinds of children? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think there is a need for more representative dolls?
  • If you could make a doll, what would it look like?

Questions to Dig Deeper

  • What message is conveyed when dolls are not representative (skin colour, body shape, disability, etc.)?
  • How do you think children will feel about having more representative doll options to choose from?
  • Are there other things in your life (toys, activities, books, etc.) that you think could be more representative ? How so?

(The “Related to this Resource” and 11 Empowering Dolls That Help Little Girls See The Beauty In Themselves (Huffington Post) provide information that address these questions.)

Ideas for Taking Action

Ask: What can we do to help? What actions might make a difference? 

  • Talk to other students about the need for representation in toys.
  • Do a survey (verbal, paper or electronic) asking other kids about whether they have representation of dolls and other important things in their lives.”

Now we all believe in the premise that no child is born harbouring any prejudice, however as they grow up they acquire stereotypes and attitudes from social, environmental and familial influence. Impressions and ideas may be formed between the ages of 2 and 4 years old. Racial bias may even be picked up by age 6 years in some.

If we were to take a look in the classrooms and nursery schools of today you would see the youngest of children selecting toys and dolls most resembling themselves. If we fill our children with positives images and encounters from early age we help create conscientious adults. This makes it ever more important for parents and carers to use their language carefully when entering discussions on such subjects as these will remain lasting impressions on those inquisitive minds.

Children enjoy acting out imaginary scenes as much as parents and carers enjoy watching how they play. It is this very insight into the child that is used as a tool by many child therapy treatments. We are more than aware of the use of dolls and toys to engage in a natural way with these young minds without the need for elaborate language skills or batteries required.

Cultural differences can be played out with ease when the doll resembles appearances in reality. The Punjabi Indian Satty doll with her long dark hair can be styled as children have on a daily basis, the differences in clothing and the significance of jewellery at a special time such as a wedding will be acted out. The traditions of the ruby bangles worn by Satty have their important place. The light beautiful head scarf/duputta rests gently on the Apne Dolls crown to show the respect when entering a place of worship on this occasion. The colours of the clothing, shoes and makeup relate to the opulent celebrations that we all play our part in.

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Indian children will be able to remove clothing and dress Satty again giving some appreciation for the rare occasions when traditional gowns are worn nowadays. The children will no doubt swop ‘Satty’s’ clothing for any western dolls in the house too. They may try out different hairstyles as they might for a real celebration.

We would love to hear your thoughts about the significance of cultural appropriate and appreciative dolls. Why not send us an email or put a quick comment in the box below.

For a FREE illustrated book that introduces Satty and her family worth £3.99 please click here