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Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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    New, taller Barbie doll is aimed at kids as young as three

    NEW YORK (AP) – Love her or loathe her, Barbie has been transformed again, this time into a version for children as young as three.

    Gone is the contentious hourglass figure for My First Barbie, which launched recently ahead of July’s live-action film about the icon starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.

    The slightly softer-bodied Barbie follows on the high heels of tall, petite and curvy iterations released five years ago in a massive makeover.

    My First Barbie is 13.5 inches tall, two inches taller than traditional Babs, with a larger waist and flesh-tone modesty undergarments permanently attached.

    Her fashion is more kid-like, with playful heart, star and flower designs on jammies and flouncy preschool-friendly dresses and swim gear. Her accessories are larger for littler hands, and her hair is extra long for easier brushing.

    My First Barbie’s limbs are moveable, like some past versions of the doll, and her facial features remain recognisable. A huge milestone: Her fingers and thumbs are connected, eliminating a frequent complaint that Barbie’s hands get caught in her clothes when children try to put them on.

    A child playing with Teresa, a My First Barbie deluxe set, new dolls made specifically for children as young as three. PHOTO: AP

    Mattel executive vice president and global head of Barbie and dolls Lisa McKnight told the Associated Press the company created the new version in response to feedback from parents. “We talk to parents and kids almost 365 days a year,” she said. “We started hearing a theme around younger kids wanting to play with Barbie.

    “Parents were concerned that their children at the preschool age didn’t have the fine motor skills to have a positive play experience with our traditional fashion doll.”

    The first rollout of the new doll includes four diverse skin tones and hair textures.

    Critics of 63-year-old Barbie, intended to symbolise a girl in her late teens, have long cited her dimensions as promoting unattainable, sexualised body standards for girls. My First Barbie, at a price point of USD19.99, goes a long way in eliminating that issue.

    McKnight wouldn’t directly address the criticism or whether My First Barbie has a place in turning around that negative view.

    Research is mixed on whether Barbie’s bad rap on body issues and her adult-leaning fashion sense have any impact on children, said former once a leader of Mattel’s child development and learning team and now chief learning officer for Begin Jody LeVos a company that creates learning apps and other educational fare for kids.

    Among parents, she said, “there’s a big nostalgia factor” when it comes to Barbie.

    “I don’t think there’s one specific doll that’s most appropriate. I think doll play allows children to really practice storytelling skills, perspective taking and social interactions,” LeVos said.

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