Does Playing with Barbie Dolls Limit Career Choices?
Recently, a blogger-friend of mine gave me a link to a Scientific American study showing that playing with Barbie Dolls limits the career considerations of young girls. Read about the study here. It is a good cautionary article, but in our case, I cannot exactly corroborate it. But I won’t dispute it either, as ours may just be a special case. Just take everything with a grain of salt. 😀
You see, our eldest daughter Dindin, who has turned five years old last month, has several Barbie dolls and the collection is ever-increasing (blame it on the Mama). Yet for over a year now, she has been telling us that she wants to be an eye doctor. She also said that she wants her sister to become a “doctor who works in a hospital where babies are born”, so we presume that she meant that she wants her sister to become an OB-Gynecologist.
Parental Guidance and Involvement
While we let Dindin watch Barbie videos and let her play with Barbie dolls that match the videos, we also talk to her about the good values and principles of Barbie. Much like money and many other things, Barbie can be amoral. It’s how we use or misuse it that makes the difference. Barbie may be sexiness overload, but she also exemplifies kindness, sympathy, gentleness, warmth, friendship, bravery, sincerity, and most of all, love for her siblings.
Additionally, there is a line of Barbie dolls that promote career choices. Dindin’s first set was the “I want to be a Doctor” Barbie doll complete with medical accessories and a young patient doll. Then she had the “I Want to be a Ballerina” doll. One came after the other and the rest is history.
The point of the matter is parental guidance and involvement. Even those kiddie videos that are supposed to be for children can instill negative values if taken out of context. And who knows how kids interpret certain things? While watching a certain animated video, Dindin has so many questions. So as much as possible, we are there to answer them and guide her to the right direction.
As much as we can (though it is not perfect), we do not use the videos as a babysitter. We try to sit with her and discuss what she has watched and how she may apply it in life. If it is a new video, I watch it with her so that I know what goes on in there. It also helps that we do not have cable connection or even local channels in our bedroom TV so we get to choose the videos that Dindin watches.
Dindin likes pretend play and cos-play. Each year during her birthday, she wears the “simplified” costume of a certain character (simplified because I do not really buy—we make do). We haven’t let her identify with a single character so that she will become a well-rounded individual. We let her watch different shows and we collect character toys for every show—Barbie, Barney, Ni Hao Kai Lan, Wonder Pets, Dora and Diego, Strawberry Shortcake, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Tinkerbell, Elmo, even the Disney Princesses (though I discourage her from watching Aurora and Snow White because of the ridiculous storyline). Yes, she has a complete set of the toy characters. We also have books inspired by these shows.
But aside from these, she was exposed to educational videos like Leap Frog, Signing Time, Brainy Baby, Baby Einstein, Little Einsteins, Word World as well as the educational/entertainment children’s show Hi-5. Oh we had a lot of Hi-5 inspired playtime in the past! And most of all, we are Christians who believe in the Holy Trinity and the bible and so Dindin also watches Veggie Tales and Super Book. We let her attend Sunday School and the DVBS during summer, too.
Aside from the dolls and stuffed toys, Dindin has a doctor set, a cross-section of a man that opens up to reveal internal organs, clay dough, toy musical instruments and a real guitar, as well as toy cars and trucks, a garage, a race track, and carpentry tools. We did not label cars and tools as “toys for boys” because first, eventually she will have to learn to drive, and second, the tools teach her that things or items are made and not just bought from stores. She makes chairs, beds, benches, and cars for her dolls from her tools.
And with each show or toy or book, we are there to answer her questions or to correct her gently if the opinion she has formed is something that we feel is not right or edifying to herself or other people.
Dindin can be very inquisitive, like any toddler/preschooler. And I can get tired because of her incessant questions and bantering. Sometimes, I do silence her just to have some peace and quiet because one answer always leads to another question. And she doesn’t take naps so that means it can go on the whole day! But as much as I can, I try to answer her because aside from correcting any wrong value or principle, I also try to keep in mind that I want us to have an open line of communication especially when she reaches puberty—a time when a lot of teenagers clam up to their parents and would rather talk to peers. I would like to avoid that as much as possible.
So in conclusion, I don’t think that totally rejecting certain toys or shows will be the answer to raising good, godly, and responsible adults. I still think it is parental guidance and involvement. Barbie is not just about BEAUTY and VANITY — two things that we think are shallow. I think that Barbie is not the real enemy, but apathy and parental detachment are.
All I am advocating is a good mixture of play—rough physical, fine motor, creative, pretend, mental and even psychological. We do not really follow a strict regimen but we are strict on obedience. We just try to remember that for kids, their main occupation is play—but with much guidance from parents.