The Barbie Project: Amelia and I Embark on a Journey

The Barbie Box arrives. Naturally, we spent lots of time just playing with the box!

The Barbie Box arrives. Naturally, we spent lots of time just playing with the box!

My daughter Amelia is eight years old, a wild, imaginative, creative, artistic, prone-to-mud and snail hunting kind of girl. She is in many ways so much like me when I was her age. She moves easily between dressing up as a queen and wallowing in the mud pit she built in our back yard. She loves building things, reading, playing outside, and recently, she really lovesplaying with Barbie dolls.

When I was her age, I loved playing with Barbie dolls, too.

I had a tempestuous relationship with Barbie  in my early years of parenting, but as my daughter has grown in maturity and demonstrated really solid body image and critical thinking skills I’ve relaxed on my stance on the twelve inch doll.

We balance hours of play with our Barbie Mermaids or Dolphin Trainer dolls with a discussion on whether or not Barbie’s eye makeup comes off when she swims or if her pointy feet are safe to balance around the edge of the animal enclosures or sea rescue boat. We talk about how we like that Barbie comes in different skin colors just like our friends but how all Barbie dolls have the same body. We enjoy putting cool outfits together and sometimes we adjust ensembles with a really short skirt and pair it with leggings. Amelia enjoys the fancy outfits and shoes, as they allow her to play at being sophisticated and grown up. She also enjoys the uniforms like the astronaut suit and wetsuits, as they allow her to see her Barbies as a change agent or hero in a story.

What I’ve learned while watching Amelia play over these past few weeks, and while getting down on the floor or climbing into the fort to play with her, was that Barbie can be many things. According to my eight-year-old, Barbie can be more than meets the eye.  I had spent the summer playing with her and her mermaid dolls in the pool, combing hair tangled mermaid hair, rescuing mermaid tails from the back of the dog’s throat. I wondered how or if our Barbie play would change as we were stuck inside during the long Wisconsin winter. Would we still make up great adventures?

Amelia really enjoyed opening her astronaut and dolphin trainer dolls that arrived in the big box from Barbie. She carefully inspected each package and carefully unpacked each item, outfit, and high heel. She spent quite a bit of time experimenting with the pooping Barbie Pet Trainer dog. She then madly stripped all of the dolls naked and began rearranging their outfits and creating new character roles. She was making the dolls her own. You could almost hear the wheels turning in her head as the story churned and developed.

I had thought it would be super cool to play with Astronaut Barbie and then watch “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage” together and do art projects about space. I had thought wrong. Amelia had every intention of turning her Barbies into pirates, the space suit was needed to serve as a ghost pirate, natch.

And so we played, in a giant fort built by Amelia in the family room. The ghost pirate had stolen the treasure of the mermaids and the mermaids needed the pirate Barbies to help them recapture the treasure and return it to its rightful place in the sea.

While Amelia played her characters worked together and the dialogue was hysterical. I got to peek into her imagination and see her resolve conflict, create leadership roles among the characters, and demonstrate bravery, evil, and justice. If we didn’t like the ending, we’d go back and rework the story.

It was so interesting to see how the story shifted and sorted itself while we played. I never really knew where we were going to end up. And I think that is what interests me most about The Barbie Project, I have no idea where Amelia’s imagination is going to take us. I cannot wait to find out.

Exploring all our new Barbie dolls....and Barbie dog poop.

Exploring all our new Barbie dolls….and Barbie dog poop.










Learn more about The Barbie Project and meet the other bloggers on the project.

On twitter, look for hashtag #BarbieProject and join the conversation.

{Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign as part of The

Barbie Project. All thoughts and ideas are my own.}

Barbie Project



Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love. 

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.

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  1. Amelia is beautiful, and yes, Barbie represents the individual dreams and talents of girls who play with it 🙂

    • Thank you, Eliana! I loved reading your post and I agree with you that we need to pay attention to the stories and dreams our girls employ when playing with Barbie. Excited to be on this project with you and your gal 🙂

  2. Awe, so perfect. It’s amazing what kids can come up with, so interesting to watch it all unfold, their eyes almost sparkling at the possibility. Great post!

  3. I have no kids yet, but as a children’s librarian & ECE-in-training it occurred to me yesterday that Disney Princess has made me feel way better about Barbie. I was looking at books on the kids’ shelf at a store, which were predictably divided by gender. But Barbie had titles about going on safari and playing sports, while Disney Princess titles were all about dresses and weddings and living in a castle. Who’d have ever thought I would consider giving my niece a Barbie just to ramp up the feminist content in her Disney-Princess-saturated life?

  4. Excited to see where this Barbie Project takes us all! Look forward to reading more of your adventures!

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