The Barbie Project: Be Mine, Valentine

With Valentine’s Day around the corner my kids and I have started to discuss what type of cards and treats they want to bring to their classmates at school for the Valentine exchange. In recent years we have begun to make our own cards that focus on friendship and kindness, since romance and the idea of significant others is none too appealing to a first and third grader.

Amelia, the third grader, shared with me that she would like to have her cards focus on being nice because some of the girls in her class were having a hard time remembering how to be good friends . Our conversation happened one afternoon while we played Barbies, and as she relayed some of her experiences to me we began to incorporate them into our play and have our dolls act out the scenarios and try out different resolutions.

First, we focused on setting up Amelia’s new Barbie camper. We both fell in love with this camper and as we put the stickers in place Amelia started listing destinations to travel to and the adventures her Barbies would go on. I love any toy that teaches girls they can take up space in the world and go off on their own adventures. I would have loved this camper when I was a kid!

ZOMG the camper is amazing! VERY pink, but amazing!

ZOMG the camper is amazing! VERY pink, but amazing!

I shared stories with Amelia about my travels with my friends across Europe and South Africa and that while the trips were amazing and we had tons of fun, we also had to use a lot of conflict resolution, patience, and respect with each other because they were long trips in new places and that can get emotionally and physically exhausting. As Amelia listened she placed a sticker on the camper’s fold-out flat screen tv – an image of Barbie and her friends surfing. I pointed out that sometimes, friends don’t always want to do the same things but that we need to respect individual preferences and interests. We talked about speaking our truth, compromise, and taking a break from friends who aren’t respectful or who don’t allow us the space to be ourselves.

Amelia and I decided our Barbies were headed to the Badlands of South Dakota (I was thinking more like Miami) and as we made our way west in our exceptionally bright pink camper (so, so pink) we began to incorporate Amelia’s friendship struggles into our play, like the friend who turns everything into a competition, the friend who puts down other people to build herself up, and the friend who uses emotionally manipulating tactics to gain a sense of control in her relationships. As our dolls talked to each other Amelia was free to express her knee-jerk reactions to all the mean-spirited friend drama, literally backhanding one of my dolls after a particularly nasty fight at the camper’s breakfast bar that ended in a Barbie Brawl.

Nothing pretty about a Barbie brawl.

Nothing pretty about a Barbie brawl.

Obviously it was over the top, but it allowed Amelia to let her anger out in a way that didn’t hurt anyone (sorry, Astronaut Barbie) and gave us the opportunity to talk about what would really happen if she choose for a slap to the face to be her reaction. It gave me the chance to allow her the space to be angry and even poorly behaved vis-a-vis Barbie, and then redirect her to think about some more positive, less misdemeanor-like responses to friends who just can’t seem to get it together. Our Barbies would then practice using the other ideas and verbal responses we came up with.

As we were cleaning up, we started thinking about phrases and designs for her class Valentines cards we need to make this weekend. Amelia suggested, “If we robbed a bank and stole a car, the only way the police would catch us is with a lucky star.”

Huh. Not what I had been thinking. I suggested, “If our friendship had a map it would lead straight to my heart.” That was quickly shot down with Amelia exclaiming she did NOT want the boys thinking she loved them, followed by multiple gagging sounds. Amelia suggested “Your friendship feels like a hug around my heart.” I think we have a winner.


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

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{Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign as part of The Barbie Project. All thoughts and ideas are my own.}

Barbie Project

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