Knees Up Like Unicorns: Free Play, Girls, and Barbie

{Disclosure: This post contains sponsored content from Barbie (TM) }

Gwyneth likes to discuss the human brain. And high school for dogs.

Gwyneth likes to discuss the human brain. And high school for dogs.

What happens inside that magical, precious space of free play? That layer of minutes when a boy or girl exists suspended between toys of the real world and a universe of their creating.

Can you recall what that felt like? Are you still able to picture who you were?

Do you remember sitting on the floor of your room imagining a world in which your stories ruled?

Do you remember when asked to clean up your toys the idea of untangling your pretend world from the real one would bring an audible gasp from your lips?

The power of free play is that a child’s imagination becomes the vehicle that can take her anywhere and craft her into anyone. It is a force that transforms us into anything…….

A neuroscience professor, who explains why a dog’s brain is not as developed as a human brain. (You guys. Because there is no high school for dogs.)

A veterinarian whose standard feline wellness exam comes with the question, “Can your cat fly?”

A soccer coach who encourages her team during drills to get their “Knees up! Like a unicorn!”

A museum tour guide who introduces guests to a one-year-old Triceratops named Peter. Sally, the T-Rex, is one thousand, two million, two hundred and fifty two years old.

A businesswoman who recently closed a deal in New York. And Transylvania.

Barbie asked, “What happens when girls are free to imagine they can be anything?”

Are you watching who your daughter becomes when she plays? Are you listening to the confidence and conviction in her voice when she lives out these roles? Are you amazed by her unshakable knowledge she can become anything?

Too often people underestimate girls when they play with their dolls. Is it all homemakers, fashion shows, and weddings? I asked some of my PPBB Parents what they have observed while watching their children play with their toys and Barbies, and who their children became during free play:

– Laurie said that thirty years ago when her daughters played with their Barbies they saw the dolls as professionals, like a pediatrician, dentist, ophthalmologist, or teacher. 

– Stephanie, who is fighting Breast Cancer right now with chemo (and fighting like a champ!), said her daughter has a bald Ella doll from Mattel that she treasures. “Sometimes they are kids from school, sometime they are moms, dads and kids and sometimes they are heroes. They are just a platform to show her creativity.”

– Fatima said her nieces love to pretend to produce and host television talk shows. They would also produce and star in movies. “One of their ‘movies’ had the Barbies go camping in the garden and their pet tortoise was a giant from another land. They even used the night mode on the camera to give special effects to their movies.” Fatima also wanted to point this out – “This was in Pakistan by the way, showing that Barbie truly is loved the world over.”

– Jessica shared that her daughter doesn’t play with Barbie often, but when she plays with them at her grandmother’s home, “[T]hey tend to be in grave danger. Last time, they were in a car accident in the middle of nowhere, and the friends had to work together to survive the crisis and save their injured companion.”

– Erin told me her young daughter (who just became a big sister of twins) “makes hers into superheroes a lot. She loves saving the day. She does a lot of taking them on horseback rides and interacting with other imaginary animals. Playing doctor and pretending they are her patients. After the twins were born, they turned into surgeons and delivered a lot of babies. She and my husband like to pose the dolls and play around with stop motion movies.”

– Sarah said her children enjoy all types of dolls, and when they play they “have a pair of shoes that makes them fly, and they take turns wearing them. They do a lot of shouty rescuing of one another. Often waterfalls are involved, and swimming very intensely.”

– Nicole from Australia said that when her daughter played with Barbies “she would make up rescue scenarios. Like for example, fire fighter barbie would have to go in a space ship with astronaut barbie and fly to a planet to collect some secret ingredient then fly back to earth and use that ingredient to rescue Merida and the other barbies from whatever peril they were in… house fire, earthquake, wild animal attack etc.”

– Jennifer from Canada said her daughter’s Barbies “are usually battling zombies or dinosaurs. They’re kinda badass that way.”

– Diana and Emily both said their children “recreate school relationships in a pretend grown up world.”

For over 56 years, Barbie has inspired imaginations and encouraged girls on their journey to self-discovery. From Mermaid to Movie Star, Pet Vet to Police Officer, Fashionista to Fairy Princess, Barbie continues to celebrate the belief that You Can Be Anything

 

{Disclosure: This post contains sponsored content from Barbie (TM) }

 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

The Barbie Project: The Super Powers of Being Yourself

A couple of weeks ago Amelia enjoyed decorating her very own super hero cape sent to her by the Barbie Team as part of the new #BeSuper campaign featuring the Super Squad caped crusaders. She never really got into super heroes like some girls do, I think because for her the overall lack of female characters left her disinterested. Amelia was super excited when she discovered all of the new dolls in Barbie’s super hero line were girls – she loved the little girls on the scooters best.

I believe one of the reasons Amelia has taken to playing with Barbie is that her stories and play time are filled with adventurous female characters who travel the globe, explore under sea and outer space, hold interesting jobs, and perhaps the greatest adventure of all – live as a family. Unlike so much of children’s media, when it comes to Barbie the girls are central to the story, adventure, discovery and fun.

This past week our family has enjoyed some gorgeous spring weather in Wisconsin, a couple of days hitting the 70’s! Now, Wisconsin has four seasons – Fall, Winter, Summer, and Mud. It just so happens, my daughter has never met a mud puddle she didn’t love or that she could resist wallowing in. I could hear her whooping and hollering in the back yard as she played with one of our dogs and I decided to see what the commotion was about.

I was greeted by this in the garden…..

Amelia being super!

Amelia being super!

The sign of Amelia and a hose during mud season – or really any time of year – is never a promising discovery. The giant patch of dirt seen here is the result of a massive mud pit she made last spring.

Amelia has a magnetic draw to mud.

Amelia has a magnetic draw to mud.

And where there is mud, there is always MORE mud…..

Ugh. Mud!

Ugh. Mud!

I asked what she was working on and she replied that she was developing an “infinity water source” for our dogs ahead of summer time so that they would never be caught thirsty in the summer heat. She said if it proved successful, she’d patent it and sell it to cities so that stray animals would never die of thirst. (While Amelia was decorating her cape she decided she would be a rescuer of animals who were abused, neglected, or homeless.)

Amelia explaining how the suspension element works on her "infinity water source" system.

Amelia explaining how the suspension element works on her “infinity water source” system.

I asked Amelia what her super hero name would be and her answer left a huge smile on my face.

“Mom, I don’t need an additional name or secret name. I’m Amelia, and I’m a hero just the way I am.”

At our house we believe there are many ways to be a girl, and I’m so pleased my girl has figured out the ways that work just right for her.

 

Pink, muddy boots, and somewhere a girl who believes in herself.

Pink, muddy boots, and somewhere a girl who believes in herself.

 

 

Barbie Project LogoLearn 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.}

 

MAW Profile PicMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can read her blog at: www.pigtailpalsblog.com or connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals).

The Barbie Project: The Whole Conversation

The song that never ends.

The song that never ends. (Image source unknown)

We are overdue to change a conversation. A conversation is only as good as the information that travels through it. In order for a conversation to be a good one ideas need to be introduced, then ideas need to shift and evolve. The evolution might feel like an abandonment of principle at first, but it is the natural order to how ideas grow and realign as new information enters improved awareness and understanding.

All that is to say, this conversation we’re having around little girls, Barbie, and body image needs to evolve. We need to change with it. That is not to say we dismiss or forget what has already been discussed, nor disown those who disagree with any particular position. It means we move forward. Together. Because walking and talking in circles doesn’t get any of us very far.

Barbie is made out to be the most villainous of children’s toys, the chief complaint being body image and her “toxicity” to empowered little girls. I can find myself agreeing with some parts of that, for example, I’d love to see Barbie come in different body sizes but I understand from a manufacturing perspective why that doesn’t work (although, it would not be difficult to incorporate into digital and print media). I’d love for retailers to strive for greater diversity and offer children more Barbies of color on the shelves. I’d love for Overtired Working Mom Barbie and Stay-at-Home-Dad/Freelancer Ken. Stores should stock more Career Barbies like the astronaut, presidential candidate, teacher, doctor, veterinarian, and computer programmer. Less brides and more business entrepreneurs is fine by me, which also feels more in tune with the girls of 2015.

Barbie has held 150 careers since the 1950's.

Barbie has held 150 careers since the 1950’s.

But for all this, the conversation about Barbie always goes back to what Barbie looks like. 150 careers later the gal can’t win for losing.

We can’t seem to get over Barbie’s looks, to the exclusion of all other points of conversation. Barbie was never meant to be an exact replica of a human body yet anyone who builds a life-size Barbie is guaranteed a viral Huffington Post article. Any researcher who can gather a handful of young girls to ask a batch of questions about Barbie’s looks and the girls’ lifetime aspirations then publish with a headline grabber like “Barbie’s Long Legs Measurably Crush the Souls of Young Girls” guarantees being highlighted on all the girl empowerment sites, never mind how good the science is or isn’t. Everyone loves to hate Barbie. While we focus ALL of our energy on what Barbie looks like we teach our girls to do the same, ignoring all the careers, places traveled, financial independence, and friendship the Barbie story also offers. The media literacy around body image is very important, but to the exclusion of all other things? When we do that, what are we teaching our daughters is the most important thing about a woman?

Consider the speed at which articles about this super model or that older actress being “brave” or “our beauty hero” for posing in un-retouched photos made public race across the internet and into the nightly news, all while actual achievements by women barely make a blip. I think we are not being honest with ourselves when we simultaneously bash Barbie’s body yet focus our entire conversation on how we look or how someone else looks. If the bravest thing a woman can do in 2015 is show up in public free of make up and Photoshop we’ve got MUCH bigger problems than Barbie.

The intent of my words is not to defend Barbie, rather I’m asking if we all can expand this well-intentioned conversation we’re having. We’re missing the whole conversation. Life isn’t black and white. Life is full of gray, full of “yes, buts…” and “on the other hand” and new perspectives.

Image from The Barbie Project.

Image from The Barbie Project.

I find myself wondering, are we really being honest with ourselves or distracting ourselves when we use every mention of Barbie bear the cross of all negative body image issues? Let’s allow body image to be part of the conversation, and then let’s keep talking, observing, listening, discussing. After a year on The Barbie Project, I’m not convinced this is how little girls see their dolls until we teach them to. Granted the Barbie brand extends over multiple media platforms (toys, clothing, books, cartoon dvds) but at the end of the day, for most children, she is just a doll laying on the bedroom floor. Probably naked.

Over the years I’ve asked my large social media community when was the first time they can remember as a child feeling as though some part of their body was “flawed”. The second part of the question is who played a role in assisting that realization? What began as research for my book is now a bi-annual cathartic, eye-opening event. Hundreds of answers later reveal insecurities ranging from too much body hair to refusing to shave, skin color being too pale to too dark, hair color being too red or not blond enough, being too thick, being too thin, being too tall, being too short, needing a bra early to not needing a bra until college, having freckles, crooked teeth, acne……the list went on. And the people who made these insecurities rise when these women were girls? Moms. Aunts. Grandmas. Fathers and step-fathers and uncles. Classmates, from the first day of kindergarten all the way to middle school. Other parents. Teachers. Doctors. Friends. Above all, moms were mentioned over and over and over again.

Yet no one mentioned Barbie. Literally not once in any of these threads has the toy been mentioned which is why I find the preoccupation with her looks to be so very distracting from the larger conversation we could be having, for which Barbie should be a part of but not the entire focus. I think bashing Barbie really isn’t the whole conversation and when it is, we lose sight of where our focus and energy should really be in order to bring about meaningful change for girls and women.

Let’s focus on what women do, instead of what they look like.

Let’s focus on our individual influence and impact on the children in our lives.

Let’s recognize that Barbie as she is now represents one kind of beauty, but WE should be the ones defining endless versions of beauty and making it more inclusive, expansive for our daughters.

Barbie is a complicated doll, and can mean many things in many different ways. Perhaps that is a good thing to teach our girls - Women are layered and complex and not linear beings.

Barbie is a complicated doll, and can mean many things in many different ways. Perhaps that is a good thing to teach our girls – Women are layered and complex and complicated. (Image via When You Choose Hope)

I think we are wringing our hands and giving Barbie way too much power as we simultaneously fail to see our own. If there is one thing we teach our girls, it is that we should care more about what we DO with our life than how we look living it. If anything embodies this that belief I hold to my core, it is this comment left in the thread about when in girlhood did you come to understand your body was seen as “flawed”:

I was nine; I’d just played Bach’s ‘Minuet in G’ on the piano, for my school’s Parents’ Day. This was in Pakistan, where almost no one learns to play musical instruments; it was a big deal and had involved a lot of work. I was incredibly proud of myself. Photos were taken of all the performers and displayed on the school notice board.
As I approached the board, people were laughing and pointing. They’d found a photo of me. I looked at the photo, and for the first time, I realised that my cheeks were chubby, and that when I concentrated, my mouth fell open. I looked stupid.
That was the moment when I became aware that I was an object. I didn’t have words for it, but I knew that it didn’t matter what great things I did – what mattered, and what I would always fail on, was how I looked while I did it.
From then on, I’ve never been able to do anything with my full attention. One part of my mind has always been nervously policing the way I look: can I hold my chin higher to hide my cheeks? Is my mouth neatly set? Is my face pleasant? And I wonder what amazing things I could have achieved (or could achieve, still!) if I was freed from that mental burden.” -Noreen

When I read Noreen’s comment, tears sprung to my eyes and I gasped for air. Tears sit in my eyes now. I think about the mental energy women and girls waste thinking about how they look instead of what they do. I think about what the world has missed out on, contributions left ungiven and I feel a painful weight on my chest. I anguish over the amazing girls we are raising who might choose to sit something out because of worry over being pretty or worry about that she is worried about being pretty, and instead of taking over the world she remains still in a world of self doubt.

Our conversation currently is running like this: Instead of what a woman can accomplish or discover or enact or defend – we bring it back to what she looks like. Instead of what girls say or think or whom they inspire or rescue – we bring it back to what she looks like. Just like we do with the conversation about Barbie, which is like the song that never ends.

I’m asking us to shift the conversation. Can we evolve it, please? For example, there are some little girls out there with some incredibly confident mamas who are bashing the heck out of all of these stereotypes and we’re doing it by using Barbie and play as a teaching tool instead of an instrument of demise. We’ve chosen to take a step back, get a few deep breaths, talk out the tricky spots, and sit on the floor to play so that we can see the world through our daughters’ eyes.

I don’t care whether or not you or your kid plays with Barbie, I just hope you find inspiration from some of these posts and understand the conversation has to evolve past what we look like and move to WHAT. WE. DO.

We should care more about what we DO with our life than how we look living it.

Ruby's daughter exploring outer space.

Ruby’s daughter exploring outer space. (Image via GUB Life.)

Yolanda, on learning through play with her daughter. “She’s taught me so much more about body image and self love that I could have ever done.”

Ruby explores a rich heritage and cultural tradition through fashion design. ” I shared that grandma (my mama) has an embroidered dress given to her as a gift, something very common in our culture. I got to wear it a few times.”

Brandy empowers her daughter by allowing her freedom to choose her own wardrobe. “It’s clear she was expressing her adorable self and her growing little personality.”

Eliana discusses how dolls become a girl’s friend. “At her age, and with her individual circumstances, Barbie is a friend of hers.”

Tammi witnessed her shy twin daughter finding her voice. “Katie is finding her way. Her strength. Her ability to shine and be the star of the show after all these years.”

Kara and her daughter explore the difficult truth of how segregation and racism impacted their family. “As she played I asked her how she would feel if she was not allowed to go into certain places just because of the color of her skin.”

Kara's daughter explore social justice through play. (Image source Empower Her Inc)

Kara’s daughter explore social justice through play.
(Image source Empower Her Inc)

Jenny sees the power of children’s imaginations. “We tend to lose sight of how much we can add with our minds by expecting everything to be realistic and tangible.”

Brandy learns the power that mermaid effect holds on a timid swimmer. “The whole way home she talked about how she couldn’t wait to swim like a mermaid in class tomorrow.”

Ruby’s daughter travels out of this world to the moon. “Walking on the moon with Barbie was definitely done in an unexpected way.”

Yolanda discovers her daughter is a business mogul in the making. “I walked in on my daughter playing with her Barbies and overheard the dialog she had for her dolls. Her dolls had taken on the roles of my friends and I, and as such, each was a business owner, freelancer and influencer.”

Tammi sees what has been important to her three daughters over the year. “Again the summer memories are brought back to the forefront as their experience is reenacted in play.”

Eliana realizes Barbie is a reflection of her daughter’s unique personality. “Barbie has the most amazing and beautiful shoes any woman can dream of, but many times my daughter decides to let her walk barefoot and just have fun. Barbie is the reflection of my daughter’s personality and interests.”

You can read my Barbie Project posts here, where my daughter and I focused on all the incredible things her imagination can do with a doll dressed for 150 careers, who drives a jeep and a hot pink camper.

The confident, intelligent, diverse, amazing group of moms blogging for The Barbie Project as we coach our daughters through girlhood.

 

Barbie Project LogoLearn 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.}

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author ofRedefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can read her blog at:www.pigtailpalsblog.com or connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals).

 

The Barbie Project: Girls To The Rescue!

Two new little members of the Super Squad.

Two new little members of the Super Squad.

There are few things I love more than girls in action and girls being the heroic, smart, resourceful, brave, flawed, funny, compassionate, driven center of the story. So when the Barbie Team sent Amelia the new members of the Super Squad I most certainly geeked out. I loved super heroes when I was a kid; in the 1980’s there were several great female choices to look up to.

But Amelia, not so much. In fact, we were supposed to share our story with you over a week ago, but I couldn’t get her to open the boxes. I asked her why she didn’t want to check out her new dolls and she answered, “I’m just really tired of the super heroes always being the boys and just one token girl. Who is usually dumb. It just isn’t my thing.”

I’m not sure why she would think that equation would hold true over at girl-centric Barbie, but it is the what she sees replicated everywhere. I understand how rarely seeing female characters as the hero could get a girl down.

Amelia had spent many hours on Friday and Saturday out in frigid temperatures selling Girl Scout cookies, so by the time Sunday rolled around I wanted to do something special for her. That morning I said I was going upstairs to put away laundry and wanted her help. I had spread out the new Super Squad on her bedroom floor and I’m going to venture a guess the loud squeal she let out was over the discovery of the new caped crusaders and not the basket of laundry waiting for her.

“Oh SNAP! They are all girls! They are all girls!! Did the bosses at Barbie know about this?! Because these are ALL. GIRLS. That’s the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it!”

We love the colorful Super Squad, ready for action!

We love the colorful Super Squad, ready for action!

I sat on the floor with her as she did her customary inspection of footwear, arched feet or flat feet, articulated joints, hair, and underwear – in that order – every single time she opens a new Barbie. She loved the capes, the lightening bolts, the super hero masks, the vivid colors, the little scooter girls, the practical super hero boots that Barbie and the little girls wear, and the idea of flying. She loved the concept of Barbie being the hero who rescues the Ken reporter guy (my friend joked maybe he is a Lou Lane?) and the team of girls working together.

Amelia and I talked about what kind of hero she would be if she had super powers, and she told me a story about two of the boys in her class having a playdate and one of the boys becoming angry at the host’s cat because it had knocked a toy off the table. In his anger he punched the cat, and when this story was being told in class one of the girls went into hysterics to which the kids replied, “It’s just a cat.”

Amelia busy at work on her hero cape.

Amelia busy at work on her hero cape.

Amelia said she would protect animals from cruelty, especially from kids who were bullies. She said she would have “freeze power” that would stop everything in place and give her time to talk with the animal. I asked why it was important to freeze time so that she could do this, and Amelia answered that animals love us unconditionally and that maybe the pet wouldn’t say what was wrong out of love for their owner.

Cape.3

Amelia cape says “Stop Animal Abuse! Don’t hate ’em! Love your pets!” The “AR” on her cuffs are for “Animal Rescuer”.

 

Amelia is a kid who draws all the time, literally morning, noon, and night. This afternoon I spotted her drawing this. Never in her life have I seen her draw a super hero before. Not once. I asked who she was drawing.

Amelia sees herself as a super hero now.

Amelia sees herself as a super hero now.

“That’s me, obviously. I’m about to rescue an abused dog and horse.”

Barbie’s new Super Squad comes with some fun online activities, but I love their message most of all: Be Bold. Be Kind. Be Creative. Be SUPER! My hope is with this new line of super hero dolls, little girls who wouldn’t otherwise think of themselves as the hero will now see themselves in a new light. Be super, indeed! 

 

Barbie Project LogoLearn 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.}

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can read her blog at: www.pigtailpalsblog.com or connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals).

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.

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