Big Shake Up In the Princess World

Mulan: Hasbro on the left and Mattel on the right.

Mulan: Hasbro on the left and Mattel on the right.

A big shake up in the world of twelve inch princesses – the license for the Disney dolls has shifted from one toy giant to another. What does this mean for the toy industry, but more importantly, what does this mean for your child and the marketing coming our way?

Via Bloomberg, “Hasbro’s researchers talked to thousands of girls at the company’s Pawtucket headquarters, as well as in Hong Kong, London, and Los Angeles, and found that girls thought about princesses in much the same way that boys viewed superheroes. Sometimes they liked a character because of her dress; other times they focused on her abilities, such as archery and sword fighting (Merida, from Brave) or the ability to conjure ice and snow (Elsa). “Sometimes they want a prince, sometimes there is no need for a prince,” says Frascotti. Disney didn’t have to reimagine the princesses, it turned out. Girls had already done it themselves. The dolls had just never been marketed like that.
 
You don’t say.
 
Disney wants more empowered heroines. Can princesses pull that off? Well, Andrea Hopelain is VP for global brand strategy at Hasbro, who now holds the coveted princess doll license, is quoted in the piece saying “We can reintroduce Mulan. We can play up that Tiana is a great cook.”
 
Tiana was a great cook. But in 2016, parents – and their girls – are looking for toy companies to play up that Tiana was a savvy female entrepreneur who went after her dream and became a dedicated business owner. Her business happens to be cooking.
There is a difference, and that difference is a very important one when we’re talking about empowerment and little girls.
 

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). 

Discover the Unique Girls Explore Dolls

There is no shortage of fashion and princess dolls on the shelves, as most parents these days know. Missing are the dolls that represent women of valor, accomplishment, talent, and grit. I’ve never seen a Mary Cassatt or Bessie Coleman doll next to the hot pink fashionistas. Have you?

www.girls-explore.com

www.girls-explore.com

Last week I welcomed a refreshing change when Girls Explore, a wonderful educational doll company out of New York, sent me two doll sets that provided the “more” so many parents are searching for on behalf of their daughters.

In fact, that is how this small doll company got its start, when creator Randy Allen was sitting around the holiday table with her sisters in 2002 having a discussion about the lack of meaningful, inspiring dolls for girls. Says Allen on the company website, “After several decades in corporate America, including being a computer programmer at IBM, I looked around and noticed how few women sat beside me. From personal experience we knew the difficulty girls have in finding role models and getting good information about careers, often resulting in limited ambitions. Over the next several months that conversation and others led to the concept for Girls Explore.”

Amelia Earhart and Harriet Tubman arrived in my mailbox and I was really looking forward to opening the packages. I have admired these dolls for a number of years and was excited to see what they looked like in person. I was also interested to see how my almost ten-year-old daughter would react to them.

Girls Explore Harriet Tubman doll.

Girls Explore Harriet Tubman doll.

As if on cue, I heard Amelia (yes, named for Amelia Earhart!) gasp from the kitchen, “Oh snap! She looks JUST like Harriet Tubman!” It would seem a certain someone could not wait one more minute to see what was inside the intriguing black boxes, their fronts decorated with a constellation of photographs of girls sitting in class, coloring, writing, peering through a magnifying glass and experimenting with a gyroscope.

Girls Explore has the motto “Reach for the stars” and their product lives up to it. The licensed and authorized dolls are the exact likeness of the heroine they bring to life during playtime. They are exceptionally well-made with great attention to detail. Everything about these doll sets are perfect and inspiring: the historically accurate costumes, hardbound biographies and activity booklets, and related toy for the child (Harriet Tubman came with a wearable carrying satchel, similar to what she may have used on the Underground Railroad).

I’m looking forward to watching Amelia play with these dolls in the weeks to come and observing what adventures and stories she creates. Considering the template for greatness these influential dolls carry, I think we’re both in a for a treat.

In addition to the doll sets, Girls Explore offers inspirational posters of these heroines and their biographies.

Girls Explore is offering PPBB readers a coupon code for 25% off all doll sets through Christmas, December 25th. The coupon code is PIGTAILPALS. Shop at www.girls-explore.com.

Each doll set comes with a heroine, a biography, and an accompanying child's toy.

Each doll set comes with a heroine, a biography, and an accompanying child’s toy.

 

I received two doll sets from Girls Explore to enable me to write this product review. 

 

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). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received a free Infant Car Seat from Brand X in exchange for writing a review on the blog.

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). 

Childhood Should Not Be Defined By Limitation: The Powerful Play Experience

Media has a strong influence on us and these days media is everywhere. Media helps craft our norms, leverages our opinions, inspires our wants and desires.

“Media” sounds powerful, doesn’t it? It is. For children, toys are a form of media. Toys can confine children, imposing gender stereotypes and finite versions of play. Childhood was never meant to be defined by limitation.

Toys can be playtime companions, imagination igniting objects, teaching tools, and concept creators for something bigger and better than what originally came out of the box. There are no better experts in the world on creativity than children.

Lightbulb IdeaOpen-ended play means the child does the creating, not the toy. This usually means no batteries. The toy is character free and gender stereotype free, the toy does not tell a story to the child. The only thing that brings that object to life is the creativity swirling inside the child’s mind.

There are no ‘boy toys’. There are no ‘girl toys’. Toys are for the imagination, which by definition should have no restrictions.

Sidewalk chalkOutside Toys:

bubbles, sidewalk chalk,hula hoops, sporting/biking/scooters, water station (cups, buckets, paint brushes, spoons, etc), sprinklers, squirt guns or water shooters, materials to build a fort or tent hideaway, bug collectors/binoculars/magnifying glass, picnic blanket and play dishes

 
Rainbow of toysInside Toys:

cars, trains and wooden tracks, people figures and dollhouse, dolls and stuffed animals, dress up box, blocks, puzzles, magnets, dominoes, art supplies, science experiments, materials to build a fort or tent hideaway, Play Doh and clay,  board games, area to set up a play school/restaurant/bank/hotel/business/hospital

Some other play ideas we love:

Idea Factory:  The power of “tinkering” = have boxes of various sizes, washed out food containers, art scraps, fasteners, tape, crayons and markers so kids can build anything they want. (The Maker Movement is the tech side of this idea.)

Turn a laundry basket or large cardboard box in anything.

Self Portrait: Have kiddo trace their hands and feet, and then fill in this unique style of self portrait, adding in special interesting or word clouds of things important to them.

Lemonade Stand: This is a busy project more than play, excellent for bigger kids and offers so many opportunities for learning business skills. There is planning, organization, money management, promotion, and customer service skills that will be gained from the experience. (Not to mention the art of upselling, as in charging your neighbors an extra fifty cents to play hop scotch after they finish their lemonade.)

What are some creative ways that your children play and discover? 

 

 

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).

A Troubling Toy Trend

Movie and television licensing has all but taken over the toy aisle, popular characters and series dominating sales and leaving little to no room for non-character toys. So what does this mean for our families when we shop for toys?

This spells trouble for those of us looking for imaginative, open-ended toys that wait for the child to create the story line and character. Gender balance and diversity will leave much to be desired, as heroes are almost always white males and licensed characters come with easily identifiable gender roles. The negative, myopic influences from Hollywood are now packaged up for our kids. And the flip side is, we get less interesting, diverse media because a consideration for green lighting a series is “Can it sell toys ?”

Play time should be an exchange of ideas from child to child, not Hollywood to child. Toys are losing their imagination, instead turning kids into trained consumers.

Toys are losing their imagination, instead turning kids into trained consumers.

Toys are losing their imagination, instead turning kids into trained consumers.

Families will have to work even harder at not allowing media to become all-consuming lifestyle brands as kids will want every product that follows the theater release from toys to backpacks, t-shirts to toothbrushes (that always come at a higher cost, to boot). We’re going to find ourselves saying a lot of “No’s” as we walk through the toy aisles and bug-eye at the cost of the base command ship needed to complete the play experience of the dozen plastic action figures for which you spent fifteen bucks each. How many kids are going to settle for a cardboard box as you say, “Here, make a spaceship out of this”?

And finally, independent toy makers will have an even more difficult time getting into stores because retailers will want to give shelf real estate to lucrative licensed products that are sure to sell. The toy industry is moving farther away from creating amazing play time as its focus is profit driven for corporate shareholders.

In the land of creativity and pretend we have nearly lost the desire to take risks and introduce new, exciting ideas. And that is the exact opposite of what childhood is all about.

Read more about this toy trend from the New York Times’ Hitching a Toy to a Star: Superhero Movies Create Opportunity for Toymakers.

(Hat tip to our friends at Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood for the article link.)

 

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).