The new taller Barbie doll is designed for children ages 3 and up


NEW YORK (AP) — Love her or hate her, Barbie has transformed again, this time into a version for children ages 3 and up.

Passed the controversial hourglass figure for My First Barbie, which launched the previous Thursday July action movie about an icon starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.

With a slightly softer build, Barbie emulates the tall, petite and curvaceous high heels that were released five years ago in a massive update.

My first Barbie is 13.5 inches tall, 2 inches taller than a traditional beanie, with a larger waist that doesn’t accentuate the bust line (it does, however, stay in place), and modest, flesh-toned underwear.

Her fashions are more like children’s, with a playful pattern of hearts, stars and flowers on jammies and flounces for preschoolers and swimming gear. Her accessories are bigger for little hands and her hair is extra long for easier combing.

My first Barbie’s limbs are movable, like some past versions of the doll, and her facial features remain recognizable. A huge milestone: Her fingers and thumbs are connected, eliminating the common complaint that Barbie’s hands get stuck in her clothes when kids try to put them on.

Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s executive vice president and global head of Barbie and dolls, told The Associated Press that the company created the new version in response to feedback from parents.

“We talk to parents and kids almost 365 days a year,” she said. “We started to hear the theme of younger kids wanting to play with Barbie. Parents were concerned that their preschool children did not have the fine motor skills to have a positive play experience with our traditional fashion doll.”

The first release of the new doll includes four different skin tones and hair textures.

Critics of the 63-year-old Barbie, which is meant to symbolize the teenage girl, have long cited her size as promoting unattainable, sexualized body standards for girls. The $19.99 My First Barbie goes a long way toward eliminating that problem.

McKnight would not directly address the criticism or whether “My First Barbie” has any place in changing that negative view.

Research is mixed on whether Barbie’s bad rap about body issues and her penchant for grown-up fashion affects children, said Jodi LeVos, once head of Mattel’s child development and learning team and now chief learning officer at Begin, which creates educational programs and other educational services for children.

Among parents, she says, “there’s a big nostalgia factor” when it comes to Barbie.

“I don’t think there’s any particular doll that’s the best fit. I think playing with puppets allows kids to really practice storytelling, perspective and social interaction,” LeVos said.

Overall sales of the Barbie line have increased dramatically in recent years after a period of decline in 2013.

Joanika Kohci, director of Adelphi University’s Parenting Institute, questioned Mattel’s motives.

“If we’re going to think about Mattel driving our choices, we’ve already kind of limited it,” she said.

McKnight made it clear that “My First Barbie” will not be a separate, parallel universe of Barbie. She said new content featuring the doll will appear on Barbie’s YouTube channel later this month, with an animated special about planning a surprise party.

Andrea Werner, a pediatric occupational therapist in West Hartford, Connecticut, and mother of a preschooler and an infant, finds doll play valuable for development.

“There are many dolls on the market,” she said. “Companies will always try to sell consumers the next best thing.”

Kohchi is not fully sold on My First Barbie as it should be.

“We know that if you’re going to hand a picture to a child and say this is beautiful, this is wonderful, or look how beautiful, it should be more like the child,” she said. “It’s certainly still a bit older than preschool.”

The new taller Barbie doll is designed for children ages 3 and up

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