The development of children is influenced by very many things in their environment. This is the reason parents must always be careful to ensure that their children; both girls and boys, adopt the most appropriate morals as they grow up. Marni Jackson, in her article “Gals and Dolls”, argues that the toys that parents buy for their children can be good and bad at the same time. She opines that “May Barbie be ‘bad’ as long as she reigns, for it is her lack of redeeming social value that helps keep her true to the child’s sense of play, instead of the parents’ worst fears” (53). She says they are ‘bad’ to indicate that toys have the potency to mislead children as far as development in self-esteem and social values is concerned. As she tackles the negative characteristics of Barbie, she mentions her “lack of redeeming social value”, “fickle careers”, as well as, “firm little bosom and fashion-victim personality.” Nonetheless, ‘bad’ toys are not entirely bad. Their always something that can be learnt from them; this is where parents come in – to explain the good things to learn from such toys to their children.

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Whilst it is upon parents to buy the “bad” toys, pompous parents may ruin their children’s lives. Marni Jackson explains that “Barbie” is not as perilous as some experts may think. While there are many cases where girls are influenced to adopt her image even later in life through pink clothes, pink shoes, and many other brightly colored accessories, she says that “little girls just only like to relate with her and not be her”. Marni believes that Barbie is a doll that empowers girls and strengthens them to own fancy accessories, clothes, and even cars. However, if these girls do not outgrow the bond that they have with Barbie and maintain that relationship, it could be of great harm. She is a popular toy but the popularity should not stick in the minds of little children; who may be tempted to be her.

There are young girls and women who feel great pressure to have big boobs, be skinny, tanned, as well as pretty with long hair. This is the influence that Barbie commands. Such women have unknowingly let the image portrayed by Barbie to be the ideal woman to them; hence the eating disorders and low self-esteem. Such as relationship that women or girls have with Barbie Dolls is not seen in men or boys. While boys will fancy playing with Superman toys; with age they drop the toys and live their lives playing different games; not involving such toys. Nonetheless, there still continue to be stereotypes created by ‘bad’ toys in the society.

Toys make children elope into their own little imaginable worlds where Barbie could be their daughters or sisters and they feel happy having Barbie with them during such development periods in life. The ability to have something to play with and relate to in a young age helps children develop bonds and certain values. However, parents should take great care to ensure that their children do not develop dangerous consumerism which could mess up their lives in the future. When a child decides to play with a gender-specific toy, such as Barbie, it is upon parents to help children quell stereotypes associated with such toys. Marni presents an example of a boy who puts on purple shoes to school but refuses to put them on again since they “are girls’ shoes” – because of their color. Parental guidance is important in such cases. The guidance should come before children get influenced by their friends and other people. As such, gender-specific toys are only influential to a certain age; beyond which parental guidance is to blame.

  • Jackson, Marni. “Gals and Dolls: The Moral Value of ‘Bad’ Toys.” This Magazine, December! (1991).