Let me take you back to the days of little Alexandra Higl – the certified doll hoarder. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I can assure you I wasn’t even close to the people featured on the A&E documentary series, “Hoarders.”
However, in the ‘90s, my room was a straight up fire hazard. Everything from the strangely flexible workout Barbie to the perfectly toned beach Barbie adorned my bedroom floor. Occasionally, my brother’s hand-me-down G.I. Joes made a guest appearance. (This was only reserved for special occasions.)
Oh, and I’m totally forgetting the golden age – the Cabbage Patch Doll era. Not to brag, but my room was the hotspot for tea parties circa 1997. I’d bust out my trunk of costume clothes, put on my best silk blue dress and white shawl, and of course big clip on earrings to match, and welcomed my guests (the Cabbage Patch Dolls) to my humble abode. Yes, folks. This was childhood at its prime.
And let’s not forget every girl’s right of passage to maturity and responsibility: opening up a long, rectangular white box with maroon trip and clutching an American Girl Doll in your hands. But, it’s not the birthdays, Christmases or the random holidays when you receive the dolls that you remember. It’s the hours you spend transfixed in the solitude of your room letting your imagination run wild. The scenarios you create. The memories you make.
A simple toy like a Barbie was the gateway to my imagination. In fact, I attribute my thirst for creativity and writing to those hours I spent playing with my Barbies.
However, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Doomsday is coming. (Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic.)
The other day, as I was perusing through the news, I came across multiple articles saying Barbie sales have drastically decreased within a short period of time. According to The Washington Post, Barbie sales decreased by 21 percent this past quarter.
American Girl Doll sales have also decreased by 7 percent in the same quarter. Although not all toy sales have plummeted, many of the classics have. However, take a guess what’s currently on the rise? Technology sales – specifically, handheld devices, iPads, those faux iPads for five year olds and the sort.
The fact that I’ve actually witnessed toddlers as young as two years old cry for an iPad, pick it up, turn it on and press the Disney game app, mesmerized by the glowing screen for hours is a bit disheartening.
Technology is great and all, but whatever happened to the concept of imagination? Whatever happened to picking up a Barbie Doll and creating a scenario from scratch? Whatever happened to telling a story from beginning, middle, to end and using the dolls as a tool to breathe life into the tale?
I might just be sounding like the prophet of doom, but my biggest fear is that children who grow up sitting in front of the television or glued to handheld devices are going to lose the opportunity to develop essential skills : the ability to create, imagine and think for themselves. Instead of being told what to think, or what button to press, why not let children take the reins? This opportunity for growth lays the foundation for developing critical and creative thinking skills, as well as the concept of thinking independently and not being influenced by the glowing screen.
Okay, you can lecture me about the hoopla of how Barbie sports unrealistic proportions with her unrealistically skinny midsection and large chest region. However, I can guarantee you this doesn’t affect girls as severely as many people blow it up to be. I was a die-hard Barbie fan and I’d like to think I turned out just fine.
And let’s look at the doll sales that are actually doing well – Bratz and Monster High Dolls. Their waists are even smaller and heads are giant, creating the illusion that their bodies are teeny tiny.
So don’t put down my girl Barbie.
But I digress. Whatever happened to a child carrying her Cabbage Patch Dolls outside and exploring her backyard which doubles as the Amazon rainforest? Where are the days where she hosts extravagant parties, dresses up and plays for hours on end?
These days have been replaced by glowing screens, stifling the ability to create.These children will have years ahead of them where they’ll be forced to sit in front of a glowing screen for a living. Why sacrifice these years of development by pushing our kids to grow up too quickly and conform to the rest of society?
Save an imagination. Buy a Barbie or G.I. Joe for your niece, nephew or little cousin, and watch their imaginations run wild.