Imagine walking down the toy aisle with your child, and not seeing them reflected in the dolls on the shelves. Well, as part of Mattel’s ever-expanding goal to include more diversity, inclusivity, and representation in its collection, the toy giant announced the addition of its first-ever Barbie doll with Down syndrome.
“As the most diverse doll line on the market, Barbie plays an important role in a child’s early experiences, and we are dedicated to doing our part to counter social stigma through play,” said Lisa McKnight, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls, Mattel in a statement. “Our goal is to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie, while also encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves. Doll play outside of a child’s own lived experience can teach understanding and build a greater sense of empathy, leading to a more accepting world. We are proud to introduce a Barbie doll with Down syndrome to better reflect the world around us and further our commitment to celebrating inclusion through play.”
In order to ensure that the Barbie doll represented a person with Down syndrome, the company worked with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). The organization, which works to provide resources for families and help create policy change, offered guidance through the design process.
Here are some of the ways that the Barbie doll with Down syndrome was designed:
- The doll’s body has a shorter frame and a longer torso, which is meant to be representative of women with Down syndrome.
- The doll’s face has a rounder shape, smaller ears, and a flat nasal bridge. The eyes are slightly slanted in an almond shape.
- The doll’s palms include a single line, which is a trait that is often associated with Down syndrome.
The Barbie doll with Down syndrome is wearing a yellow and blue dress that has butterflies on it, which are symbols that are representative of Down syndrome awareness. And her necklace features three upward chevrons, which are meant to be the three copies of the 21st chromosome. She is even wearing pink ankle foot orthotics, which some children with Down syndrome use as well.
Since its launch in 1959, Barbie has certainly come a long way from her beginnings as a blonde doll with a black and white striped swimsuit and signature pony. Today, there are over 175 iterations of the doll, representing people of all different body types, hair colors and textures, and skin tones, too. Barbie has also introduced dolls that have vitiligo, wear hearing aids and use wheelchairs as well. And as part of their goal to encourage kids to dream big dreams and learn acceptance and inclusion through play, Mattel’s 2023 Fashionistas line will include a doll wearing braces and a Ken Fashionista with a prosthetic leg.
For now, the Barbie doll with Down syndrome is a big win for parents in the disabled community — and all parents, really. Seeing more diverse dolls (and playing with them) means that all kids can feel seen. It opens the door for conversations to occur where children can ask questions and ultimately become more accepting of everyone’s unique experiences and celebrate those amazing differences.