When I was in the supermarket the other day, I saw a little boy in the toy aisle playing with a stereotypically ‘girls toy’. A few seconds later his Dad pulled him away from it while telling him that he shouldn’t be playing with that toy because it was a ‘girls toy’. Now I have a bit of a bug bear with gender specific marketing, because I believe it not only limits children in different aspects of their play, but it also heavily implies to young and impressionable children what roles belong to boys and what roles belong to girls. This heavy implication of gender roles clearly translates for some adults who (it appears) may then pass this viewpoint onto their children.
Personally I feel that the idea of certain roles being more suited to a person dependant on their sex as very outdated and one that strongly hinders the progression of equality among the sexes. I am also of the very strong opinion that one of the key ways to tackle this outdated viewpoint is to focus on gender specific marketing within the toy industry. This is why I was very delighted to be contacted about reviewing the new Baby Born Interactive Doll. I’m not usually contacted about stereotypically ‘girls toys’ because I have two boys, so I was very quick to jump on board.
Despite living in 2017, I have faced a bit of backlash in the past because I not only let, but encourage the boys to play with dolls. The amount of comments I’ve received like, “but dolls are for girls” and “that isn’t a toy for a little boy” is quite staggering. So I thought before I run through the features of the Baby Born interactive Doll, I’d discuss why I think little boys playing with dolls is a good thing.
In our house both myself and Mr. C split the parental responsibilities, we both do household chores and we both work on our own projects as well. By giving our sons the choice to play with dolls, they have the tools to engage in role play that replicates what they see on a day to day basis, therefore strengthening their perception of roles within a family unit, which in our case is relatively equal in terms of gender.
In the past I’ve heard a lot of comments about how little girls are naturally more empathetic, caring and therefore more likely to show nurturing behaviour. I personally don’t agree with that. One of the features of the Baby Born Interactive Doll is that it can cry. After feeding the doll water using the bottle that comes with it, if you squeeze its right arm, the doll will cry. When I squeezed the doll’s arm and the doll started crying Bear picked up the doll and rocked it. When I did this again in front of Monkey, he picked up the doll and gave it a kiss. Look at that… boys can be empathetic, caring and nurturing too! I thought the crying feature on the doll was a great idea and made the role play very realistic.
Another of the features is that the Baby Born Interactive Doll can do ‘wees’ and ‘poos’. To make the doll wee, you feed it water using the bottle and then lay the doll down. When you lay the doll down it does a little wee, but you can also press the button on its tummy while it is upright to make the doll wee. Bear loved changing the dolls nappy and when we made the doll use the potty, we used this as a way to open up a conversation about potty training.
To make the doll ‘poo’ you first have to make the special ‘doll porridge’. Only one sachet of this ‘doll porridge’ is provided with the doll but you can buy more from selected retailers. To make the ‘porridge’ you mix the sachet with water and then feed the doll using the bowl and spoon also provided. Once the doll has been fed porridge you can then press the button on the doll’s tummy to make it poo. We found the ‘porridge’ a bit of a waste of time to be honest and after lots of mixing it turned out to just be slightly gloopy water. The instructions do say to clean the doll after every ‘porridge feed’, which was quite a bit of messing around, so we only did that the once and haven’t ventured out for more ‘doll porridge’.
As well as being able to cry, wee and poo, the Baby Born Interactive Doll has moving arms and legs, eyes that open and close, is fully bathable and comes with a bottle, plate, spoon, one nappy, a magic dummy, one sachet of ‘doll porridge’ and a birth certificate.
After role playing home life, we then played doctors. The Baby Born doll took her spot in the ‘waiting room’ with a selection of cuddly toys from the toy box. When Bear listened to the cuddly toy’s heartbeats and took their blood pressure he did so without much fuss. However, when it was Dolly’s turn he asked how Dolly was feeling and while using the stethoscope Bear said, “Oh, I’m really sorry it’s cold on your chest.” I thought this was quite interesting because Monkey gets a Viral Wheeze occasionally, meaning we have to visit the doctor, who listens to his chest using a stethoscope and more often than not says something along those lines while they do so. By using a doll instead of a teddy, Bear became more involved in his play because it was more closely matched to his own experiences. So not only can a doll be used for home life role play, but can also be used for a doctors role play too. It’s interesting how children play with toys in different ways when the constricting ideas of how to play are taken away.
I really like the Baby Born Interactive Doll and think the features make role play very realistic. I do think that for the price of the doll more than one nappy and more than one sachet of ‘baby porridge’ should come with it though. The boys really enjoyed playing with the Baby Born Interactive doll and I think it has really helped them explore their experiences through play. It is quite frustrating that the girl doll comes in pink clothes and with pink accessories, whereas the boy doll comes in blue clothes and with blue accessories. It would be nice to see more neutral colours appearing in the Baby Born lines in the future, as I think this would be an amazing step in tackling gender specific marketing within the toy industry. But the fact that there is a boy doll at all and that Baby Born are including little boys in their promotional campaigns is an amazing step in the right direction and one that I welcome wholly. After all we cannot expect equality of the sexes to happen if we are still giving young boys the impression certain roles are for women and certain roles are for men and we cannot expect equality of the sexes to happen if we continue to suppress certain aspects of play for young boys by not marketing certain toys and products to them. Boys who are lead to believe that a woman’s role is purely in the home from a young age because of the toys that are marketed to them, are more likely to grow into men who hold the view that a woman’s place is purely in the home, which may lead them to believe they have superiority in terms of work and their career. In my opinion there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of the branding of Baby Born, but for now I’m extremely happy that they are taking steps in the right direction.
The Baby Born Interactive Doll retails at £49.99.
Note: I was sent a Baby Born Interactive Doll in return for an honest review.