The perils of the Barbie doll are well known these days. She’s vapid, soaked in pink and lives with a permanent lipstick grin on her face. If you think she’s bad, the Bratz and Monster High dolls aren’t that much better. Characters that are obsessed with fashion, make up and boys aren’t exactly appropriate for young girls, right?
That’s what the people at Arklu thought, so with the help of Dr Margaret Ashwell and Professor David McCarthy they have created the Lottie doll. She comes in several different versions, including a Lottie who rides horses and one who plays out in the autumn leaves with her dog. Most importantly though, she has been designed to look just like a nine year old girl.
She’s a long way from the traditional Barbie image of a fashion doll. The website displays her tagline as ‘Be bold, be brave, be you’, and lists her inspirations as Jo from Little Women, George from The Famous Five, and Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. You have to admire the vision behind Lottie’s creation. Its one thing to create a girl’s toy that simply not completely pink, but another to purposely steer the toy away from traditional ‘girly’ pursuits, such as housework or mothering.
Lottie has been well received since her release. Adults have commended her sensible proportions, which means she now has the seal of approval from the Campaign for Body Confidence and the writers of Body Image in the Primary School. The children she’s aimed at also approve, calling her ‘cute’, ‘sweet’, and in the case of the Spring Celebration Ballet Lottie, they like the way she can be posed to do the same ballet steps as they do.
There’s no arguing that Lottie is most certainly a step in the right direction. With no jewellery, high heels or make up to speak of (and certainly no boyfriend), she’s facing stiff competition from the fashion dolls already on the market. However, Arklu are not the only manufacturers making changes. The creators of the American Girl range of dolls have recently introduced some new accessories, including a wheelchair and a hearing aid. They’ve also introduced a new doll without hair, which can either be bought in that style or taken to a ‘doll hospital’ to have her hair removed.
This is all very encouraging, and I’m really pleased such steps being taken to ensure that toys are becoming more suitable for young children. However, there is still a long way to go. Step into any toy store and you’ll still find swathes of pink indicating where the girl’s toys are. In fact, I walked into a newly opened branch of The Entertainer recently and I saw the store split all the way down the middle, the opposing walls painted pink and blue and huge signs indicating ‘Girls Toys’ and ‘Boys Toys’. Ugh. Really?
For now, Lottie is only available on Amazon, but we can but hope she’ll find her way into toy stores soon. She may not be as flashy as Barbie, but you’d probably have a lot more fun with her.