New curvy, petite and tall Barbies could teach kids about body image, mom says

There are three new girls in town — Mattel's new curvy, petite and tall Barbie dolls. A Toronto mom and blogger says the dolls are long-awaited changes that could help parents teach their kids about body image.

'It's the fact that this is just representing what's real,' says Toronto mom

This photo provided by Mattel shows a group of new Barbie dolls introduced in January 2016. Mattel, the maker of the famous plastic doll, said it will start selling Barbies in three new body types: tall, curvy and petite. She'll also come in seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles. (Mattel/Associated Press)

A Toronto mom and blogger says Mattel's new curvy, petite and tall Barbie dolls released Thursday are long-awaited changes that could help parents teach their kids about body image. 

"With Barbie being such an icon but maintaining this one standard archetype of a look, I think it's really significant that now they're breaking from that and deciding to look more like the people who they're trying to reach out to," said Bee Quammie, a healthcare professional and the founder of The Brown Suga Mama blog. "It's the fact that this is just representing what's real, what we're seeing every day"

The original Barbie doll with a tiny waist, blue eyes and long blonde hair was released more than 50 years ago. People have long criticized Barbie's original shape as setting an unrealistic body image for girls, despite modifications over the years.

The new dolls have seven skin tones, 22 eye colours, 24 hairstyles and new clothes and accessories.

"They're limited in their aspect because I have seen people say curvy Barbie's not that curvy and petite Barbie could be a little heavier as well. There's room for more improvement," said Quammie.

Her 18-month-old daughter owns one Barbie and although the new line isn't totally representative of women, Quammie said it's a positive change. 

"With these changes I feel more inclined to get her a Barbie that I feel may represent her and that she'll start to see different body types that will represent the ones she sees in real life," she said.

The launch of the new range follows two years of declining sales of Barbie dolls around the world as girls increasingly turn to other dolls, electronic toys and tablets. Barbie sales fell 14 per cent in the most recently reported quarter, with worldwide sales falling every year since 2012. 

World's most famous doll revamped to have different body types amid declining sales 2:28
"People have been asking for changes for so long that maybe some people just got tired of asking and in the meantime other companies in the toy industry have really jumped in and filled those gaps," said Quammie.

Barbie didn't innovate enough to keep up with the new desires of children and even with these changes, the company is lagging behind, she said. 

"What our kids are attached to now is more of an identity around their toys, more of a story around their toys," she said. "What they really need to do is find a way to attach themselves emotionally to our kids. It's not enough now to just have a pretty doll."

The new Barbies are available for order on the Mattel website starting Thursday and they will be available in stores later.