26 answers

Are Barbie Dolls Appropriate for 3 Year Olds?

Hi Moms,
My 3 year old daughter received a few Barbie dolls from a relative for Christmas (which she doesn't seem too interested in). I'm pretty careful about buying her age-appropriate toys, and although the manufacturer's recommendation is for ages 3 and above, I'm not so sure I feel it's appropriate for my preschooler to be playing with a doll who has big breasts and a boyfriend! I was thinking about just putting them away for future use. What do you think? Am I making too much of this? My husband says to just let her have the dolls!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks so much to all of you Moms who answered my question! I had to laugh when I read the response which mentioned the preschool teacher Barbie in the minidress, because that was one of the Barbies that my daughter received! I've never seen a preschool teacher dress like that! Anyway, it was my intention to put the dolls away for a few years, but my daughter remembered that she got them for Christmas, kept talking about them, and eventually found them. (I guess my hiding place was not a very good one!) I let her play with them, hoping that she would become bored with them quickly.....and that's exactly what happened. Thankfully, she's back to playing with Thomas and Friends, VReader and her other toys.

Featured Answers

I have a 3 year old daughter as well. She, too, got lots of Barbie goodies for Christmas. She loves them. I don't see anything wrong with her playing with them.

5 moms found this helpful

I agree with the hubby. My daughter is 3 and loves to play with her barbies and barbie house. She has never had issues with the boobies or asking about the privates or anything.

3 moms found this helpful

Well I don't believe Barbie is appropriate for any child so probably not a 3 year old. There are lots of age appropriate dolls (look at the Waldorf dolls) for both boys and girls. There are many with much more realistic body shapes for when she is a little older. And yes, there is plenty of research that shows girls as young as 4-6 have developed clear ideas about the 'ideal' female body. We don't need to help them along with Barbies.

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I have a 3 year old daughter as well. She, too, got lots of Barbie goodies for Christmas. She loves them. I don't see anything wrong with her playing with them.

5 moms found this helpful

I agree with the hubby. My daughter is 3 and loves to play with her barbies and barbie house. She has never had issues with the boobies or asking about the privates or anything.

3 moms found this helpful

I would let her have it.

3 moms found this helpful

My daughters are 5 and 3 and although almost all the Barbie's belong to my 5 year old, my 3 year old plays with them as well. My daughter owns 2 ken dolls but has nothing to do with them. Only likes the girls.
And although, I don't see a 3 year old really playing with Barbie on her own, I don't think there is anything wrong with it. Obviously its your decision so if you don't feel right about it, then put them away. All I can say is it brings me great joy when my girls get the Barbies out and play together. Its also fun overhearing the great stories that come from their imaginations.

For example: My 5 year old is in ballet. It just so happens her uncle got her a ballet barbie with a toddler ballet barbie. (It was the series I can be a ballet teacher barbie) She was playing the other day and the ballet teacher brought the student home. The ballet teacher told the mom (another barbie) that she learned some new steps today and why didn't she show them to her mom. So the little girl did the new steps and mom said how good and proud she was. - Anyway point to this is, every day my daughter comes home from dance I ask her if she learned any new moves and or to show me what she practiced today. Its cute that my daughter 'plays' that scenario out with her dolls.

2 moms found this helpful

I have a 3 year old as well. I have decided to not get them for her or allow her to have them til she's older. One reason is that I don't want to spend the whole day dressing and undressing them. Also, the hair will get all tangled and messy, and she's too young to comb it...these are some of the reasons that I believe they are designed for older girls.

I was looking at Barbies for a girl we sponsored from church, also 3 yrs, who requested one. All of the dolls were dressed in trendy, short skirts, etc. Even "day care worker" Barbie! What day care worker wears a mini skirt?!

I agree that the larger princess dolls are a little better. And, I feel that there are so many other styles of dolls that are geared for younger girls...

Years ago, kids played with Barbie at much older ages...6-10. I think they are made for girls this age...They only say 3 and up because that means that they may have small pieces which means they are recommended for kids who are AT LEAST 3. The toy companies don't care whether the toys are appropriate for your child...they just want to get you to buy them and cover their butts for liability purposes!

2 moms found this helpful

Well I don't believe Barbie is appropriate for any child so probably not a 3 year old. There are lots of age appropriate dolls (look at the Waldorf dolls) for both boys and girls. There are many with much more realistic body shapes for when she is a little older. And yes, there is plenty of research that shows girls as young as 4-6 have developed clear ideas about the 'ideal' female body. We don't need to help them along with Barbies.

2 moms found this helpful

I think your making too much of a big deal I looked past that & see my girls playing with them also looking past the boobies they are a great doll toy not to big or heavy if it gets lost easy to replace however the small shoes I do recommend either super glue them on or take them off & stash away for future use.My hubby made our girls a huge doll house that I stocked up with Barbie furniture it was a highlight of Christmas morning & they still are interested in,now for Ken he can wait to be added.I never was into Barbies as a child but I will buy them for my girls have beed since they were a year old they don't chew on the hair the small pieces are off & there is nothing wrong with them carrying them around playing right along with them in their daily activites.Glad I have a husband who is encouraging :)

2 moms found this helpful

I agree with you!! The Disney Princess Barbie style dolls are a great alternative--they look much less sexy and more sweet. I especially like the new Rapunzel doll--very innocent looking. However, I think that 18" dolls are better suited to five and up. I would return them, either way. Plus, it's post-Christmas and the sales are great!

2 moms found this helpful

Boy, I must be in the minority. I don't like Barbies for the same reasons, even though I loved them as a kid. I think I was older. I recommend these.
http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId...
They are healthy looking, multi-ethnic girls with lots of different outfits and accessories. Girls already have a hard time with self esteem, so why not postpone the barbie look as long as you can? Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

Yes you are making too much of it. Let her play with them! She is learning to be nurturing.

1 mom found this helpful

You don't HAVE to give her the boyfriend...

1 mom found this helpful

They are too hard to dress anyways. The style and snap dolls are awesome. Trade the Barbies in;0)

1 mom found this helpful

I have a 2 year old and she has 4 barbies. I just made sure I removed the shoes and any other small pieces! Shes a little girl, let her play with the barbies!!!!

1 mom found this helpful

I have just scanned through some of the responses and I'm slightly surprised that there is so much backlash against Barbie. I'm sure most Mom's of today, grew up with her and most of us are not mixed up because of it.

At the age of 3, breasts are not sexual. They are part of the human anatomy designed to nourish a baby. As far as Ken being a boyfriend. The idea of a boyfriend is very different for developing ages. Just because Barbie has a boyfriend doesn't mean your child will imitate the two of them having sex on the couch at the age of three. More likely she will imitate the two of them as Mommy and Daddy.

My son has been playing with a Barbie I had in the house (I don't separate boys/girls toys very often). He plays with her in the same way he plays with his Little People. Role Playing is an important part of learning. I grew up playing with Malibu Barbie and I don't think having a tan like her's is worth the health issues of worshipping the sun. I also don't think that I am less of a person because my skin if fair in color.

When choosing toys that are appropriate for our youngsters try to think in terms of a child, not in the terms of an adult whom has already been influenced by the "norms" of society. Your child will play with the doll when and if she becomes interested.

1 mom found this helpful

I felt the same way. My daughter probably had a few at that age, but didnt want anything to do with them. Shes almost 6 now and starting to get into them. I wasnt too thrilled though when she got a skanky outfit set for Christmas. She changed her well dressed babysitter Barbie into quite the party girl. :( We might have to lose those soon. ;)

1 mom found this helpful

just give her barbie with no ken.....not really a big deal to me

1 mom found this helpful

I see nothing wrong with a 3yo playing with Barbie. However, there are much better more appropriate toys/dolls for her to play with at this age. I would put them away for future use.

1 mom found this helpful

Our 3 year old loves the Barbies she got for Christmas! I played with Barbies when I was younger, and I don't have a skewed idea of what the "ideal" female body is. I believe that every body is a beautiful body. Barbies do not have huge breasts anymore...they scaled them down a while back...now they fit her body much better than thay did when I was younger. I never thought much of her mini skirts or other skimpy clothes....and no...I didn't dress like that...it's kind of hard to clean a barn wearing a mini skirt and heels...lol. I don't think I would have dressed like that even if I didn't grow up doing farm chores. Our little one doesn't have a Ken yet, but we do plan on getting her the Ken from Toy Story 3 since she already has Barbie, Woody, Jessie, and Buzz. Kids don't learn what is or is not appropriate from Barbie and Ken, they learn from Mom and Dad (or, in some cases, a different adult roll model).

1 mom found this helpful

K discovered Barbies around 4 and even though I remember playing for hours with my Barbies and how much fun it was I still sat down and felt a moment of sadness because withe the addition of Barbie to the toy cabinet it meant an end to some of the "little girl" play stuff, like Disney princess themed toys and parties. It seems the fashions started turning from the frilly party dresses and fun hairstyles that suddenly I had a young lady on my hands instead. She started liking her clothes more narrow, less frills and fru fru.

1 mom found this helpful

OK this is kinda long, (sorry) I'll try to keep it as short as I can tho! LoL
My sisters & our friends (Boy & girl) & I LOVED barbies (including ken) from ages 2 to 10ish. Anyways, learning the anatomy of the body isn't a bad thing, every girl grows up to have breasts, so barbie who is not portrayed as a little girl, but as a grown up women doll, has breasts. Also I don't think barbie has large breasts, she just has breasts. If she looked like she had big ol double d's then I'd worry more, but she just looks like she has average, normal size breasts that fit her body. If you learn about your body at an early age you learn not to be embarrassed of your body later. I never really payed attention to her body anyways.

My 9 year old dd plays with barbies & kens & one of the only times she lets her 3 year old little sister & 2 year old brother in her room is when she asks them to play barbies with her. She loves playing barbies with them & they love it too! While I never payed attention to the barbies body's, for the first time my 2 yo son did. The other morning he just got out of the bath tub, he's running around naked for a few min while I dry his 3 yo sis, he goes to his 9 yo's sisters room, he picks up barbie & ken is playing with them, looks down at his pee pee then looks at the ken in his hand then says Mama? Ken is a boy dolly not girl? I said yeah Ken is a boy just like you! Then he looks down again looks up at me then with his arms wide out says where Kens pee pee??? LoL! My 9 year old & I got a good laugh together out of it, LoL. She blurted out it's just in his underwear's like your pee pee goes inside your diaper! His underwear are the same color as him so you can't really see them. He said oooh, yah! Then went on his marry way. :) I probably couldn't come up with much better of an explanation myself LoL Him & my 3 yo will shower with me when I haven't already bathed them so there both always asking questions about my body in comparison to there own body & each others body, so no barbie is going to teach them any body matter I haven't already discussed with them!

As far as the slutty looking clothing, I try to buy the "good dressed" barbies & buy appropriate clothes at garage sales & ebay& CL. A couple times they've had good sales on the "slutty" looking barbies so I bought them, used it a lesson for my kids, they threw the "bad clothes" away & re-dressed them with "good girl" clothes & we say yaay barbie looks so much better now! & every one claps & is happy. :) Oh & barbie & Ken don't have to be bf/gf.. They like to get married when my 9 yo has friends over, when she's playing with the younger kids they are just best friends, brother & sister, mommy & daddy, sometimes they dont' even know eachtoher, one works at a store the other is just a sustomer, LoL. Whatever kid frinedly combo they can come up with is fine with me. I'm always around & over hear everything anyways. My 9yo knows tho that they don't kiss until the man says you are now married you may kiss the bride. But never before that. ;)

1 mom found this helpful

My 3.5yr old daughter got a couple Barbies for Christmas and I let her have them because she got a big dollhouse that they are perfect for. We've had a good laugh over some of the positions the dolls have been in at the end of the day, but when it comes right down to it, Barbie is just a doll and she enjoys playing with them.

I agree with your husband, let her play with them.

1 mom found this helpful

I loved playing with Barbie when I was a kid, but I was older than 3 when I did. And when a friend gave my twin daughters Barbies when they were 3 last year, I decided they/I weren't ready for them yet. So I put them away, and I'll pull them out when they're older. I don't think you're making too much of it -- it's up to you to decide what toys/TV shows/books/etc. are appropriate for your child. And just because it says it's OK for kids 3 and above, that probably has more to do with it being a choking hazard for kids under 3 than with it being appropriate for kids who are 3.

-A.

1 mom found this helpful

My 3 year old loves barbies! She started off playing with them at Grandma's house and then got a barbie car and 2 barbies for Christmas. She loves the car more than the barbies, but she still likes me dress up her dolls, and especially loves the roller skates they came with. :) Just let her enjoy if she wants to. My oldest daughter was never interested in them and would rather have always played with stuffed animals, so it didn't matter. If she's not really interested in them anyway, I'd give them another year or so.

1 mom found this helpful

My DD has loved barbies for years! She doesn't know that Ken is a boyfriend. In our house Ken is "dad" and Barbie is "mom" and they have mom and dad interactions, talking about kids etc. Totally cute to see her reinact our real life situations with barbies.

My daughter is 6 and has never made a comment about Barbie having breasts. We are open with nudity so my kids have seen me breastfeed, seen me change clothes etc so they know what they are and that grownup girls have them.

I am not that bothered by Barbie but 3 seems a little young for her. We played with them constantly in Elementary school but at 3 I think she would struggle with the clothes and accessories. We played with Skipper, Barbie's kid sister (not at all developed), the most though. You could probably get a doll family of a similar size if you looked. And if your daughter got a bunch of toys for Christmas then you could always put away some of the less favorite ones for a while.

I don't think the boyfriend part is an issue. That's everywhere in everyday life. When you come to think of it, so is the breast issue lol. But I know what you mean. And what I think is worse are these tinkerbell dolls. They are so sexy - sexier than barbie. I think if your daughter isn't interested, there's no need to force it. Simply put it in the bottom of a play bin somewhere. If she does look for it, don't hide it or she'll only focus on it more.

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