Parents were given an exclusive tour of the Mattel Design Center to discover the creation of the new preschool Barbie, known as My First Barbie, and to learn about the intricate process behind making this groundbreaking toy. This innovative addition to the brand not only brings joy to global families but also represents a significant milestone for the iconic doll company.
Since her introduction over 64 years ago, Barbie has undergone numerous transformations. Among many other incarnations, the adored doll has been a presidential candidate, astronaut, film director, and architect. Yet until now, she has never donned an appearance that would make her even more approachable to toddlers. Early in 2023, Mattel introduced My First Barbie, a doll designed for children as young as three.
Recently, parents were able to visit Mattel’s design center to receive an up-close and personal look at the manufacturing process.
My First Barbie Is an Ideal Toy for Preschoolers
The very first step Mattel takes when designing a new doll is one of the most encouraging components of the process. Rachel Rasser, senior director of Mattel, Inc., states that the company takes pride in engaging with and being in continual touch with parents to determine how they can best satisfy the requirements of children.
And via conversations with parents, the company learned more about how it might precisely address the requirements of preschoolers. Lisa McKnight, EVP and global head of Barbie & Dolls Portfolio, explains, “We began to hear more and more parents expressing their fondness for Barbie and asking, ‘At what age should I introduce my child to Barbie?'”
Also, parents said that younger children had difficulty playing with regular-sized Barbies, particularly when it came to dressing and undressing the dolls. “They simply lack the necessary fine motor skills,” McKnight concedes. “So, we thought, ‘That’s fascinating. “Is there a way we might design a more tailored line for preschoolers and adjust the experience while remaining faithful to the core play pattern of fashion play and hair play, as well as what children love about Barbie, the unfolding storyline?”
The business began building a doll that would be compatible with how preschoolers play. They determined that smaller hands would prefer a larger, softer torso with more articulated arms and legs. The new My First Barbie measures 13.5 inches tall, compared to the standard Barbie’s 11.5 inches. In addition, she has a bigger waist and perpetual underwear.
Because preschoolers enjoy brushing a doll’s hair, designers made her locks longer, and the accessories available for a My First Barbie are larger—to match the doll’s size, of course, but also to make them simpler for preschoolers to grasp. In addition, they intended to address a persistent source of annoyance for most parents: thumbs that catch on clothing, particularly long-sleeved dresses, and shirts. By connecting the fingers and thumbs of My First Barbie, children receive what McKnight terms “a friction-free experience.”
And speaking of clothing, each of the doll’s costumes is constructed using Velcro that runs the full length of the garment so that no matter where a youngster places it, the doll will always appear polished and put together. McKnight observes that the team did an excellent job of adapting everything to the dexterity of preschoolers.
Obviously, aesthetics were also modified to appeal to younger children. My First Barbie has larger eyes and facial expressions that are more childlike, charming, and gentle. Her themed accessory packs, which include equipment for My First Barbie and her friends to attend a birthday party, go to school, and get ready for bed, indicate a preschooler’s daily routine. “It is crucial to mirror the reality that this age group sees around them, which includes a great deal of time spent at home,” notes McKnight. “They are learning about their routine, and our dolls provide children with chances for imaginative play, such as imagining themselves undressed for school or doing their nighttime personal care routine.”
Parents and children who are already familiar with Barbie will identify the first four basic dolls as existing characters: Barbie “Malibu” Roberts, Barbie “Brooklyn” Roberts, Teresa, and Renee.
How New Barbies Are Made
Before a Barbie reaches store shelves, the brand’s creators engage in a frenzy of brainstorming, creativity, and teamwork. Rasser and Kim Culmone, SVP, director of design for Barbie, Monster High, and Mattel Creations at Mattel Inc., hosted our tour of Barbie Headquarters and described how an idea, such as satisfying the requirements of preschoolers, evolves from debate and vision into a tangible prototype.
The venue, located in El Segundo, California, in close proximity to Los Angeles International Airport, is essentially a workshop where designers engage with artists who can bring a vision to reality. My First Barbie sketches are converted into a digital design, which artists then “sculpt” using a haptic-feedback-based design instrument. The 3D printer can then produce the model in a matter of hours, after which artists may apply Barbie’s makeup and “root” her hair.
The dolls can then be outfitted similarly to a fashion model by visiting the fabric area. Similar to conventional clothing, My First Barbie apparel patterns are constructed from a large choice of shimmering, dazzling, or bright and vibrant materials.
The prototype of My First Barbie, whose development began almost a year ago, undoubtedly received plaudits at Barbie headquarters. And after months of labor, it is now ready for purchase on shelves.
My First Barbie Expands the World of Barbie for Younger Children
According to McKnight, children who have played with My First Barbie have given the doll wonderful ratings. “Not only do they enjoy being able to dress and undress themselves with the large velcro strips and being able to pick up brushes and brush their own hair, but they are also charmed with the dolls, their characteristics, the gentle color palette, and the accessories,” she explains.
What McKnight loves most about the doll is that it is “really My First Barbie.” She says, “It is an exciting manifestation of Barbie, but it gives toddlers the same play experience with the brand and the doll as their older sibling may have had with the brand and doll.”
In addition, the launch of the doll is followed by the 31st January premiere of the first-ever Barbie content produced particularly for preschool-aged children. On the Barbie YouTube channel, you can see the animated special My First Barbie: Happy DreamDay, which follows the narrative of Barbie and her pals preparing for a fantastic surprise party.
Similar to the other accessory packs for My First Barbie, the material focuses on topics that resonate with preschoolers, such as friendship, family, and everyday lessons.
Mattel continues to innovate by listening to parents and children and observing changes in society and culture. And as a result of this forward-thinking perspective, the newest version of the legendary doll is certain to open up an entirely new realm of imaginative, empowered play for preschoolers.