Are toys making our kids grow up too quickly?

    Toys are getting older while kids are staying the same age. Strawberry Shortcake is not the curly haired cutie little toddler girl I played with.  Now she’s tween-ish, her hair is long and straight, and she wears a mini-skirt.


    I came to realize that a lot of kids toys I remember being exposed to at a later age are being marketed to a younger audience.  I first realized this when Barbie entered our house on my daughter’s third birthday; a bit younger than I remembered being interested in Barbie.


    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    In her blog, author Peggy Orenstein points out how young girls now play with dolls that look older versus cute.  The Rainbow Bright, Strawberry Shortcake, the Care Bears, My Little Pony characters aren’t so freckle-faced and cute any more, but more slender with flowing hair, taller and made up.


    Lets look at the Barbie doll. When she arrived in 1959, Barbie was originally marketed as a teenage fashion doll.  Then in the 1970’s, she gained success with the 5-12 year old girls and is now marketed to 3-5 year olds.  In 1974, 90% of American girls aged 5-12 had a Barbie, but by 1997 that percent expanded to include 3 and 4 year olds.

    What this brings me to is another example how differently our kids are growing up than we did. I marvel at the changes. The amount of diversity in their interaction with media and learning is ridiculously more than anything we knew. The other day, I was out for my run pushing a 3 ½ year old in the stroller reading on her V-Reader tablet.


    Could these older girls be great icons, role models of girl power for our kids to aspire to? Or is this the age of the incredible shrinking childhood?


    There is no answer yet to these questions. As parents, we are in a new frontier. Age and awareness is coming at light speed. The ways our kids can access information, react and then express their reaction to it is off the charts.


    We have to take it all in stride. Kids grow up.  Apparently toys do too.


    Northwest Philly Parents is a partnership between Newsworks and Germantown Avenue Parents.  

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal