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Dolls change, but still in style

Nov. 3, 2008

by Roz Kohls

The world of dolls is coming full circle. A hundred years ago, girls played with two kinds of dolls, dolls that looked like little girls, and dolls that looked like babies. The baby dolls often had soft, cloth bodies, while the head, arms, and legs were made of hard material, sometimes porcelain.

Boys played with toy soldiers; a type of doll, too, but much smaller.

By the time I was born, baby dolls had changed. They were made of hard plastic, all over. Dolls had rooted hair, instead of wigs glued to their heads.

Barbie dolls came next. Barbie dolls were made to look like adults. These fashion dolls had exquisitely tiny clothes, and were made for older girls.

Barbie dolls changed, however. The manufacturer must have realized little girls couldn’t manage dressing Barbies in tiny clothes, so they made the clothes larger and easier to change. In addition, Barbies had rooted hair, and every accessory under the sun.

About the same time, toy manufacturers noticed that baby dolls with cloth babies seemed more realistically soft. They went back to making baby dolls with cloth bodies, and many other dolls, such as Cabbage Patch dolls, with cloth, as well.

Boys stopped playing with toy soldiers, and started playing with GI Joes and other “action figures.”

Then, for several years, it seemed as if playing with dolls went out of fashion. Kids wanted to play with electronic games instead.

Now, it seems the little girl dolls that girls played with at the turn of the 20th century are making a comeback. They are called American Girl dolls. They’re expensive, but many girls in this area want them.

My two granddaughters are too little to play with, or even know about American Girl dolls. However, they love to play with Fisher Price “little people.”

Originally, Fisher Price “little people” looked like bottle stoppers in different colors. Children needed to use their imagination to play with them as people.

No more. “Little people” now come with different clothing, hairstyles, ages and personalities.

My older granddaughter has dozens of “little people.” She carries them around with her in a zipper plastic bag, and they all have names and personalities. When she plays with them, she groups them close together on a tabletop. They all face one direction, like the Verizon network in the TV commercial, my husband pointed out.

This summer, when we were up at the family cabin, she took one of her favorites, “Mikayla,” and her Linus security blanket out to the patio next to the fire pit.

My daughter, Katherine, didn’t want the blanket to get dirty, so she scooped it up to take back into the cabin. “Mikayla” must have been tangled in the blanket, because she flew into the fire, and burned up instantly.

Katherine was crushed that she had destroyed her daughter’s toy, and was much more disturbed by the loss than my granddaughter was. Katherine later bought her another Mikayla.

But not until after my granddaughter was overheard having one of the “little people” tell the Verizon network, “Did you hear what happened to Mikayla? She burned in the fire!”

I guess dolls will never go out of style.