Your daughter just opened up her first Barbie doll and immediately wants to play with you, but you're a bit rusty on imaginative play. Have no fear. Because Barbie dolls are so universally versatile, there are numerous ways you can entertain your child in a meaningful way.
Glamour and Fashion Games
Since Barbie's inception, she has been as much a part of the fashion world as Chanel or Christian Dior. As the most popular games to play with Barbies involve fashion and dress-up, you and your child could create a catwalk and play "Fashion Show" with you announcing and scoring your child's imaginative getups for Barbie. Dress-up games where your child chooses Barbie's outfit for specific occasions (the big dance, first day of school, playing baseball, church, etc.) can likewise help instruct your child in what she should wear to various places and occasions. If you would like another interactive way to play Barbie with your child, numerous online games exist that involve dress-up, hairstyling and virtual vignettes to entertain and teach basic computer skills at the same time.
Even from very young ages, little girls enjoy playing "mommy" and nurturing their own dolls. This translates to Barbie's world nicely, particularly if you have little baby dolls that Barbie can "mother." Letting your child play the parent through Barbie gives her a good idea of the various responsibilities you have. ("What should Barbie make for dinner?" "Is it time for Barbie to drive Skipper to her ballet lesson?") Additionally, this is a good segue out of playtime when you need to move on to your various responsibilities. ("And now Mommy has to make dinner for you!")
Games That Teach Social Values
Barbie is an incredibly lovable toy, but also a fantastic social tool. When you use dolls to show how "big girls" interact, you are simultaneously socializing your child into understanding how she should behave. Create scenarios where your child's Barbie has to make a good choice ("Uh-oh...Barbie's friend doesn't have a pretty party dress. Can Barbie share one of hers?") or where you use Barbie to show your child how to interact with friends (teaching lessons such as sharing, saying kind and friendly things to other girls, using manners at the table, etc.). If you want your child to learn a specific lesson without being too on the nose, Barbie can play a key role.
Games That Promote a Healthy Future
Barbie has certainly changed with the times, particularly vocationally. Now there is a Barbie for nearly every career from McDonalds cashier to doctor to chef. Even if a particular doll doesn't exist to fit a particular career, you can certainly make Barbie into any type of professional woman through props (other toys) and outfits. Giving several Barbies different careers and having them discuss their jobs can provide endless entertainment. These games can often spiral into the bizarre ("Come on, Movie Star Barbie! Blast off with Astronaut Barbie into space!") but it's all in the name of fun, and the point is to let your child explore different professions.
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Jordynn McMahon specializes in travel, technology and health articles. She currently works as a marketing specialist in the software industry. McMahon has a B.A. in English from UC Santa Barbara, as well as an M.A. in English literature and composition from San Jose State University.