Reviewed by Louise Totton
I have two young daughters (ages nine and six), and one of the things that has really surprised me is how quickly they seem to be growing out of ‘toys’, and how many of the toys that are aimed at this age group are focussed on appearance, looks and trying to make themselves look older. This week alone, my nine-year-old has requested a nail art set, glitter tattoos and make-up for Christmas – all products to make them look and feel older than they are. And I honestly don’t think it is good for them to be subjected to a constant barrage of products focussed on their appearance. My eldest now regularly asks me if she’s fat (she isn’t, she’s the shape of a normal nine-year-old), and occasionally tells me that she hates herself when she gets dressed.
Now, I’m not stupid and I know that this isn’t solely down to television advertising, but it doesn’t help when kids are at an age here their bodies are changing, and hormones are making them a bit emotional anyway. I also think that for years now, young girls have had very unrealistic expectations as to what ‘beautiful’ is – if you look at the proportions of a Barbie doll, they are completely outside the realms of an achievable body shape, and they nearly all have blonde hair and blue eyes. One, very static, interpretation of beautiful.
So, it seems there is a bit of a gap in the market here for a doll that will appeal to older girls – girls who have long since grown out of baby dolls, bottles and cots. Girls who know that they don’t look like a Barbie and nor are they ever likely to. And girls who want to experiment with looks and identities – to be able to create their own vision of cool, but who we really don’t want to be sporting nail extensions and make-up yet. Enter the I’m a Girly range of dolls, designed in Switzerland – a line of realistically and naturally proportioned dolls, and all hand painted, aimed at girls and boys aged 9-13 and designed with children of the same age.
I feel really lucky to have been sent a doll for my daughter to review, just in time for their UK launch. There is a doll to represent everyone in the range – the dolls come in a range of skin tones and that’s only the beginning of the journey to customise them! We were sent Zoé – and she’s gorgeous! She came in a lovely, trendy looking hinged box with Velcro fastening, and it was immediately obvious that she is a high-end, high quality toy! The box will be reused for a wardrobe when we get some more clothes for her, but for the time being is being used as her bed – I love reusable packaging as it always seems so wasteful to bin it, so this is a massive plus for me.
Out of the box, Zoe comes with beautiful, silky long blonde hair which my daughter loved because it looked like her! She has gorgeous hazel eyes and a peachy complexion – just like my daughter. The dolls are made from a soft-touch vinyl material, so whilst they are not soft-bodied dolls, they are also not the cold, hard-bodied material that lots of dolls seem to be made from.
All of the dolls come with their own little fact-file, with their likes, dislikes, star signs and more. My daughter read through Zoe’s profile and was delighted to see some similarities between the doll and herself. The dolls all have their own unique personalities, so you can choose your doll based on their personalities as well as what they look like – a fantastic, positive message for children: it’s what’s on the inside that counts, not the outside. Having said that, children do want to identify with their own doll, and this is where I think I’m a girly comes into its own.
It isn’t a ‘static’ toy – for example, the hair is completely customisable. Most doll brands will offer you the opportunity to buy clothes, but I’m a Girly takes this to the next level! Kids really are encouraged to make the doll their own – we loved the fact that the hair is changeable! The doll’s wig is secured tightly to the doll but can be removed and changed for a different colour or style. After a browse on the website, my daughter has decided she would love pink hair for her doll!
The hair on the dolls is lovely, silky and really easy to style (made from Kanekalon, a material used for the production of adult wigs) – I am currently teaching my daughter to braid, and the doll is ideal for this. The hair is long enough that she can get some really good practice in, but if you want a doll with shorter hair (maybe to match your own?), that’s fine too! Children are told it’s fine to cut their doll’s hair, although I would obviously only suggest doing this with a parent as they are the ones who will ultimately be replacing the wig if it all goes a bit wrong!
You are also not stuck to a particular clothing style for the doll – again, I think this is a really brilliant message. Girls don’t have to wear pink, or dresses, or short skirts to be attractive. The range includes jeans, ‘leather’ jackets, pyjamas, shorts, tracksuits, boots, trainers, spectacles and more; all the kinds of clothes that your daughter is likely to wear.
The dolls are 16.5” tall (around 48cm) which is an ideal size for older kids. Because they are such a good size, it means that any accessories are substantial and a good size, so the bits won’t just go missing. The hair is silky and smooth and my daughter is really enjoying playing with it and styling it. There are full instructions for your child to look after the hair, as well as do’s and don’ts for keeping her clean.
For me as a parent, the thing I absolutely love about this range is that it keeps kids as kids! There are very few toys that my nine-year-old loves – she would rather use her tablet or the Xbox, but she is absolutely over the moon with this one. Added to this is the fact that that the dolls don’t have a tiny waist or impossibly long legs, and are proportioned like a child, with clothing and accessories that are trendy but appropriate. I do think kids should be encouraged not to ‘conform’ to stereotype and to experiment with different looks and their own identity, and I think this doll sends out exactly that message.
At the moment, in the UK, it is available from Hamleys and Harrods or can be ordered from the I’m a Girly website. I think it goes without saying that these are not budget toys – the Zoé doll that we were sent is £145 in Hamleys, but I think they are wonderful and if your budget allows, do make a wonderful present.
RRP: from £109
For more information or to buy visit www.imagirly.com.