Dolls that teach social responsibility: What's not to like?

BlogHer Original Post

Family Fun Magazine, a Disney publication, has chosen KaritoKids (dolls) by KidsGive as its #1 Toy of 2007. Celebrity Baby Blogs reviewed KaritoKids calling them "gorgeous dolls with a social conscience." Over at Mom's Favorite Stuff the reviewer touts KaritoKids as dolls "your child can love and learn from." On the KidsGive website it says the company’s purpose through KatritoKids is to "raise global awareness among our youth, teaching them about children around the world and exposing them to the importance of social responsibility and charitable giving." (info from KaritoKids )

When I heard about KatritoKids I was in the middle of getting my mother, age 80, her breakfast and Live with Regis and Kelly played in the background. The show featured the 2007 toy awards from Family Fun. Its website describes KaritoKids as "21-inch dolls" that are "stylish yet sweet girls from China, Italy, Kenya, the United States, and Mexico" with "beautiful life-like faces." The magazine site also reports that "'tweens can go online to direct 3 percent of their doll's retail price to a children's charity."

I may have missed the early buzz, but these new dolls are drawing buckets of attention. As I learned at the Celebrity Baby Blog, Oprah featured the dolls in the on The O List in the August 2007 edition of O Magazine:

"These ethnically accurate dolls, and accompanying chapter books, are designed to give kids an appreciation for different cultures. Every purchase comes with a code that allows kids to go online and direct a portion of the price to one of four children's issues. Eat your heart out, Barbie!" — Oprah

At Babble the dolls are praised with "move over American Girls."

When I saw the KaritoKids dolls, I didn’t immediately think of Barbie but of the Bratz dolls. I recalled reading a post here at BlogHer called "Hussy Control" by Rita Arens. It was through that post that I learned a Bratz/Barbie debate roiled among mothers. I wasn't surprised about the debate. Women have debated the potential evils of Barbie for decades. Why should a new doll be cut any slack?

Barbie was queen when I was a child; however, the complaint in my parents' home was there were no "black Barbies," an oversight later rectified by Barbie's manufacturer Mattel. When my daughter, who is now grown, was little, the hot toys marketed to girls were Barbie (as usual), Cabbage Patch Kids, My Little Pony, and the Care Bears. They each had their share of controversy/pro and con camps among parents.

I recall some parents being suspicious of the Care Bears, declaring the bears that pushed "care power" to foster New Age thinking or that the creators had a hidden agenda to turn American children away from "Christian" doctrine. Just to make sure my memory wasn’t faulty on these accusations, I googled the Care Bears and found this post at Blog Critics speculating that the Care Bears promote VooDoo concepts. The writer isn't alarmed, however, seeming to speak tongue in cheek:

Should you be concerned for children exposed to the Care Bears? They are probably no more dangerous than notorious Pagan propaganda icons like The Transformers, or well documented Wiccan idol Strawberry Shortcake. However, if your child begins to spontaneously speak French to her stuffed Care Bear toys or if he puts on a top hat and takes up a cane and starts to dance a jig, the services of a Houngan might be called for. (David Nalle at BlogCritic)

I’ve gone off track a little here, I suppose, but since the KaritoKids are being promoted as "philosophy" dolls or dolls with a message, doll controversy seemed only a mild detour.

The KaritoKids' message is giving, and who can argue with that? Surely no one will object to the message of giving. Wait, what am I saying? Of course someone will object. I can hear the accusations flung at these multicultural, socially conscious dolls already. It's likely they'll be suspected of promoting socialist policies or they'll be called, OMG, liberals! (No, I haven't heard anyone criticize the dolls yet, but this is America. Everybody's a critic.)

Whatever we call these new "message dolls," I hope their manufacturer, KidsGive, is sincere in its mission to promote global consciousness in our youth. Dolls that promote social responsibility and multicultural acceptance--What's not to like?

Photo Credit: KaritoKids/Kidsgive website

Nordette Adams is a BlogHer Contributing Editor.

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