Mattel introduces first Barbie doll with Down syndrome
Mattel has unveiled the latest addition to its increasingly diverse lineup of Barbie dolls: one who has Down syndrome. The latest launch is meant to provide children with the condition a chance to see themselves reflected and inspire all children to tell more stories through play.
“As the most diverse doll line on the market, Barbie plays an important role in a child’s early experiences, and we are dedicated to doing our part to counter social stigma through play,” said Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie & Dolls, Mattel.
about Down Syndrome
One in every 781 babies born in Canada has Down syndrome. Toys have a powerful influence on children’s development, and by representing a diverse range of experiences, they can help break down barriers and stereotypes, allowing children to develop respect and appreciation for people of all abilities.
“Our goal is to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie, while also encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves,” McKnight said. “Doll play outside of a child’s own lived experience can teach understanding and build a greater sense of empathy, leading to a more accepting world.”
To ensure an accurate representation, Barbie consulted the experts at the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), an organization that provides resources, drives policy change, and engages with local communities. NDSS’s guidance and real-world experiences drove the design process from start to finish, including the doll’s body shape and features, clothing, accessories, and packaging.
“It was an honour working with Barbie on the Barbie doll with Down syndrome,” said Kandi Pickard, NDSS President and CEO. “This means so much for our community, who for the first time, can play with a Barbie doll that looks like them. This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation.”
The doll’s puff-sleeved dress features yellow, blue, and butterflies which are symbols and colours associated with Down syndrome awareness. The pink pendant necklace with three upward chevrons represents the three copies of the 21st chromosome, which is the genetic material that causes the characteristics associated with the condition. The three chevrons, or arrows, are a symbol that unites the community and are meant to represent “the lucky few” who have someone with Down syndrome in their life. The doll also wears pink ankle orthotics (AFOs) that match her outfit and her running shoes feature a zipper detail. NDSS provided a box of orthotics to serve as real-life inspiration to the team of Barbie designers.
A diverse collection
Barbie has introduced dolls with vitiligo, dolls that use a wheelchair or a prosthetic limb, a doll with hearing aids and a doll without hair. With more than 175 looks offering a variety of eye colours, hair colours and textures, body types, disabilities, and fashions, Barbie is now one of the most diverse range of dolls on the market. This year, Barbie is continuing to represent global belonging and inclusivity with the full 2023 Fashionistas lineup, which also includes new dolls in a variety of body types including a new Fashionista doll wearing braces and a Ken Fashionista doll with a prosthetic leg.