Mattel is giving preschoolers a new age-appropriate Barbie doll that it says is better suited for their needs.
The doll, called “My First Barbie,” is specifically created for kids three years old and older, said Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie and dolls for Mattel. The age range for the original Barbie fashion dolls is for kids 3 and up.
“We talk to parents and kids almost every day. Interestingly, what came up more and more from parents who grew up with Barbie themselves was that they wanted a Barbie doll that was easier to play with for little hands with less dexterity,” said McKnight.
Although the toymaker has introduced My First Barbie-branded dolls over the years, this is the first version of the iconic doll for preschool children.
McKnight said the brand took this insight and began the process of developing My First Barbie a year ago.
The $20 doll, which is available for purchase beginning this month at Walmart, (WMT) Target, (TGT) Amazon (AMZN) and other retailers, is noticeably different from the original Barbie.
My First Barbie is larger, 13.5 inches tall versus 11.5 inches for the standard Barbie fashion doll. It also has a softer body and more articulated arms and legs.
McKnight said the doll’s hands feature a distinctive design change. “The hand is closed, so the thumb is not detached. We did this to make it easier for little hands to dress and undress the doll,” she said.
Mattel is launching the doll in four skin tones and with accessories like shoes and purses, a summer beach look complete with a sun hat and swimsuit, other fashion clothing with Velcro fasteners so little kids can easier change her clothes and bedroom and tea time play sets.
“This is a first for us, to create a bespoke Barbie for preschool children,” said McKnight.
First introduced as Barbie Millicent Roberts in 1959, Mattel sold 300,000 Barbie dolls in the first year of her launch. To date, it has sold more than a billion dolls worldwide. One gauge of the Barbie’s enduring popularity: the company says more than 100 Barbie dolls are sold every minute.
Barbie continues to be the dominant doll brand and the No. 1 fashion doll brand globally. It was among the top 5 best-selling toy properties in the first nine months of 2022, according to market research firm NPD. It named Barbie as the top-selling global toy property of the year in 2021.
Mattel’s attempt with My First Barbie makes sense, said Jim Silver, a toy industry expert and CEO of Toys, Tots, Pets & More, an industry review website.
“Mattel is successfully filling a void for this age group. They’ve found a way to bring the Barbie fashion doll to an even younger consumer,” said Silver.
“There’s very little out there in the toy market for preschoolers in dolls that isn’t a baby doll. But kids younger and younger are asking for a Barbie, which is for ages 3 and up,” he said. “So this is a great opportunity for Mattel to introduce Barbie even earlier to kids.”