Wellness 'self-care' Barbies are here but are they a step too far?

Photo: Mattel
Photo: Mattel 

Looking at the new 'wellness' Barbies that have hit the shelves this month, it's hard not to feel like the world has reached peak everything.

Do we really need to impart the message to children that "wellness" is dependent on purchasing something?

Sure "Breathe with Me Barbie" Barbie has a button children press to hear four-minute guided meditations provided by Headspace, along with emotion icons to connect with, and sure, this is cute and might be helpful for some kids.

It just feels like some of the selections in this range edge towards dangerous ground - that being well and achieving a healthy mindset involves buying products, including the Barbie.

We live in a world where true human connection is decreasing, where depression and anxiety is increasingly prevalent, and it's natural for concerned parents to give their children all the tools at their disposal to process life's challenges.

And it's true that many children turn to imaginative play to do this, with Barbie being a vehicle for this for many generations.

Photo: Mattel

Photo: Mattel

Take a look at People's description of the "Wellness" Barbie collection.

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"The new Barbies ... perform activities like working out, meditating, taking a bath and and having a spa day. For example, the Barbie Fitness Doll includes gym clothes, a yoga mat, weights and a protein bar, while the Barbie Face Mask Spa Day Playset comes with a vanity and an array of skincare products."

Let's break this down into the potential problem messages these dolls could impart to kids about self-care.

- Spa day (expense, unrealistic beauty standards, buying beauty products)

- Gym clothes and "working out" (weight, appearance and fitness pressures)

- Yoga mat (expensive classes)

- Protein bar (dieting, buying commercial diet food)

Sure, yoga and meditation can be done at home using YouTube, activewear can be purchased cheaply or not at all, spa days can be had at home using natural products and people can make their own high-protein foods in their own kitchens.

But these toys run the risk of sending messages to kids that wellness depends on buying things... and looking a certain way.

While it's great that Mattel has gone a long way in diversifying its doll range, the wellness dolls look like they've been modelled on Love Island contestants. While there is diversity in skin colour, there's none to be seen regarding body shape or sex, and I'm quite sure a lot of men like baths too.

And hey, the messages aren't all bad - staying in on a Friday night if you need to is part of taking care of yourself, as is tending to your face and body.

I enjoy a facial as much as the next person, but it's a rare treat and the things I work on daily to increase my wellbeing don't hinge on my face being regularly buffed for $150 a pop.

My aim is to teach kids that "wellness" habits can be simple and (almost) free.

Walking with a friend in the clothes you're already wearing, reading a book, playing a board game with family, spending time with a pet, and yes Barbie, a soothing bath are all low-cost ways of replenishing a weary soul.

Kids acting out expensive adult rituals using supermodel replicas is not my idea of educating them about self-care.