EXPERTS have criticised toy company Mattel for giving away free Barbie and Ken dolls to schools.
Mattel has paid for research by Cardiff University that it says shows that playing with dolls provides “major benefits” for children’s development, including encouraging skills like empathy (putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding what they’re feeling).
The toy manufacturer has started a programme called ‘Barbie School of Friendship’ in 700 schools across the UK. Free dolls are given to children for them to carry out roleplay exercises. As many as 150,000 pupils are involved.
But some people aren’t happy about it. Dr May van Schalkwyk, a public health expert, said that companies like Mattel “are not experts in children’s health or education, they are experts in selling products to maximise profits”.
Other experts quoted in The BMJ (British Medical Journal) are worried about Barbie dolls possibly encouraging gender stereotypes, and also about companies being allowed to promote their products through schools.
There are also concerns that the study sponsored by Mattel doesn’t provide any information about long-term development or effects on children’s behaviour.
But one primary school teacher said that free resources are “always a positive” due to the “lack of funding in schools”.