Lottie dolls, which were made in consultation with academics, look more like little girls than typical fashion dolls, such as Barbie.
“Toys are not just toys,” said Lucie Follett, co-founder of Arklu, the small Ireland-based company that makes the dolls. “When they have overly sexualized bodies they can have damaging impacts on girls’ self-image.”
So far, parents seem to have taken a liking to Lottie, which has won nine parenting and toy awards. About 20,000 dolls have been sold since being introduced in the U.K. in August and later in the U.S. and Australia.
Arklu started with very different projects: the Kate Middleton engagement doll and royal wedding figures. Following that, Arklu spent 18 months developing Lottie after Follett came across research about dolls and body image.
The first batch of Lottie dolls in Canada arrived Monday at Port Moody, B.C.’s The Village Toy Shop. The store will take phone orders for elsewhere in Canada, where they’ll sell for $19.99.
In the Silly Goose Kids toy store on Danforth Ave., co-owner Shamie Ramgoolam said parents are interested in alternatives to traditional dolls. She said there are some already available to Canadians, but parents will probably like the idea of expert consultation in Lottie’s development.
“People are going to talk about it . . . she’s not wearing three-quarter length tops and mini-skirts,” Ramgoolam said.
Arklu worked with two academics to work out the exact proportions of an average healthy 9-year-old. The scaled-down dolls don’t have breasts or super skinny waists, although their heads and eyes are enlarged.
Follett said that was intentional. So was dressing the six dolls in bright clothes and putting most of them in outdoorsy scenarios.
“This is a doll that at its core is fun. But it’s not overly wholesome,” Follett said about the difference to other alternative dolls.
Dove Canada mentioned Lottie dolls on its Facebook page last week, asking people to like the status if they thought the dolls would make a difference in girls’ feelings about body image. It got more than 1,400 likes.
More traditional companies also think about self-image and have created alternative dolls, said Laura Wiese, spokesperson for the Canadian Toy Association. She pointed to ones that don’t resemble humans, including Monster High and Lalaloopsy dolls.
“There’s a fine line between associating dolls and girls’ body images, we have to be careful,” said Wiese, who is also vice-president of marketing at MGA Entertainment Canada, which makes popular dolls including Bratz.
What’s most important, she said, is giving kids a positive and safe place to play.
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