Kristl Smith Tyler played barbies a lot from age 9 until about 12 years old. She was ridiculed by friends and family for playing with them at that late age. Playing with barbies at this late age was not an indicator of any developmental deficiency as she was in the popular crowd at her school, and had been chosen for the gifted and talented program of studies. Instead, it was an outlet for her fantasies. She was able to act out social scenarios and play out a life of adventure and achievement using barbies as her Bavatarbies.
Her barbie obsession also helped her develop other skills. She worked on her sewing in order to create home furnishings and clothing. She learned to sculpt by building tiny food out of a clay known as Sculpey. She used the family 8mm film camera to write, direct and produce a barbie soap opera called “Dial L for Love.”
Then, around 1982, she caved in. The pressure got to her. She let the world she’d so lovingly crafted and cared for be crated up and relegated to the attic.
Working as a nanny in her early 20′s she realized that children need to be taught how to play with most toys. The children in her charge were primarly focused on “My Little Pony.” When they played “My Little Pony” they would lay them all out on the floor, choose which ponies belonged to each player. Then stare at each other for a few minutes and move on to another game. Occaisionally they would brush the Ponies’ hair for a minute or two before the staring began and they moved on.
She played with the children and their ponies and introduced play scenarios into their activities. Through this experience she realized that children often want toys but have no idea how to play with them for any length of time. They need to be mentored.
In 2010 she decided to purchase some dolls for her small daughter. She wanted her daughter to reap the benefits that role-playing activities can provide. However, in the years since her own barbie-playing hey-day she’d come to have strong opinions about BBBBarbie’s fitness as role-model.
As she began building out a starter collection for her daughter she realized that the barbieland she wanted her daughter to play and learn within wasn’t coming off the assembly line, ready to use. It needed some hacking, modding, mixing and mashing up.
She wasn’t one to spend too much time (a little) complaining about the lack of body diversity, she was instead one to make diverse bodies happen. She wasn’t one to decry the lack of natural hair textures, again she set about to make it happen.
Along the way, she’s spent WAY more money than any other mentor should – but always with the idea that blog readers would pick and choose the mods and mashups that meant the most to them.
Additionally, since her daughter is an only child, Kristl pretty much has to play barbies with her daughter at least until she’s old enough to have playdates. That means that Kristl is constantly observing the spontaneous scenarios that arise during play, and the value lessons that can be interwoven into play.
As scenarios arise, Kristl tries to catalog the scenarios that arise for the benefit of others – so that someday a compendium might exist where someone could say, “I want to play but I can’t think of anything” and will be able to pull up this blog and get some immediate ideas.
Kristl welcomes guest posting so if you have an idea for a post that you think will work well for this blog, please write kristlsmithtyler AT gmail DOT com. These can include play scenarios you use currently or used when you were younger, they can also include hacks, mods, customizations and other assertions you have carried out in your own barbieland.