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Beyond Barbie: 7 Ways to Boost Body Image

Barbie, with all of her alleged flawlessness, has been taking a hit lately. Sales for the popular doll have taken a bit of a tumble, with sales that have declined four quarters in a row. Doll buyers are apparently turning to American Girl Dolls and Monster High Dolls instead of the iconic blonde bombshell.

Barbie has long been noted for her impossible proportions. Doll makers have created more realistic versions of the doll that look more like the girl next door. This week’s Time article points out that in a 2006 study, young girls exposed to Barbie reported lower body esteem and a greater desire to be thin than their counterparts who were exposed to a different doll. Could parents be getting increasingly savvy about the messages we’re sending to girls?

Regardless of the reasons parents and girls are turning away from Barbie, a few things are certain. Owning a Barbie isn’t going to make or break a young girl’s self-esteem; many women have owned Barbies and have a very healthy body image (I’m one of them). But Barbies are one of thousands of images young girls get throughout their lives that reinforce that thin is a beautiful ideal — and it’s usually one of the earliest images a young girl will get.

You don’t have to necessarily shun Barbie altogether to help instill a positive body image in your daughter, but we’ve got a few things you can do to foster a healthy attitude in your kids and yourself!

  • Dolls 1 of 7
    Go! Go! Sports Dolls get girls thinking about being active, not looking a certain way!

    As dolls go, there are many out there that celebrate unique features. The Monster High Dolls are certainly unique (although notably even thinner than Barbie!). We love the Go! Go! Sports Girls, each of which is involved in a different sport. 

  • Sports 2 of 7
    Credit: Steve A Johnson, Flickr

    Participating in sports brings tons of benefits to people of all ages, but it may especially help young girls. Not only does it do the body good, but studies show that girls who participate in sports were more likely to score well on achievement tests, feel popular, graduate high school, and avoid drugs and teen pregnancy. Hooray for self-esteem!

    Credit: Steve A Johnson, Flickr

  • Pick New Role Models 3 of 7
    That's Fit Bottomed Girl Jenn in the pink working out with Venus Williams!

    Instead of idolizing models and beautiful entertainers, expose your daughter to amazing female athletes like gymnast Shawn Johnson or tennis star Venus Williams. These women show that strong is infinitely cool.

    Photo courtesy of FitBottomedGirls.com.

  • Princess Power 4 of 7
    Merida's a strong Disney princess. Credit: starrynight_012, Flickr

    Girls fall in love with princesses, but you can also expose your daughter to Disney's latest: Brave's Merida. With her wild red hair and bow and arrow, she's a Disney princess headed in a kick-butt direction.

    Credit: starrynight_012, Flickr

  • Choose Mags Wisely 5 of 7
    Choose magazines wisely to avoid body comparisons. Credit: Listener42

    Studies show that images in magazines had a strong impact on girls' perceptions of their weight and shape. Almost half of girls in 5th through 12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures. So think about nixing that fashion magazine in favor of National Geographic or Sports Illustrated instead.

    Credit: Listener42, Flickr

  • Nix Body Bashing 6 of 7
    Daughters look up to moms for everything. Credit: E.Yoshio

    Even if you have body image hang-ups, try to keep them to yourself. Girls are exposed to tons of messages outside of the home, but a mother who beats herself up for gaining a pound or two, or is constantly criticizing herself, has a tremendous impact on a growing girl.

    Credit: E. Yoshio, Flickr

  • Encourage Healthy Habits 7 of 7
    Model healthy behaviors and get your kids involved. Credit: lululemon athletica

    Emphasize a healthy diet and exercise with a focus on feeling good and being strong, not on looking a certain way or being a certain weight. Nothing warms my heart more than my daughter jumping around, imitating me exercising saying, "I'm going to be strong!"

    Credit: lululemon athletica, Flickr

Do you keep Barbies around your house? How do you encourage healthy body image in your kids?

Read more of Erin’s writing at Fit Bottomed Girls and Fit Bottomed Mamas.
Don’t miss a post! Follow Erin on Twitter and Facebook.

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