What does Barbie Have to Do with the Therapy World? In My Case, A lot!

Barbie is 64 and I am 68. It is fair to say we grew up together, and my ties to Barbie run deep. I was born into a “toy” family. My grandfather pushed a Pushcart full of toys in the Bronx, and my father went on to own a toy wholesale company. As a kid, having a father who was known as the “toy” man was far more prestigious than if he was a doctor or a lawyer. As you can imagine, I had access to each and every kind of toy, especially those first coming out and new to the market – the fact that “sample” was written on many of them never bothered me.

The rules in my house growing up were simple – toys were always to be earned and not just given. Starting in my single digit years, I would spend most Saturdays with my father “working”. Time spent putting stamps on envelopes, using a rubber stamp and pad on paper, and stapling. It was all worth it when ½ hour before closing time I got to see all the new samples. And so it began with Barbie, then Ken, Midge, Skipper, Alan, the clothes, the houses, the cars. The longer I worked, the more I amassed. Lesson learned that served me well throughout my life. The rewards of my work paid off then as they do now.
Barbie also planted the seeds of the creativity of being an OT. It was not enough to work for her outfits, I had to create some too. I made clothes for Barbie and for Ken, but because I found it easier, I sewed them directly on the dolls.  Let’s just say that they stayed in the Romeo and Juliet costumes for a solid two years.

Barbie and Ken, sometimes Midge, but never Skipper came to work with me at my first office in Tribeca. Why?? Because my daughter Jenna did too. Playing with them occupied her for hours and here’s why.  My office at the time had a group of OTs and PTs treating adults and children. Jenna would watch patients come and go, and soon realized the limbs of the Barbie doll collection were easy to pop in and out, a task made simpler when Barbie started having hinged joints. Suddenly, Barbie lost an arm, Ken was a right lower extremity amputee, Midge was bandaged from head to toe, and eventually landed in a wheelchair when it was introduced into the collection in 1997. Jenna was ecstatic. She took what she saw in my office, processed it through the Barbies and although she did not end up a therapist, Jenna is one of the most empathetic and sensitive humans I know.

Barbie has been filled with life lessons for me, and seeing the movie confirmed that! If Barbie touched you in your past, join the celebration and go see the movie! And let me know what you think.  Fair warning, toys are in my DNA and I have a lot to say about the new Beanie Baby movie, also filled with business advice and inuendoes.

 written by Iris (Kimberg, MS PT OTR) not ChatGPT

Subscribe to our mailing list