Check Out These Barbie Alternatives That Look Like Real Girls, Not Airbrushed Runway Models

Florida mom Shauna Altes found herself frustrated in the toy aisle while trying to buying a gift for her niece. The dolls in stock looked so fake and unrealistic that she decided to make her own. Altes, the co-founder of Maple Box Dolls (MBD), spoke to PJ Media Parenting about her unique new company.

MBD stands out from other toys on purpose. Altes said that Maple Box Dolls are “designed to look more like the girls that would play with them. They aren’t focused on outward appearances or material things (clothes, cars, etc).” She added, “They teach life skills… character qualities, patience, courage, boldness, [the] things that help develop kids into adults.”

These beautiful doll kits include much more than a toy. Each kit includes a:

  • Nine-and-a-half inch doll (comparable to a Barbie’s height)
  • 14-page storybook
  • Charm for a bracelet (bracelet included in your first doll kit)
  • Recipe card for a healthy treat
  • STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project

MBD are intended to be a great experience for girls ages four through nine and their moms, grandmas, and aunts.

The storybook included with each kit gives an opportunity to learn more about the accompanying doll. Each MBD has a name and a virtue to teach (Joyful Jenny, Orderly Emma, Forgiving Chloe). The storybook walks you through a situation the character has encountered. For example, Joyful Jenny’s book walks through a Saturday afternoon in her life. Things keep going wrong in Jenny’s day, but her dad reminds her that she can remain joyful, even in frustrating circumstances. All of the books include a questions page at the end, so girls can process the lesson their doll teaches and have an opportunity to talk about the character qualities displayed.

Recipe cards also provide an activity for mother-daughter fun. The recipes are designed for young girls to be able to complete. On the back of each card there is a space to record when you made the recipe and write about the memories made while in the kitchen. I still treasure the kids cookbook my grandma gave me over twenty years ago, so these cooking opportunities are sure to provide the same nostalgia.

Joyful Jenny

The STEM projects are what excite me most in the Maple Box Doll kits. Initially the kits were to include a craft project, but through interaction with moms, they decided to switch to a more purposeful STEM project to encourage young girls to get excited about science and math. Altes said the response to this change has been wonderful and she loves that the STEM projects add the perfect finishing touch for Maple Box kits. These projects come with everything you need to complete the task, even fresh paint and paintbrushes, so you will not need to run to the store for odds and ends. Directions are included with every project.

Each doll is made for rugged play, so girls can take their MBDs with them without worrying about an arm or head popping off. Their joints are designed to bend, allowing for easy dressing. There are currently 12 dolls to collect, with a new doll being released each month. There are also options to buy just one doll at a time, switch your subscription to a quarterly basis, or just purchase the activities.

MBD is committed to making dolls that look like the girls who will play with them. Altes pointed out, “People are kind of over the blonde-hair-blue-eyes” look, so Maple Box Dolls purposely designed a line of diverse dolls. They moved beyond just Caucasian dolls, modeling the demographics of our country. Ethnicities currently represented include: Latin-American, African-American, mixed race, Asian-American and Hawaiian. MBD hopes to launch an international line, dolls with physical handicaps, and even a boys monthly toolbox counterpart, so this company is one to keep checking in on.

As an aunt myself (with eight nieces), I am putting my order in today! Click here for more information about Maple Box Dolls.