An avid doll collector, Koriander Bullard is not afraid of the dark side of the toy aisle.
Friends For Fidgety Foundlings
Sunny Days Entertainment LLC had a fun idea for a new toy for the 2022 holiday season, and that was to combine sensory toys with fashion dolls.
It seemed like a simple solution. After all, the youngest of Gen Z and the elders of Gen Alpha had been born into a very stressful America. The children of the late 2010's and early 2020s had to endure a pandemic turning into an endemic, divided families due to dangerous political ideologies and an unreasonable plethora of school violence, with adults cheering on manufacturers of the very weapons used in school shootings, so these kids needed new ways to relax, have fun and enjoy a few moments of childhood.
Sensory toys, such as fidget spinners and bubble poppers are as much fun for little tykes as they are for grown-ups. Giving the user something to do with their hands, these tactile toys replace anxiety with simple fun, and are stylish to boot.
Fashion dolls have been a prized collectable for generations, and as the 2020's saw a new trend in unboxing videos on platforms YouTube and TikTok, the popularity of the toy began to transcend age and gender. Kids love to dress dolls, style their hair and imagine who they will become as adults through the toys, while adults love posing, collecting and displaying dolls well into old age.
Seeing both a want and a need for a combination toy, Sunny Days took a risk, and in July of 2022, began to release concept artwork, prototypes and quickly, a short line of dolls that by the end of that month were already hitting the shelves for Walmart.
Series 1 of Fidgie Friends begat four 10 1/2 inch fashion dolls with large heads, thick globs of glittery makeup, Disney Princess eyes, sweet smiles, silly costumes beautiful hair and sensory toy body parts.
... And it's that last part that seemed like a good idea at the time.
A video explaining the dolls appeared on the official Fidgie Friends Facebook, and right away, concerned parents started to notice a few design flaws.
Dandelion Wishes, a doll with bouncy blonde ringlets and an innocent face, has bubble popper wings, but a not so innocent squishy mini skirt that kids are supposed to squeeze for relaxation.
Watermellow, one of two mermaid dolls, has a shiny, magenta sequined tail that kids are supposed to rub up to the belly button line.
Boba Bubbles, the second mermaid, has a tail kids are supposed to squeeze and push little bubbles and bursts of glitter through.
Unicorn Sprinkles seems the most innocent at first, with most of her sensory items being tangled in her blue and yellow crimped silicone locks, but she is wearing a squishy donut for a mini skirt, again, asking kids to squeeze.
While dolls and sensory toys seem like a winning combination, the placement of the sensory items on Fidgie Friends makes the dolls slightly controversial.
If the sensory parts were on an arm or if they were only part of the hair, it wouldn't seem inappropriate at all.
But to deliberately place the sensory toys directly on top of the lower bathing suit area, especially in a post #MeToo world, takes what is otherwise a cool idea and turns it into something unnecessarily dark.
Kids have to squeeze and rub the dolls in areas no parent wants a child touching a doll, or worse, another person.
Is There A Way To Do This Idea Better?
The same year that Sunny Day began releasing Fidgie Friends, Wow Wee Toys had already produced a blind box variety of figures called Fashion Fidgets.
Each fully clothed, tiny figurine has sensory items either in the doll's hair, on the bottom of the skirt or as a tutu, with the bubble poppers and other sensory items away from the bathing suit area.
Some full-scale fashion dolls from other brands come with fidget accessories, but nothing that acts as a body part, while Barbie has a stand-alone bubble popper in the shape of the Barbie head logo.
Even teddy bears and plush animals meant to teach toddlers left from right, keep the squeezing and squishy parts on feet, hands, arms, legs and noses, far away from the underwear area.
A Silver Lining For Fidgie Friends
Fidgie Friends is not a bad concept, but the placement of the fidget toys sparked unsavory feelings from concerned parents.
If a new line could have the sensory toys separated as detachable articles of clothing, or at least placement away from the bathing suit area, the controversy surrounding these dolls would be nothing more than a vague memory.
But, despite the controversy, Fidgie Friends entered the Halloween season of 2022 already on the Christmas wish lists of many children across the United States, with some of the more forgiving parents even praising the toys for blending soothing sensory play with bright colors and imaginative fashions.
Early sales were strong enough for the company to quietly leak that a series two line of dolls was at least in the planning stages, with new ethnicities for the dolls being mentioned on the official Fidgie Friends Facebook via a comment on one of the posts.
It may have been a rough start for the Fidgie Friends, but then nearly every fashion doll line has dealt with controversy from time to time.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Koriander Bullard