Zulu-speaking doll helps to develop other skills for kids

Baby Thando will provide hours of stimulation for children through speaking and role-playing.
Baby Thando will provide hours of stimulation for children through speaking and role-playing.

Baby Thando is the country's first black Zulu-speaking doll.

It's the first of its kind and is designed specifically for little girls in South Africa.

Sphe Zikode, the brand manager of Prima Toys, and the brainchild behind the product, says the baby doll is about to pave the way for future dolls in SA.

"The doll speaks 25 phrases in English and 25 phrases in Zulu. She first says a phrase in English, which is then followed by the Zulu translation," says Zikode.

"Phrases include: 'I love you/ Ngiyakuthanda' and 'I'm hungry/Ngilambile'. 'Look mommy the sun is shining/ Bheka mama ilanga libalele', 'Please tell me a story/Ngicela ungixoxele inganekwane'. 'Mommy please pick me up/ Mama ngicela ungiphakamise'."

Zikode says that playing with Baby Thando encourages role playing, which stimulates imaginative play in children and gives children the opportunity to learn social skills.

She has an educational aspect, which provides children with the opportunity to start speaking Zulu or English, or add these languages to their vocabulary.

She also has the right skin tone. "We tried to ensure that we created the right skin tone for Baby Thando, a tone that South African girls can identify with. This was very important," says Zikode.

She explains the doll functions with the push of a button on her belly, which activates the pre-recorded voice chip.

"She is a huge plus for both parents and children. She is the perfect companion for children, " adds Zikode, saying the doll provides more than just entertainment for children.

"It aids in their development. Playing is a child's primary and most important job as it is both essential to development - cognitive and motor - and hugely beneficial.

"Through play, be it by themselves or with others, children develop fine and gross motor skills, practice language and develop new vocabulary. With Baby Thando, children have the added benefit of learning a new language and new words.

"Playing with dolls provides the opportunity for children to understand new learning concepts and develop imaginative play skills as they care for the doll. Furthermore, this type of play is ideal for experiencing and expressing different emotions and relationships as part of role-play."

Baby Thando is a soft-bodied doll and comes with a plate, spoon, fork, bottle and dummy.

"Role-playing with Baby Thando also encourages the use of feeding utensils, which is excellent practice for real meal times. It also develops fine motor skills through the dressing of the doll. Moreover, it encourages the practice of dynamic balance skills when rocking the doll like you would a real baby."

Zikode says South Africans can expect more toys aimed at African children.

"We are exploring producing the doll in other African languages in order to extend our offering of the Baby Love speaking doll range."

She says Thando joins Baby Tasha and Baby Bella in the Baby Love range. Tasha speaks Afrikaans, while Baby Bella is English-speaking.

The doll retails for R 699.

Barbie brand diversifies range

Barbie - International Women collection featuring Frida Kahlo
Barbie - International Women collection featuring Frida Kahlo

Barbie, the prized doll that saw many of us through our childhoods, turned 59 this month.

Ruth Handler, the woman who created the doll for her daughter, Barbara, modelled it on an adult-only German doll called Lilli.

Barbie remains the most popular doll brand worldwide, with more than 14million Facebook fans, more than 4.5million monthly app users, over 4million website users, 3.2million YouTube subscribers, 268000 Twitter followers, and one of the world's fastest growing Instagram accounts - @Barbiestyle - sitting at 1.9million followers.

In SA, over 10million units of Barbie-emblazoned products were sold last year, from clothing to school bags, stationery and scatter cushions.

Barbie has over 180 careers on her resume. She's been an aerobics instructor, a ballerina and an Olympic athlete.

Barbie broke stereotypes that certain jobs are only for men such as Marine Corps sergeant, firefighter and pilot. To appeal to all races, she hit shelves in a variety of skin tones and hair textures two years ago.

This was closely followed by different body types. The range now includes four body types: petite, curvy, tall and original; seven skin tones; 22 eye colours; and 24 hairstyles.

This month , a total of 17 dolls were launched to celebrate International Women's Day.

They were inspired by Olympian Chloe Kim, Amelia Earhart - the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, Nasa mathematician Katherine Johnson, Ibtihaj Muhammad - a USA hijabi-wearing fencing champion, Nicola Adams - Great Britain's most successful female boxer, and Ashley Graham - a curvy American model.

However, actress Salma Hayek, who portrayed the late Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, isn't impressed.

"#fridakahlo never tried to be or look like anyone else. She celebrated her uniqueness. How could they turn her into a Barbie" Hayek wrote on Instagram.

The "Inspiring Women" dolls come with educational information about the contributions each woman made to society.

She even has phone apps which can be downloaded. - Staff Reporter