In 2020, Barbie unveiled some incredible new scientific findings, that shows – for the first time – the real, tangible benefits of doll play. Barbie and Cardiff University have partnered on a neuroimaging study, which found that doll play activates parts of the brain that allow children to develop empathy and social processing skills.

We needed to find a way to translate the empathy message to a child audience, where it had previously communicated with parents, and to create secondary awareness with parents, guardians and educators on the benefits of playing with Barbie.


Barbie has made incredible strides in showing parents and society how she empowers kids through role models, diversity, powerful products and experiences.

Children love role-play and imaginary play with friends. Therefore, it was important to create an engaging strategy that enabled Barbie to be positioned as a facilitator in helping children learn the skill of empathy through friendship situations, played out through role-play within the classroom.


We created Barbie School of Friendship – it enabled EYFS and KS1 children to walk in the footsteps of their friends to help them develop the skill of empathy. We did this using carefully crafted interactive lessons linked to Health and Wellbeing.

Using a range of materials including Emotion Flashcards, interactive whiteboard presentations, themed activity sheets and the addition of carefully selected disability Barbie and Ken dolls, children had to reach a place of understanding in order to collect an emotion sticker for their Empathy passport.

Additional SEND materials have been created to help bring the benefits of doll-play to life for those with learning difficulties. 

Not only set in the classroom, parents engaged with their children at home in the form of a heart shaped competition leaflet where their child can write or draw how they helped a friend or family member. 


Out of 96 schools who completed our survey, 100% of teachers thought the resources were engaging and their pupils learnt about empathy as a direct result of the resources citing:

“The children that accessed the resources were fully engaged in the activities. The plans are clearly written and are easily deliverable by teacher or TA. The visual access of the resources by the children is good due to the colourful nature of the sheets.”

  • 100% of teachers said that as a direct result of the resources their pupils learnt about empathy with 70% saying they had either learnt ‘a lot about empathy’ or had ‘a really good understanding’ of it.
  • 100% of teachers loved the free Barbie dolls with 80% wanting more for the following year.
  • 95% of teachers said the role-play element to the resource was either very important or important.
  • 48% of the schools said the campaign reached between 30-100+ pupils per school with 11% of schools saying it reached between 100-200+ pupils.
  • All teachers have said they are going to / or have already started promoting the resources to other teachers, some even sharing the resources and dolls with other local schools. 

Project details.