Pocketful of sunshine

Reflection on the iconic Polly Pocket from 20-something’s chilldhoods

March 8, 2010
by Jamie Santiago| Staff Writer

When I was 5 years old, I remember excitedly walking in the local Toys-R-Us or F.A.O. Schwarz store, clutching my mother’s hand. Instantly, I was in heaven.

I jumped into the fluffy piles of life-sized stuffed animals. Wide-eyed, I stared in awe at the moving toy monkey on the ceiling. I wanted my mom to buy me all the different BarbieTM dolls on the shelves. Toys were a hallmark of my childhood because it created a world of simplicity and make-believe.

My childhood was spent playing with BarbieTM  dolls, collecting TY Beanie Babies™, making up dance routines to the BarbieTM workout theme, riding the go-carts at Paradise Island and mustering up the courage to ride the merry-go-round at Arden Fair Mall. There were no such things as “Hannah Montana,” the Jonas Brothers, or “High School Musical.” Miley who?

One of my favorite toys was Polly Pocket, a plastic, 1 inch-tall, cute and simple doll who lived in a compact-sized foldable playhouse. I collected the different miniature playhouses she came with and carried this conveniently sized doll around in my pocket wherever I could take her.

Polly Pocket was first created in 1983 by Chris Wiggs for his daughter. Wiggs created Polly Pocket by using a make-up powder compact to create a pocket-sized doll in a miniature house. In 1989, England’s Blue Bird Toys took the concept and began distributing Polly Pockets in stores. Polly Pocket gained popularity throughout the 1990s. Not long after Polly’s debut, Mattel contracted to distribute the doll and eventually purchased Blue Bird Toys, taking over the concept of Polly Pocket and launching the spin-off, Fashion Polly.

Polly is no longer the pocket-sized doll I loved and enjoyed. Now, Polly has realistic-looking features, including long eyelashes and long, blonde hair. She is slightly larger and doesn’t exactly fit in my pocket anymore. The smaller Polly was deemed hazardous for young children and is not in stores anymore. Worst of all, Polly is materialistic and comes packaged with clip-on fashion accessories and clothing.

My niece has recently turned 9 years old and has never owned a doll. Instead, her Christmas list consists of an 8GB iPod, cute clothes, a digital camera, and a Nintendo DS. She loves listening to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A,” and watching YouTube videos of Beyoncé and re-runs of her favorite Disney shows. She prefers trips to the shopping mall over trips to the toy store.

I remember fondly being content just playing with Polly and her friends in Pollyville. The simplicity of this tiny doll and travel-sized playhouses reminds me of the simplicity of my childhood. Nowadays, a little girl’s childhood is filled with electronic devices and grown up things.

Sometimes I wish kids wouldn’t grow up so fast. I wish we could go back to stuffed animals, trips to theme parks and pocket-sized dolls named Polly.



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