As 6-year-old Lizbeth Sanchez helped her mother shop for Christmas presents on a recent December afternoon, she stopped mouth agape at the Dora the Explorer talking dollhouse welcoming her in English and her native Spanish.
“She likes Dora because she’s learning English, so it helps her,” explained Lizbeth’s mother Celenia Paulino, who recently moved her children from the Dominican Republic to Miami.
The bilingual dollhouse, and its even more popular cousin, Dora’s talking kitchen, are among a growing number of Hispanic-themed toys and games on display this holiday season as manufacturers vie for the dollars of one of the fastest growing markets in the nation.
But toy companies are also counting on the crossover effect, as American children nationwide begin to add these toys and games to their holiday wish lists.
“These toys are source of pride for Latina families, but also it is now just considered cool for general families,” said Brenda Andolina, director of brand marketing for Mattel Inc.’s Fisher Price.
Brooklyn resident Jenn David-Lang’s 4-year-old Zoe daughter is a Dora fan and will likely get a talking Dora doll from her uncle this year for Chanukah.
David-Lang said she’s glad Zoe’s picking up some Spanish but adds that Dora’s appeal “has become just more of a generic thing, not because she speaks Spanish or is Latina.”
Dora, whose Nickelodeon show is among the top-rated for 3-5 year olds with its interactive approach, has led the way, earning an estimated $4 billion in retail sales since the company unveiled her line of toys and accessories in 2002.
Following her success, Scholastic just rolled out a toy line for its PBS series about 10-year-old Maya and Miguel, bilingual twins whose high jinks often get them in trouble. Meanwhile, the small Miami-based company Baby Abuelita nabbed a contract with Toys R Us to sell its Spanish lullaby-singing grandma and grandpa dolls in Florida and California.