I bought my first daughter her first Barbie as soon as she turned three. I would have bought her one earlier, but the box says "3+" and I am one of those overimaginative paranoid types.
When we were at the swimming pool a few weeks before her 3rd birthday she saw a girl playing with a Barbie in the water, and said, "Mummy, I want a woman like that, too!" I nearly drowned! Is Barbie really more "woman" than doll? I guess to a 3yo, she must be. Scary -- really truly scary. Not that it stopped me buying her one (uh, okay, two) (though it probably should have).
To be quite honest, I was really quite excited about it. I admit it -- I still LOVE Barbie!! I hate her anorexic alien "dis-figure" which (according to the experts) would not fit vital organs if she were real; I hate her freakishly thick (ever tried plaiting it?) freakishly-long hair; I hate her oversized eyes and manic smile, her tiny permanently-extended feet, and her upside-down boobs (they point UP for crying out loud).
But I still love her, and now so does my 3-and-a-half-year-old. At this stage she's just interested in shampooing her hair when she herself has a bath/shower, but I can't wait till she's interested in dressing her up -- then I can make use of the (possibly hundreds of) knitting/sewing/crochet patterns which I have been collecting (just check THIS out!). I have already made her a Barbie-bath-robe (using a purpose-bought face washer!) but she's not yet interested.
Am I instilling evil values into my 3yo? Oh God.
At least I draw the line at Bratz. Don't even get me started on those "dolls" modelled on porn stars/strippers with their drugged-eyes and silicone-trout-pouts.