Paisley is like many other music-obsessed teen girls. But the Lego Friends character is struggling with one additional issue: She has social anxiety.
"We can see from kids that it's important that we acknowledge the ups and downs of life," said Fenella Charity, creative lead for Lego Friends. "So when we were designing in the past, it would be happy, harmony was everything that kids wanted to play. But with the insight we gained, we could see that kids want to see emotion represented in the toy."
The Lego Group conducted a study among kids 6 to 12 years old and saw that seven out of 10 of them wanted to see emotions on their toys besides "smiley or happy." More than 90 percent said it was important to talk about emotions.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Becky Kennedy said previous generations didn't usually talk about emotions with their kids. But now they are open to it — and it's a good thing.
"What we have an opportunity to do when kids are young is help them build skills to manage those emotions," she said. "And you can't build skills for feelings that aren't acknowledged or talked about."
Playtime is an excellent place to explore those feelings, she noted.
"You'll see something maybe aggressive happen in a play scene, which is kind of a sign that a kid is telling you, I want to kind of work through this issue," Kennedy said.
To show different emotions, a corresponding YouTube series plays out different story lines with the new characters. Leo, for example, has moved from Mexico and is struggling with the decision to play soccer or really follow his passion cooking in order to fit in the new culture. He also lives in a multi-generational household with his grandmother. Gamer Nova is learning how to take care of her new dog Pickle as well as personal boundaries and effective communication.
Past the show, the company included different heads for the new characters with different expressions, Fenella explained.
"The facial expressions is a really important part of how the character comes to life in the toy," she said "In the show, we can do so much with facial expression and animation. In the toy, generally, you get one face or two if you're lucky in the set. So we worked so hard on every detail, like where should the eyebrow position be, and all of these things, not just to represent the ethnicity of the character, but also the emotion. And it's important for us because the kids need that to play out."