SIXTY years ago this month the first Barbie made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York .

By all accounts she should be plastering on the anti-wrinkle cream and claiming her free bus pass, but she still looks as gorgeous as ever.

The doll no longer has the ridiculously tiny waist, long, thin legs and petite frame sported by my own Barbies - three years ago her legs were shortened and her hips widened to give a more real-life look, although it is highly unlikely you’ll come across anyone like her queuing at the Post Office.

Barbie - who is the subject of various exhibitions across the country, marking her 60 years - now has four body types and 24 hairstyles. Manufacturer Mattel also added seven skin tones and 22 eye colours to reflect the world’s population.

Growing up in the 1970s, I would have loved to look like Barbie. She was my heroine. I loved her to bits and amassed a collection of dolls whose lives were as far removed from my own as you could possibly get.

They spent their lives in a social whirl, of parties, picnics and balls - all courtesy of me.

Their wardrobes easily rivalled Meghan Markle’s, as I constantly acquired new outfits. I would save up my pocket money and spend it in a little toy shop in Whitby. I would get really excited and I’d spend ages looking through the swimsuits, casual clothes and evening dresses before choosing.

I had a Barbie house, a Barbie car and a Barbie horse, that was in fact a secondhand Sindy horse but my Barbies weren’t to know.

Of course I knew I would never look like her. Owning so many Barbies didn’t lead to the sorts of psychological problems associated with negative body image that some schools of thought attribute to her.

At no point did I strive for a waist that could fit into a frisbee, although I wouldn’t have said no to her legs and hair. I knew she was just a piece of plastic.

It has been said on many occasions that girls should stop playing with Barbies and be given Lego or Meccano to stop them believing that science and engineering are for boys.

And in 2017 a sexism row erupted over a new Barbie which encourages girls to become engineers by building washing machines and racks for their shoes and jewellery. Some said it enforced old fashioned domestic stereotypes. I had opportunities to play with Lego and Meccano but chose Barbie. What she did for me was to fire my imagination. I would play for hours, conjuring up different scenarios - a girls’ night in, a day at the office, shopping, meeting Ken.

Yes, some of my Barbies had boyfriends - my brother’s Action Man dolls, who I plucked from their role as front-line soldiers to enjoy romantic soirees with my Barbies.

Over the years Barbie has been a vet, a gymnast and even a mermaid. Far from being a ‘gender stereotype’, the dolls nurture creativity and role play.

I loved my Barbies and looked after them. I hated seeing the dolls in other people’s homes, strewn across the floor without heads and arms.

I held on to my dolls and most of their clothes. To my great delight, my daughters played with them and added more. My youngest daughter, in particular, loved them. She would sit for hours, as I did all those years ago, inventing different scenarios, many centred around a bright pink Barbie swimming pool.

Despite her critics, Barbie’s popularity isn’t waning. She has her own Twitter and Instagram pages and next year a Barbie live action film will be released.

Long may she carry on giving children as much pleasure as she gave me.

*A THIRD of parents who have hired a tutor to help their children with schoolwork have kept it a secret, and many will even lie outright if asked.
Fear of being branded a pushy parent was the leading reason for keeping quiet, a survey conducted on behalf of tutoring website MyTutor.
I hired a tutor to help my youngest daughter with maths and have no regrets. In a class of 30-odd pupils, she floundered and felt she could not easily ask when she got stuck. Neither my husband or I were able to help. With the lovely, friendly tutor who came she was relaxed, and gained ground very quickly.
The tutor came every week for about two months prior to the GCSE exam and was worth every penny.