Granny and Gramps to Join Barbie's World

Here comes Barbie for the blue-hair and walker set.

The Grandma and Grandpa dolls are the mother and father of Barbie's best friend, Midge, who is now pregnant with her second child, toy manufacturer Mattel has announced.

They have streaks of gray hair and wear sensible clothes -- a wool sweater for granddad and a floral blouse for granny -- but at just 11.5 inches tall, they still look pretty perky for their advanced years.

The grandparents will hit stores this fall and retail for about $47 -- including Grandma's kitchen gift set.

A new Barbie -- this time as a doctor who oversees the birth of Midge's baby -- will also be launched.

The Happy Family Line also includes a pregnant Midge, husband Alan and toddler Ryan.

Barbie sales rose by 6 percent in 2002 despite an overall decline in the toy industry.

"Barbie is still hot, but it's a challenge to keep her relevant," said Adrienne Fontanella, president of Mattel's girls division.

The unnamed grandparents will be sold as a couple.

"Happy Family was created in response to the numerous requests Mattel has received from parents for a doll line that allows their daughters to play out the dynamics of the family unit," said Dr. Michael Shore, a consumer-insight specialist and child psychologist advising Mattel.

"Playing 'family' and 'mommy' is a natural part of a child's development," said Dr. Jo Ann Farver, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California.

"Acting out the interactions between parents and siblings through imaginative play is a healthy way for children to express themselves and develop skills for interpersonal understanding."