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

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 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. But it is 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.

Growing up in the 1970s, I would have loved to look like Barbie. She was my heroine. I 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 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’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, which 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. I wouldn’t have said no to her legs and hair but I always knew she was just a piece of plastic.

It has been said that girls should stop playing with Barbies and be given Lego or Meccano to prevent them believing that science and engineering are only 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 Mechano but chose Barbie. She fired my imagination. I would play for hours, conjuring up different scenarios - a girls’ night in, 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, 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, would sit for hours, as I once did, 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 Instagram page 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.