What does diversity mean?
Diversity simply means variety. It means different types of a certain thing. More specifically, in a cultural context, diversity refers to the variety of human beings. This variety comes in many forms: physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, cultural. It is found in our experiences, our food, language, clothing, desires, relationships, children and our choices. Diversity is everywhere.
Diversity is everywhere until it comes to shopping. How often do you find a whole men’s clothes shop, for example, that only stocks 4 styles of button-down shirt in 5 main colours? How often do you want to buy a summer tee shirt only to realise that the shops have already switched to their Autumn/ Winter range? The same can be said of toys for our children.
Why are toys important things to consider?
Toys are more than objects to play with. They teach skills to our children and they inform them of the world around them. Toys teach children learn how to move their bodies and minds, which leads them on to writing, constructing, playing sport and everything needed in an independent, valuable and valued life. Similarly, toys relate to visual communication and, therefore, have an opportunity, if not responsibility, to relate to children (and indeed, us all) on issues of diversity, representation and inclusion.
Is there diversity in the toys we buy?
There is some, and it is improving. Children learn about other humans through their toys via the representation of those humans in those toys. Although variety and diversity are creeping into the mainstream now, there is much work to be done. Some recent examples (also listed further down the article) are forging fresh focus on diversity:
- Barbie Fashionista Dolls have released a range of differently abled dolls that are culturally diverse and physically diverse.
- Uno have a Braille Edition
- Fat Brain Toys have a section of their website devoted to special needs (also mentioned below).
Why should we express diversity in our children’s toys?
Inclusion and profit. It is that simple. There is a growing culture of inclusion in our modern world, from LGBTQAI+ rights, to modern Feminism, to disability access changes in public places, but more can be done with toys.
- Firstly, creating toys that represent many forms of humanity helps children to understand that there are many forms of humanity in their lives and the wider world. It might even help us older ones to understand this more deeply, too!
- Secondly, building toys that cater to differently abled people is a physical representation of inclusion, and
- Thirdly, businesses will also be glad to reach a wider demographic and further improve their Brand and profits to match.
What types of diversity are currently represented in toys?
Toys that are rich in diversity are available this Christmas and the category is an expanding one.
Here is a list of some of our favourites that either represent or demonstrate inclusion:
Crayola colours of the world crayons and markers
Skin tones vary hugely across the world, but traditionally, kids have had to resort to pink, brown, white or black to colour in the people they draw. Crayola has tackled this issue by releasing a series of crayons and markers with 24 different shades to choose from.
In a similar tone, and in the style of Model Winnie Harlow, Mattel now sell a Barbie Fashionistas Doll with varying skin tone, known as vitiligo, which is a long way from the criticism the Barbie brand used to receive for its representation of women.
Positively perfect curly afro puffs baby doll aaliyah
This doll is one of many that more truly represents African children and was made ‘to show true representation of all shades, when it comes to children around the world’. The company focuses on her skin tone and washable hair as key indicators for any child that wishes to play with her.
Princess Cupcake Jones’ website offers a 30cm plush doll with dread locks and brown skin without the need for any fanfare, mission statement or justification. It is simply there, on their website and that is that: – the way culture and race should be represented!
Yoga Bear – Simple Yoga Poses for Little Ones
This cute little book simply and appealingly introduces yoga to your toddler using 10 authentic animal poses.
Hobibee Soft Plush Muslim Doll Zahra
Available from Amazon, this doll offers young Muslim girls the opportunity to recognise themselves in their toys and in their world. When you feel represented in this kind of way, it undoubtedly says to you that you belong in the world!
This book has been a staple to many Australians over the last few years – in English. But the younger we are, the more able we are to learn new languages and learning a new language has multiple benefits. Grab this book for your little ones and watch them reap the benefits.
‘This is How We Do It’ by Matt Lamonthe
This charming and informative story follows one day in the real lives of seven kids from around the world—Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Uganda, and Russia and presents the reader with the chance to read ways in which our lives vary from culture to culture, from country to country, and from person to person, providing ‘a window into traditions that may be different from our own as well as mirrors reflecting our common experiences’.
Mattel is really leading the way in diversity toys! How better to show kids and adults alike how similar we all are in our differences and that hair, skin tone, make up and clothing all contribute to the aesthetic of these dolls, without having to decide what gender the doll is. Creatable World dolls give kids a blank canvas to create their own characters.
Gender Neutral colours
Gender neutrality bleeds heavily into the colouring of toy products, but the old days of ‘blue for a boy, pink for a girl’ have been dead for some 15 to 20 years. There has been considerable backlash in toy colour choices and this is reflected in an array of toys from dolls houses to Tool kits which are now available in colours other than boy-blue and girl-pink.
Spurred on by the unrealistic body shapes represented in dolls such as Barbie and Bratz, several companies have re-represented the female body in a way that actual human beings can relate to…there’s a novel idea!
These dolls have body proportions that are designed according to the proportions of an average 19-year-old American person. These dolls have a mission to boost self-image and self-worth after recognising body images issues, self-esteem problems, eating disorders, anxiety, depression were becoming more and more common in girls.
Little People Big Dreams Matching Game
This beautifully drawn matching game will introduce or reintroduce your little ones to some of history’s most amazing women. There are 20 pairs to match and a biography card that provides more historical background about each woman.
Influential Black women are at the centre of this inspiring read. You will learn about Abolitionists, Womens Rights advocates for a start – and these are the same person Soujourner Truth! Inspire your young girls, buy them this book.
Tree change dolls began as a passion project and as kick back against the over sexualisation of childrens’ dolls and the body types they paraded. Begun by Tasmanian artist, Sonia Singh, Tree Change Dolls recycle used dolls such as Bratz, Monster High, Barbie and so on and they restyle them in more realistic aesthetics. The makeup is toned down, the eyes are resized, the hair is naturalised and handmade outfits are added to complete a less promiscuous and more age-appropriate doll.
Differently Abled Representation:
Figurines can open up an entire universe of imaginative play and this particular set offers children the chance to open up a window into their play for characters who have a wheelchair, or people on crutches, or someone who cannot see very well. The breadth of variety and diversity here is a springboard for inclusion into the playtime and hearts of all children.
These dolls proudly celebrate diversity by including them into the toy box in a way which will help children relate to people who are differently abled or, alternatively, help children who are differently abled to play with their toys in a way they are accustomed to themselves. This is a genuine step forward towards fully inclusive play.