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How diverse is your children's toy collection?
It's something many of us may never have considered. Aren't toys just toys?
Well, toys play a huge part in how our little ones see the world, so ensuring it is represented effectively is key to raising children who are open-minded, accepting of differences, and have a keen interest in the society we live in.
Diverse representation in TV shows and films is a great way for kids to learn about many cultures and people who look different to them -- but it's a passive activity. By playing with physical toys, they can design their own stories and characters. This is where making sure they have a diversified cast to direct is really important.
Books are also a great way to open up discussions about race and show characters from differing backgrounds and cultures in an everyday regular way.
People of all ethnic backgrounds should be able to see themselves positively represented in all industries. The phrase 'you can't be it if you can't see it' is often used to emphasise the need for representation, and it is true. Children with role models who look like them are far more likely to pursue those careers and seek certain experiences when they can see others like them actively participating in that role. It is up to us as parents, teachers and caregivers to make sure that positive representation is readily available.
Research has shown that at only six months old, babies can recognise cultural diversity from skin tone and hair texture. By the time a child is three years old, they have already internalised racial bias based on what they see and hear.
Promoting tolerance and acceptance is absolutely key, and the earlier we can begin to teach our kids about this and make sure they are aware that not everyone looks or sounds like them, the greater impact it will have long term.
Leading by example is absolutely the best way for kids to learn, check out this page for some great resources and recommendations for parents.
What are diverse toys?
Diverse toys provide a more accurate view of the world we live in. Rather than having a box of toys that only reflect one skin tone or culture, diverse toys help to represent those from backgrounds that have often been overlooked by toy companies and help to show those from largely white communities a broader view of society and create a positive attitude towards skin colour, culture, and heritage.
Having access to diverse multicultural toys from a young age promotes awareness of other skin tones and hair types, and ensures that our kids know society is not one shade.
It reduces the chances of children being singled out of social groups based on how they look or where they come from. If children grow up seeing diversity as the rule and not the exception, we can create a fairer and more representative society. Access to diverse toys also reiterates positive representation and a feeling of inclusion.
Why should all children have access to toys that are culturally diverse?
We live in a country that is rich in diversity and culture. It is important for your toy box to reflect this, but if you live in a primarily white area then it is even more so. Living in parts of London and other large cities, it is likely that your kids will see people from varying ethnic backgrounds daily. There will already be less of a sense of 'otherness'. However living in less diverse places, with classrooms made up of mostly white students and teachers, our children will not get a true sense of diversity and will automatically assume whiteness is the default.
Representation is so important for children, for their sense of self, learning about who they are and what they want to aspire to, and for developing confidence too. Toys that represent your child and their friendship group foster this sense of seeing themselves reflected in the world. If your child has seven baby dolls and they are all white, this is not representative of our wider community. But by diversifying your toy box, you will be actively encouraging and nurturing an inclusive outlook on the world.
Where can parents find diverse toys?
If possible when shopping for diverse and multicultural toys (and shopping in general), you can also apply a diverse attitude to where you shop. Shopping locally and supporting small businesses is a great place to start, as well as researching business and companies with ethical and diverse practices. Etsy and Instagram are an excellent resource for finding these kinds of shops and businesses. Often the price points for small businesses are a little higher, and with ethical manufacturing too, but many mainstream shops are responding to demand and starting to supply a more diverse range. Even with a modest budget, you should be able to expand your kids' toy collection.
Examples of diverse toys
You do not need to try and alter your child's playing style. By simply adding to their collection, help them to learn about inclusivity, and why you want to make sure they have an exciting range of toys.
If your child loves Barbie or Bratz, make sure to include some dolls of colour with different hair textures. The same goes for Lego, and Playmobil, for example. Kids love to make up games and little scenarios, so although not every single game should be a 'lesson' there are ample opportunities to educate through play.
When we are so used to seeing one option all the time, it can be surprising once you begin to learn how little diversity has actually been considered by mainstream toy companies. Thankfully it is easy to hop on social media and find some amazing small businesses who are making up for this with multicultural toys -- some of which are even customisable to look like your child and their friends. Here are some examples of amazing diverse toys to add to your collection and get a diverse toy box well on its way.
1) Paola Reina Dolls by Minikane
2) Coloré By Hope Custom Knitted Dolls
3) Dinkum Dolls
4) Cuddle + Kind Knitted Dolls
5) Meri Meri Fabric Dolls
6) More to Love Keepsake Dolls by Harperiman
1) WOW World People Figure Set
2) Small World Multicultural Family Figures Doll Set
3) TOLO First Friends World People
4) Grapat's Nins Wooden Figures
1) Little People, BIG DREAMS Matching Game
2) Little People, BIG DREAMS Learning Cards
3) My Family Builders Set of 60 Wooden Magnetic Shaped Cards Toy
4) My Family Builders 32 Piece Set of Build-able Magnetic Characters
5) Peaceable Kingdom Friends & Neighbours: The Helping Game
6) I Never Forget a Face- Memory Game
1) Joyful Carousel Jumbo Puzzle
2) Little Feminist 500-Piece Family Puzzle
3) Crocodile Creek Children of the World Floor Puzzle
4) Book Club 1000 Piece Puzzle
5) Orchard Toys Woodland Party Challenging Jigsaw Puzzle
Arts and Crafts
1) Crayola Colours of the World Crayons
2) Crayola Multicultural Colours Washable Markers
3) Colour Me Kids Crayons
4) The Big Book of Faces Colouring Book
5) Little People, Big Dreams Colouring Book: 15 Dreamers to Colour
6) Around the World Colouring Book by Lonely Planet
7) I Am An Activist! Colouring Book
1) Melissa & Doug Wooden Sushi Slicing Play Food 24 Piece Wood Playset
2) Melissa & Doug Fill and Fold Taco and Tortilla Set
3) TOYANDONA Kids Play Food Set, 46 Piece Set of Chinese Pretend Food
4) Multicultural Play Food Set by Little Linguist
5) Role Play Multicultural Food Set by TTS Group
Freelance writer Amy lives in Hampshire with her 3 year old daughter, who is a super energetic, chatty child, leading to Amy’s interest in all matters to do with infant and child sleeping patterns and mindfulness for adults and children. Amy’s degree was in fashion design and she loves filling their beautiful home full of interesting textiles, tiles, art, ceramics, and houseplants or, alternatively, pining over them on Instagram. When they aren’t out exploring in the fresh air they can be found cosying up at home, painting, knitting, and dancing!