I was flipping through the Land of Nod catalog last night and was immediately struck by the page with all the dolls. The selection were light skinned girl with blond hair, light skinned girl with orange hair and lightest possible brown skinned girl. No dolls with darker skin tones, no dolls of Asian decent and no male dolls. All children deserve to see themselves reflected in the toys that are advertised to them. By not having a selection of darker skinned or Asian children we are sending the message that certain ethnicities are inferior. “When someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing”. -Adrienne Rich, Invisible in Academe. This week proved that there is so much more work that needs to be done to educate people on how to create open-minded, welcoming environments that celebrate racial diversity. It seems like an overwhelming task, but if we break it down step by step we can do this together. Creating a home or classroom with toys that reflect our diverse world is an essential component in my post on 10 Ways to Create Open-Minded Children. Here are the Best Multicultural Toys to Celebrate Diversity.
“Children begin to construct their ideas about race and racism very early. They notice, absorb, and enact the patterns of racial and economic privilege that permeate their environments… Racial identity is shaped from the outside, and constructed from the inside, beginning in early childhood. The social and political dynamics of the community and period in which children live, their family’s attitudes, their teachers and their individual life experiences all influence this development.” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). Children need to see themselves present in the toys they play with at home and in school. Equally important, children need to see other ethnicities and races be celebrated and respected as equals.
Check out the collection of the best multicultural toys that celebrate diversity.
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One thing to keep in mind when creating a selection of multicultural toys is be mindful not to make the darker skinned dolls just a token addition to your collection. This sends the message that like skinned people are superior to darker skinned people. Make conscious choices to equally represent different skin tones. If your home or school have predominately people of color make sure to have a large, diverse selection of darker skin tones.
We love these Miniland Dolls as they are anatomically correct and available in both male and female and a selection of skin tones and ethnicities. We own 8 of these dolls representing different ethnicities and genders. They are perfect for water play. Click here to check out the full selection of dolls.
Plush Basket of Babies
My kids love soft toys that can be carried around. This basket of babies is perfect for little ones and makes a really cute gift. One aspect of this set that I particularly want to highlight is that the babies with darker skin tones are not just a token addition, but are of equal numbers in the collection.
Face Matching Game
I’m a big fan of the quality of the eeBoo brand. This face matching game is a great way to explore and celebrate the similarities and differences between people’s faces.
Multicultural Art Materials
I remember growing up in the 80s and having my teachers refer to the peach crayon as skin color. As a caucasian child it rolled off my tongue without thinking twice about it back then. Now reflecting back this must have been incredibly confusing and hurtful to my darker skinned friends, no too mention the superiority it taught me to have as as a Caucasian individual. As a educator and a mom I make it a point to have art materials that reflect a wide range of skin tones. These crayons and markers are perfect additions to your art collection. You can also buy these multicultural paints or, better yet, provide children with red, yellow, blue, black and white paints to mix their own unique skin colors. Empower your children by having them name them too!
Not going to lie to you, finding dollhouse families that celebrate multi-racial families or same sex couples is a challenge. I love dollhouses as they provide some great opportunities for imaginative play. So here’s my secret. Buy a few families or single dolls and then switch things up a bit! Be careful to specifically inspect the faces to make sure they are not stereotypical and caricatures. Some are down right racist. I like to mix up the families to reflect the beautiful diverse world we live in. Is it a perfect solution? Nope. But I hope that by doing this, I am helping children celebrate our diversity and then become the toy makers and policy creators of our future.
It is important to note that these recommendations are just a starting point. I am conscious that even when we seek out multicultural toys we are not representing all the ethnicities that exist in our beautiful world. As our understanding of the importance of multicultural education continues to grow so will the cultures represented in mainstream toys.