How to Diversify Your Toy Box

Credit Nick Little

Becoming a mother made me reflect on my own childhood and how I was raised to view diversity. I grew up in South Georgia at a time when dolls of my complexion were not easy to find. So I played with mostly white dolls. The features I observed in Ken and Barbie were exactly what I saw around me: the familiar aspect of white people. My doctor was white. My teachers were mostly white. Police officers and bank tellers all had skin that did not look like my own.

My friends’ toy chests overflowed with white ballerina Barbies and blonde, pigtailed Cabbage Patch Kids. Their bookshelves were filled with stories about happy white children who spent their days gallivanting with big red dogs. As a Black child in the 1990s, I knew that my skin color was different, and I often wondered why I didn’t see more people who looked like me in my cartoon shows or books or reflected in my dolls.

Imagine how children’s views of themselves and others could change by having dolls of diverse races and ethnicities, not just white Barbies and G.I. Joes.

“Diversity through play is achieved by having a variety of toys, music, clothes, books, food, and art that highlight and celebrate similarities, as well as differences,” said Ann-Louise Lockhart, Psy.D.a pediatric psychologist and parent coach.

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