Its common knowledge that children learn through play which has the backing of umpteen child psychologists and experts in childhood development. What needs more awareness however is how important it is that toy manufacturers include a range that promotes inclusive play! Toys children can feel a connection with because they closely resemble themselves, their situation or even family dynamic. Whether that be disability, different races/ethnicities, addressing age-old gender stereotypes by stepping into 2020 where we’re encouraging individuals to dress and be exactly what they want or feel they identify with. Many brands are stepping forward to unite in the diverse world, though many still have a long way to go. It’s not just the toymakers who need educating but parents need to be aware of how impactful it is to provide their child with toys that are diverse in multiple areas. Studies show that parents who normalise diversity through open discussion and play from a young age, grow up to be far more accepting of those who are different to themselves and feel more at ease with their own identity.
As somebody who’s been a wheelchair user since early childhood, I can’t begin to tell you how much I longed for a wheelchair to put my dollies in. Not seeing the thing that gave me independence in the big wide world cemented I was different and at times made me feel like an outcast. Now as an adult, I’m relieved yet saddened to know I wasn’t alone in this feeling.
Thankfully, this generation of children with disabilities need not know that feeling as in 2020 it’s cool to be different! While toy brands are slowly getting the memo and we’re seeing more diverse toys on the market, here’s a list of modernised classic toys that promote inclusive play in terms of disability!
Barbie Fashionista Doll Collection
Mattel, makers of the iconic Barbie doll gained themselves negative attention in the past when they discontinued Barbie’s friend Becky (who claimed to be the school photographer) their first “wheelchair Barbie” after-sales didn’t compete with their standard dolls. 22 years later, Mattel started to listen to the need for Barbie’s to be relatable and to do this they’d need to come up with a range of Barbies with different ethnicities, do away with gender stereotypes, as well as dolls of all abilities. It was time to get inclusive! In 2019 came the Barbie Fashionista Collection which boldly and proudly features Barbie’s of varying ethnicities and skin types, Ken dolls with long hair and girls with short or no hair at all, sporting prosthetic limbs and a wheelchair version (including a ramp to gain at least lower-level access to the dreamhouse!), even a Barbie with the skin condition vitiligo. Upon seeing the epic turn around in attitude from Mattel it seems they really listened to the thousands of letters parents wrote over the years begging for versions of Barbie their child could actually relate to. Hundreds of videos of disabled children being given a doll from this inclusive range immediately circulated social media, which restored people’s faith in that some companies do care more about just their profit margins and in this case actually appreciate the power of the Purple Pound.
P.S Just this month, Mattel has announced all future Barbie dreamhouse’s, campers and other homes will be ACCESSIBLE for Barbie’s wheelchair. We are in AWE!! This is a company that has gone above and beyond and the disabled community is overjoyed with the news. Thank you, Mattel!
A Doll Like Me
Lego Minifigures with Disabilities
While Lego’s Duplo range for tots has had a wheelchair play piece for a decade or more, it surprisingly took the mega-brand until 2016 to bring out a functional wheelchair piece that can be used with any lego Minifigure, along with other Legomen’s disability aids like crutches and exoskeletons as you can find in the now best selling ‘Fun in the Park/City.’ Lego has been around for 41 years, manufacturing and selling countless hospital and medical-themed playsets which some may say has been HUGE missed opportunities to bring inclusivity to the brand way before now. Despite this, with creativity and imagination being the key ingredients keeping the timeless bricks a toy staple in every home, the endless possibilities that Lego building ignites inspired many children with disabilities to build their own aids out of bricks for generations.
While we’re on the Lego bandwagon, check out what’s coming out sometime this year! Children who are blind or have a visual impairment will have greater opportunities to learn through play with this toolkit that puts a fun twist on teaching Braille to both children with sight loss and their sighted friends. I had to make space for the Lego Braille Bricks and will dutifully come back with the price and where to get them once they’ve officially hit the shops! Can you tell our family is a tad excited?
Playmobil’s Wheelchair & School Van
With space for 4 passengers, including a sliding side door and removable roof for ease of play the school van is most realistic to a modern-day school bus for children with disabilities OR a family-driven wheelchair accessible vehicle. The finer details like the fold-out ramp, swing-open rear doors and the ability to lock down the Playmobil child wheelchair have all been ironed out to make for the most inclusive and functional play that children can relate to their everyday lives, creating normalcy instead of the lack of representation in playthings we often see with other toy brands.
Baby & Toddler Finger Puppets
Finger puppets are such an old classic that are still commonly given as gifts for babies and toddlers around the world, so why not channel some nostalgia by ordering these handmade finger puppets sporting mobility aids from this quaint Etsy store?
Our Generation Dolls
The UK equivalent of American Girl dolls, they are very popular with children 5+. They’re good quality and last the test of time and resemble that of traditional china faced dolls. While this set may be advertised as a “medical” playset, designed for hospital themed play, the crutches and wheelchair are very realistic, durable and fits all the dolls. The wheelchair even folds like a typical manual wheelchair and it’s pink! If you love the look of this set but not the price tag, check eBay for ‘Our Generation’ girl bundles for bits from the medical care set for a steal…
I hope you found this post inspiring for your next inclusive purchase or if your little one, or even their school has any of them in the classroom then a HUGE thumbs up! It makes me smile to think one day toys like these will be mainstreamed with the rest and not a rarity, we’re getting there slowly and I’m grateful my children are growing up in the age that includes them as who they are.