Representation is such a simple concept: you want to be able to see yourself in many different forms and media. It’s idea that we often think about in relation to movies, books, and comics, but not always in toys. One community of parents and one very driven mom are trying bring children with disabilities and children of color to the representation conversation.
Toy Like Me is a community of parents and others who are frustrated by the fact that children with disabilities can’t find dolls and toys that look like them. They have modified existing dolls to make them mirror the physical experiences of their children. Community members added hearing aids and cochlear implants, CPAP machines, wheelchairs and more to their children’s Legos, Barbies, and stuffed animals. The community runs a Twitter account where parents can show off their toy makeovers.
After, lobbying various toy makers such as LEGO, Mattel, Playmobile, and Hasbro, the campaign recently worked with British toymaker Makie to start a line of dolls with disabilities. The company uses 3D printing technology to make each doll and the clothes are even sewn by hand! Makie is working on creating a wheelchair, custom birthmarks and scars, and is open to more suggestions about how to make their dolls more friendly to kids with disabilities.
This is not the only effort create toys — specifically dolls — that represent a fuller spectrum of kids than your ubiquitous white, blond Barbie. There’s also the Angelica Doll, a PoC doll with natural hair you can wash, dry, and style with natural hair styles like bantu knots or twists. After her daughter began to express a wish to have lighter skin and straighter hair, the creator, Angelica Sweeting, wanted to give her daughter a doll that looked like her.
Not only does the creator hope to give girls of color the doll representation they so justly deserve but she also hopes to set up Angelica as a model for a contemporary girl. The website says, “The Angelica Doll is a courageous, bold entrepreneur, full of self belief, natural beauty, and perseverance. For future dolls we will introduce careers such as engineering, journalism, software development, public relations, etc.” Sounds amazing! The Kickstarter for the project has already more than doubled its goal of raising $25,000 but there is still time to give more money if you’re so inclined.
Let’s hope that these campaigns and initiatives convince bigger toy companies that representation and diversity in their products not only makes good business sense, but is the right and essential thing to do.