CHOOSING Multicultural Toys & Dolls and how it affects children
It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
I held my breath. She had just said those words. She had just said those dreadful words that felt like a million little daggers in my chest. I looked at the the doll in my hands and then at her little beautiful brown face staring at the floor. My head was still spinning. What? I asked. She quietly repeated, "I just want to be white." She was four.
Ok let me roll back a little.
So I grew up in Germany. During the 1980s. And there were pretty much no toys or dolls that looked like me. In fact I was happy anytime I saw a brown haired or brown eyed doll that I could pretend was my baby.
Then I grew older, became a teenager, stopped playing with dolls but I began to babysat.
One day, a little girl I was watching hand me two of her dolls and let me chose between a brown haired and a blond doll. I took the brown haired one as my pretend baby and the little multi-ethnic girl frowned, "...you don't want to take the beautiful baby that has such beautiful silky hair??" I looked into my little friends eyes, trying to hold back my tears and said, "no, I want to have this baby. It's so beautiful. And I love her hair." And then the little girl said the dreadful sense that echoed the words I had spoken to myself a million times as a little girl: "I just want to be white," my little friend murmured. I was undone.
I don't remember what exactly I said to this 4-year-old, but I remember leaving that day feeling ... well all sorts of feeling. But surprisingly among those was the feeling of gratefulness. I was somehow grateful that I was privileged to be in my little friends life. Glad she trusted me so much to trust me with her little, or huge, struggle. So grateful I somehow found words of truth and beauty to speak into her sweet heart. And 17-year-old take-on-the-world teenage me left that day promising myself that if I ever had children they would only play with dolls of different shades.
Forward 20 years from that day. Here I sit in a house with two little girls, surrounded by dolls not just of all different skin complexions, and various hair textures ranging from tightly coiled locks to bone straight blond streaks, and everything in between. And my kids love playing with them all. Because they look like them and all their friends and family. Early on I made an effort to point out each individual doll's beautifully unique features.
I am a firm believer that no matter what our ethnicity, as educators, moms, dads, aunties, grandparents we have a responsibility to balance out and hold up the cultural images of what is truly beautiful. For one we have to emphasis that beauty is what beauty does: the heart versus outward appearance.
Secondly, with girls AND boys, we have to challenge the norms and hold up bold beautiful images of dolls and toys of color. (Even dolls are somehow created in the imago dei :).
For one we NEED to surround children with toys that resemble them. This helps to foster a positive self image and authentic pretend and role play. Secondly, we need to surround our children with toys that look different than them.
Thirdly, let's provide them with tools (such as multicultural crayons) that make it easy for them to express themselves and create art that includes a variety of people and skin hues.
That's why I applaud Disney for starting to feature little Moana"s and Elenar and Mulans. It's a good start. Our world hasn't arrived in the perfect balance yet but that's why you and I have the responsibility to step in and FILL our toy boxes (argh!!! Screams the minimalist type A mom in me) with... diverse facial features and hues of skin.
So, I know this is not a post on books, but on the dolls and toys they use to pretend play the books they read. And it's been in my heart because yes these are the thing children use to play and use their imagination with after reading amazing books from diverse cultures.
So it's 10pm. Here I sit writing the blog literally surrounded by an army of diverse toys... argh... but cheers to diversifying our bookshelves and toy boxes! My young 17-year-old nerdy self would be so proud of me. ?
I also added diverse boys soldier toys and beautiful furniture from The Land of Nod to create a calm environment and fun book shelves for your school- or kids' room!
All the Love,
ps: My girls (and I) love these dolls bellow. The baby dolls are super soft. The hearts for hearts girls are a little pricey but they are modeled after real girls from the specific country and just have the most beautiful gentle eyes and face. My girls play every day with their Rachel doll. Plus part of their proceed goes to World Vision. And the little wooden dolls are a great alternative to Barbie. #letthembekids
Ps: And shout out to my friend Latasha Morrison founder of the "Be the Bridge" for telling me yesterday about Multicultural crayons and markers! Finally a way to draw all shades of people(:
California based Ghanaian-German educator, writer, bookworm and mama of three. A lover of all things nature, diversity & healthy.
"Education is nothing else than discovery.
And discovery full of diversity is beautiful."
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About the author
My name is Nancy. I'm a teacher, home educator, wife, mother, writer and accidental German-Ghanaian transplant to the U.S., in love with California and all things diversity.