Getting creative to increase diversity of childrens’ toys

Recently, we have seen a growing number of childrens’ toy companies working to create toys that actually reflect the children using them. Toys available for purchase now include dolls of African, South Asian, or Hispanic descent, dolls who use hearing aids, dolls with physical disabilities, and anatomically correct dolls that model realistic body types – the list goes on. While this is just one of the many areas that toy producers and sellers are re-evaluating and changing, it is of high importance. The toys we are exposed to when we are young contribute to how we view the world and our place in it. A child with a disability, or a child of color, who is only given white, able-bodied, cisgendered toys to play with may wonder why there are no toys that look or act like them. This can be incredibly hurtful, in the same way that turning on a TV and seeing only shows that predominantly feature white, able-bodied, cisgendered men can be hurtful to anyone who is not a white, able-bodied, cisgendered man. There are layers to this hurt, and it can impact each individual very differently, but the fact of the matter is that not seeing yourself reflected in the world around you can impact self-esteem, personal confidence, and a person’s sense of self-worth.

Luckily, as stated above, it is becoming increasingly easier to find childrens’ toys, such as dolls, that mirror the diversity of the world we live in. Some parents, however, have taken to getting creative about providing their children with the toys they deserve. One Missouri mom, for example, went so far as to contact a friend with a 3D printer in order to outfit her daughter’s American Girl Doll with an insulin pump, a blood sugar transmitter, and a receiver, all of which match her daughter’s own medical supplies. Fox 2 News, of St. Louis, Missouri, contacted Kellie McClanahan to learn about her and her daughter’s experience. McClanahan knew David Rinaldi, her friend with the 3D printer, from school, and contacted him over Facebook to ask if he could provide Madilynn’s doll with an insulin pump to match Madilynn’s. Rinaldi agreed instantly. Madilynn McClanahan has diabetes, and uses an insulin pump 24/7. According to Madilynn, her doll’s insulin pump “makes me feel comfortable, and…like I have someone else in the family who has diabetes too.” Before contacting Rinaldi, Kellie had already tried asking the American Girl doll company for a doll insulin pump. Kellie stated, “That’s what American Girl is about – make your doll like you – you can have glasses, you can have hearing aids, wheelchairs, food allergies, epi-pens…but they don’t have an insulin pump.”

According to Fox 2 News, who originally covered this story and contacted the American Girl company, American Girl Dolls “says a specialized item that will speak to girls with diabetes will be coming out in January 2016.”

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Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.