Posted on Thursday, November 03, 2016

Inclusive Toys for the Holidays

Inclusive cochlear implant doll from toys like me

A group of mothers have started a movement for representation of diff:abled or differently abled children within the toy industry. Their rallying cry is the same as their website, #ToyLikeMe. Their goal is inclusion and representations that helps put an end to the marginilaztion of diff:abled children.

#ToyLikeMe isn't a company but a movement. It was started by a group of young mothers who realized what should have been obvious to all of us, differently abled children are not represented positively among many of today's toys. In fact, not only are children with different abilities not commonly represented, but when a child with a wheel chair is represented it's often as drab and sickly. This was and is a problem, but one with a growing solution.

When the differently abled women behind #ToyLikeMe began taking common toys and recreating them with different abilities-- like Tinkerbell with a Cochlear Implant--parents around the world took note. And stood up and cheered. And signed the petition to get toy manufacturers to make these redesigned toys a reality.
Lego Fun in the Park #TOYLIKEMELego Fun in the Park #TOYLIKEME

You may be asking why it's important for children with differences to have representative toys. Past studies have shown that children exposed only to role models in media and in toys of a non-representative group had a less positive self-esteem. These famous studies drove parents to insist that toy manufactures make more inclusive toys for children of both genders and all races. This inclusion didn't take into account the diff:abled, so it's not a stretch of the imagination to understand how marginalization can and does still impact diff:abled children.

Globally there are 150 million differently abled children. When children are unable to identify themselves with positive role models in their community, they can internalize a sense of wrongness. As taken from their website, "#ToyLikeMe is a online campaign calling on the global toy industry to change this and help generations of children grow up with a more positive attitude to human difference."

Thanks to the work started by these women and supported by crowdfunding earlier this year, representative toys are available today. In fact, "... characters including Tinkerbelle, Paw Patrol’s Ryder and Frozen’s Kristoff have all made it to the front of the audiology waiting list!"

Inclusive toys aren't just for the diff:abled. It's been shown that children who play with differently abled toys are more likely to reach out to classmates who have hearing loss or are in a wheel chair. So these toys expand friendships and minds and make the world kinder and more inclusive. Please consider buying a diff:abled toy for someone in your life. The revolution of inclusion starts with all of us.

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