As parents, we all know the importance of toys and books for our childs development. Our children learn through play and all kinds of different toys are important for this. In light of the global discussion on racism, taking place in the wake of the horrible events happening in America, the families involved in Collinstown Parent, Toddler and Baby Group decided to discuss (via Whatsapp for the times that are in it) diversity in the toy box and book shelf. We wanted to check if we had toys that allowed our children to play games that would normalise difference.
We took a look around the playrooms and bookshelves in our houses to see what kind of ethnic diversity was there. While most people had some toys and books representing diversity we all felt that this was something we could improve on. Interestingly, the children who helped us find the toys – ranging in age from 6 to 11 all struggled to pinpoint the black dolls and books with different races off the top of their heads, they had to go and look for them. The children were so used to playing with the toys that they didn’t notice the colour. This is surely the point – having diversity in the toy box helps children to see past it and see diversity as normal.
Here are some of the things we discussed.
We found with books that the more modern ones tend to have good diversity in the illustrations.
Lego Friends, Lottie Dolls, Lol Surprise Dolls and the Disney Princesses all have a good representation of diversity. Here are some of the toys that our members have in these ranges. These toys all play happily together in different imaginative games as sisters, friends, detectives, super heroes whatever the game of the day calls for. All the same and all equal. Guess Who has a great mix of people on the cards. We also found that some jigsaws and other toys where there was pictures of people, eg people on a bus, that there was a good diverse mix of people.
What did we learn?
We found the process of purposefully looking through the toys our children were playing with to be very useful. It has highlighted some gaps in the toy box for some and has given us all ideas. We are not claiming to be experts in this, just a group of parents who decided to actively look into what our children were playing with and trying to ensure that we do what we can to raise our children to be anti racism. Based on what we found in our homes, it would be totally possible to ensure a good mix of diversity in toys at home, in our schools and at our playgroup if this was something we decided to do. There will certainly be a few new toys needed, post Covid19, when we do get to reopen our toddler group – we have just realised all our little toy babies are white – that will be addressed.
Earlier in the year we looked at the importance of sustainability in general, including toys. Now we realise we need to look at diversity too.
We would like to encourage everyone to do the same and to purposefully and mindfully look at toys and books before buying them for your own children or as a gift. Representation matters.