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Why is it important for children to feel represented and included in toys and activities?

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my parents and I decided to organize my room. In the process of doing so, I found my favorite dolls of when I was a kid and I noticed that most of them were skinny, white, with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Since I’ve spent a significant amount of time educating myself and doing research on inclusion and diversity, the first thing that came to my mind was the lack of representation in my dolls. I noticed that they all represented the ideals of beauty that have been imposed by society for years. My dolls embodied the stereotypes of what is considered beautiful and created the impression of what is not considered beautiful. If I compare myself to my dolls, I look the complete opposite. And maybe this thought could’ve harmed my identity formation growing up if it wasn’t for my parents reminding me that there wasn’t only one definition of beauty. 

The question we should be asking ourselves more often is “Why is it important for children to feel represented and included in toys, crafts, and activities?…” Children learn and discover their identities through play, and they also develop an awareness of their surroundings when playing with other children because they engage in conversation and formulate their thoughts based on their experiences. If at a young age, children can’t relate to their toys, they will grow up wanting to become someone else to be considered “pretty” or “beautiful.” This idea of beauty and representation in children’s toys goes beyond manufacturing dolls that have different body types and skin colors, it extends to representing children with disabilities and life-threatening illnesses. What about children who use wheelchairs, or children that are experiencing hair loss, or children that have skin disorders? How are they represented and how are they affected when they play with toys that don’t look like them?. Mattel has done an amazing job in creating diverse Barbies since 2017 but I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a foundation that was recently founded called “Glimmer of Hope” that is advocating for change as well. It was founded by Alison Hornung and Ally DeForge to donate bald dolls to girls experiencing hair loss. As stated on their website, their mission is to empower girls and make them feel beautiful because battling cancer or life-threatening illnesses can affect their self-esteem when it affects their appearance. As advocates for change in the world, it is our responsibility to support and promote individuals who are working to make a change. Glimmer of Hope Foundation is one of many examples of individuals that are taking small steps to make people feel more loved and included. Children are as important as adults, and when it comes to inclusion we should consider multiple perspectives and angles. Having toys and dolls that make you feel represented and that you can relate to becomes extremely important for children when forming their identities. And in the case of patients battling cancer, having toys that they can relate to makes them feel accompanied and safe, especially at times when they are struggling, in pain, or when they can’t be surrounded by loved ones during a procedure. Adults need to take into account these considerations when purchasing toys for their kids and when educating them. As I mentioned earlier, if it wasn’t for my parents I would’ve have grown with the wrong idea that my dolls represented the only ideal of what was considered beautiful. We have the power to make a change and if we include children in our movement, we will create sustainable change and growth that will become the standard of our industries. 

Image obtained from Glimmer of Hope Foundation’s website.

Image shows young girl laying in hospital bed with her doll. They are both covered by a blanket with a Disney character on it and are experiencing hair loss.

Image obtained from Glimmer of Hope Foundation’s website / Image shows black girl holding her bald doll. They are both wearing pink shirts and are smiling.

Thank you Alison and Ally for your amazing initiative and for sparking hope in the life of so many young girls. Please visit their social media accounts to learn more about them, as well as their website to support their foundation and initiative. 

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