It’s understandable why children latch on to toys that display similarities to themselves. Seeing – and playing with – toys that look like they do can help build confidence and self-esteem.
However, the alternative – that is, seeing and playing with toys that look like other people, for example of a different race – can nurture other emotional skills such as compassion and empathy.
In these ways, diversity toys can be hugely beneficial to child development.
Building an Inclusive Toy Box Filled with Diversity Toys
Cultural diversity and gaining an appreciation of different backgrounds might not be something you would necessarily think about approaching until your child reaches a certain level of maturity. However, you can easily start in early childhood by creating an inclusive toy box that reflects the world around them.
Dr Amber A Hewitt is a psychologist and strong proponent for eliminating the lack of representation in children’s toy boxes.
“An inclusive toy box can promote positive racial/ethnic, gender, and cultural identity development for children. It’s important for children to see themselves reflected in their toys,” she says.
“It’s important to remember that not all messages that children receive are verbal. And children learn, including learning messages about identity, through play.”
Diversity isn’t Just About Race
When it comes to toys that teach diversity, race is only a single piece of a much larger puzzle. Differences in physical characteristics are obvious, but there’s a deeper level of teaching that can be achieved through pretend play – one that helps your child build a strong sense of self-worth and identity.
Cooking sets aren’t just for girls, and racing cars aren’t just for boys. By allowing children the freedom to choose for themselves – from a selection of diverse toys – you are letting them forge their own path and develop an identity unshackled by the ‘traditional norms’ of playtime.
Sculpting the Minds of Our Future Leaders
Unlike television, where children are merely spectators watching a rigid story play out in front of them, during playtime they take up the mantle of director. They cast the characters, they design the props and, most importantly, they tell the story.
This simple act of solo play can act as a foundation for future leadership skills. When coupled with a range of diversity toys, children automatically create narratives that are inclusive – all the while growing in confidence and compassion.
Play is an integral part of every child’s identity development, and you can help your child understand more about equality, skin colour and empathy by introducing them to diversity toys.