Breaking the Cycle: Why is Our Increasingly Diverse World Not Reflected in Our Children’s Toys?
The 2014-2015 school year was the first time that non-white students outnumbered white students and the likelihood that the next person you meet will be of a different race or ethnicity stands at 55% (USA Today Diversity Index). That is set to increase to 71% by 2060 according to the same study, meaning the next generation, will have more than a 7 in 10 chance of encountering a different race or ethnic group. We are rapidly moving into a more multicultural world and yet, the toys that line the aisles of big box stores like Target and Walmart don’t reflect that diversity.
Is it because ethnic and multicultural toys don’t sell? Is it because kids gravitate towards white dolls or is it because they don’t have a choice? The Clark Doll Study was first conducted in 1947 where two-thirds of black children were found to prefer a white doll over a black doll. The study was repeated in 1987, four decades after the original study by a Hostra University psychology professor and again two-thirds of black children still preferred the white doll.
However, it’s not that simple, and toys and dolls are not made in a vacuum; they reflect the greater culture and what is valued via movies, television and books. The problem then is systemic and overwhelming; children are absorbing what’s valued via media, preference toys that don’t reflect diversity, both liking these toys from the daily messages they receive and the lack of choice and in turn, these toys continue to be the norm.
On the other hand, when a diverse character that appeals to all ethnicities comes on the market, for example Dora the Explorer, children from that ethnic group will gravitate to that character. Not only is this important for minority children but for all races. Chriss Nee, the creator of Doc McStuffins, a best- selling toy line based on an African-American character says, “The kids who are of color see her as an African American girl, and that’s really big for them. And I think a lot of other kids don’t see her color, and that’s wonderful as well”. We also spoke with Darla Davenport, inventor of the NIYA doll who has spent more than 32 years trying to get her doll in big box stores. Davenport says, “all children deserve to see themselves in the books they read, the toys they play with, and on they shows they watch. I want children to know that they matter and have value, and that their power is in being an ‘original’ and not a ‘carbon copy’”.
Toys send messages to our children; we are telling them what looks beautiful and what is appreciated. It is up to parents to take on a more active role in changing the lack of diverse products in their children’s toy boxes. Would you like to make a change?
Little Proud Kid is proud to showcase a variety of toys that promote and celebrate diversity.
Photo credit: NY Times