Gone are the days when all of the dolls in the store had very light skin and blond hair. These days, toys come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Cultural relevance is important during play time, as play time is a prelude to adult life. It is important for children to be exposed to the history of their own culture, and play with toys that “look like them.” They should not, however, be limited to such toys.
A multi-cultural doll and toy experience is balanced and healthy. One poor extreme is to expose the child only to dolls from a single culture. If they only see dolls and toys that look like them, they will find it difficult to accept others that look different. They won’t mean to distance themselves, but children are more likely to gravitate towards what they know. The other poor extreme is to allow them to play with toys that look totally different from them, without any that do look like them. Self-esteem can be negatively affected that way, especially in young girls.
Let your little girls and boys play with dolls and action figures that represent the multi-cultural world that they live in. Dolls collections like American Girl, Barbie, Bratz, and Cabbage Patch Kids come in many different cultural varieties. There is no reason to stick to just one cultural background when it comes to dolls, action figures, toys, or friends.
Mixing the culture of your child’s toys can prepare the for the mix of cultures in society. Even if they don’t see all of the different cultures everyday at school, they might notice when they get out into the real world. America is an amazing blend of cultures, religious backgrounds and ethnicities. There are many things to learn about each one, and appearance is just the start. The sooner your child learns that people are unique and special in their own way, the better. Children can learn about other cultures as well as their own.
Keep an open mind about the cultural aspects of the toys that your children play with. Talk to them about race and religion so they are aware and tolerant of others that are not totally like them. Remember that everyone is a human being who deserves equal respect. Play time is a learning experience, so give them the tools that they need to learn as much as they can about the world from the beginning.