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Why bother buying multicultural toys?
For two reasons, kids need to see and interact with people and images that look like them and others that don’t.
Reason 1: Kids need exposure to similar and different.
That is how they learn to broaden their worldview, their view of what is normal.
Do me a favor-head over to your chid’s toy chest. What color of skin do the dolls have? What about the superheroes? Are there any multicultural images floating around in that sea of plastic?
Chances are your toys are pretty one size fits all. I know ours are. The problem is, the world isn’t.
Reason 2: Kids learn through play.
Here’s the thing- kids learn through play. They form their views of the world, what is normal, what is right, through play. If all their toys all look the same way, that becomes their normal. We need to teach our children that “normal” comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors.
The Family Guide has some great advice about the importance of Multicultural Toys. Here are just a few quotes from their article:
“The sooner your child learns that people are unique and special in their own way, the better. “
“If they only see dolls and toys that look like them, they will find it difficult to accept others that look different… Playtime 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. “
So, instead of adding just another toy to your child’s collection, will you join me in shopping with intention? Let’s give our children the tools they need to become culturally aware from the start.
Where Can I find Multicultural Toys?
Although finding multicultural books and toys takes a little more digging than just heading to Walmart and picking the first thing you find off the shelf, the wonders of Amazon puts multicultural toys them within reach. In fact, you can click here to find the best multicultural toys on Amazon.
The Best Multicultural Toys for Babies
What kinds of toys do babies need?
Babies??!! But babies don’t even really play with toys. You’re right. Their most important and valuable toys are people.
At the newborn stage, they are just beginning to distinguish sounds and colors. They will be more interested in staring at your face and listening to your voice than anything else. However, by around three months in they may begin to have an interest in holding and shaking a rattle or looking at the images in a book as you read to him or her. According to WebMD, baby toys should promote a sensory experience or involve some kind of human interaction.
These plush sensory babies are the perfect first multicultural toy for your baby. Each soft doll makes a different sound (a sensory experience), to draw in even the youngest of multicultural kids. The dolls’ clothing has a variety of textures to give your little one something to touch and explore. While you play together, you can talk to your child about the origins and traditions of the babies. It is never to early to talk and tell your baby stories!
If you’d like your baby’s cuddly friends to look a little more realistic, consider this set of multicultural buddies to keep your baby company. (This is also a great gift for brothers and sisters to be to help them practice caring for and holding their future siblings.)
Finger puppets are my favorite travel buddy ever. They are small and compact but they will keep your child entertained for hours. Seriously, you might just want to keep these in the diaper bag. Place them on your fingers and make up a new multicultural version of the finger family song and you are good to go.
The Best Multicultural Toys for Toddlers
What kind of toys do toddlers need?
Before we jump into the recommendations, let’s talk about toddlers for a second. What kinds of toys do toddlers need? (By need I mean what kinds of toys will help them grow and develop.) Zero to Three (an amazing resource for parents of toddlers) has some great tips:
- Open-ended toys that you can use in a variety of ways.
- Toys that will last and can grow with your child.
- Anything that sparks your child’s imagination. (Hence why that cardboard box the toy came in is sometimes the best part.)
- Toys that encourage problem-solving (like the puzzle below).
- Something that looks like the real thing (like the play food).
- Active toys.
- Toys you can play with together. Yes, your child needs you to play too.
Multicultural Toys for Toddlers
Food and culture are very intertwined. I will never forget my husband’s horror when my son’s preschool teacher begged us to send “kid food” instead of the rice, beans, and chicken with a side of avocado that my son happily gobbled up at home. He had no idea what “kid food” meant. In Mexico, and most other places in the world, kids eat what adults eat. If your kid lives off of chicken nuggets and french fries (not that there is anything wrong with that, this is a judgment-free zone), maybe this set of multicultural foods will encourage him or her to broaden culinary horizons.
This beautiful wooden puzzle not only shows a variety of cultures and ethnicities but it is also helping your child develop fine motor skills and practice spatial reasoning by learning to fit the pieces together correctly. A good wooden puzzle is a must-have in every household.
Why are puppets so fun? They can transform any mood, lesson or moment. Just slip your hand inside and puppet, make a silly voice and all is well with the world. These puppets introduce children to different careers and different ethnicities at the same time.
The Best Multicultural Toys for Preschoolers
What kinds of toys are best for preschoolers?
According to NAEYC, preschoolers like to talk, ask lots of questions (I can attest to that truth), spend time with friends, and play games where they always win (I may have paraphrased that a bit). For preschoolers, we should look for toys that:
- Allow for pretending, building or creativity.
- Encourage problem-solving.
- Get them moving (using their small and large muscles.
Multicultural Toys for Preschoolers
You may think that preschool is too young to talk about race and skin color, but three was the exact age my son came home from school horrified that in the summer his skin was browner than some of his friends (you can read that story here). Kids are observant. If we don’t teach them how to see the world and themselves, someone else will. Don’t let your child feel left out of the crayon box. Let their works of art represent the world in all the beautiful colors instead of just white, black and brown.
By age three, your child will have lost interest in the baby version of multicultural dolls. These diverse dolls are the perfect replacement. They are still soft and cuddly and dressed in brightly colored traditional clothing from the countries they represent. Get out a globe and travel the world alongside your little one!
If your child already has more dolls than you know what to do with, how about giving their wardrobes a makeover? These outfits from China, India, Europe, and Africa fit most 16-18 inch dolls.
Now that your child is a bit older, it’s time to up your puzzle game too. This puzzle not only exposes your child to the world but also to different animals and where they live (now we are adding science to the mix!). This wooden puzzle will be durable enough to withstand play sessions for years to come.
An embracing diversity sidenote
I love this diverse abilities figure set. Embracing diversity isn’t just about embracing other races, ethnicities and cultures, it is about embracing anything and anyone who doesn’t look and act just like you. Exposing our children to people with diverse abilities through play is a great way to foster empathy and acceptance in our children.
It also gives you the opportunity to explain why the girl has an eye patch and a cane or the boy is sitting in a chair. If you’d like to learn more about how to advocate for and talk to your children about special needs, Heather Avis is one of my favorite advocates for children with different abilities. If you haven’t read her book Scoot Over and Make Some Room, add it to your reading list ASAP.
The Best Multicultural Toys for School Age
What kinds of toys are best for school-age children?
At this age, your child is starting to develop his or her own interests. Allow him or her to explore, try to new things and experiment. Try out musical instruments, crafts, science experiments, extracurricular activities, etc. At the same time, don’t feel pressure to make your child do it all. He or she still needs downtime at home with you. Don’t let your relationship be all about running around to the next thing. Stop and have fun together.
Multicultural Toys for School-Age Children
Although the manufacturer says this is for ages 3 months and up, I don’t see anyone below the age of five being too interested in these language cards. However, future polyglots will love learning to say hello in 60 different languages.
For your musically inclined child, how about introducing him or her to music of the world? This bongo is absolutely beautiful. It is covered in images of diversity. This could toy could be great for anyone over the age of three…but a school-aged child may be more likely to play music that is pleasing to your ears instead of just sporadic banging at all hours of the day and night. If you wanna risk it, go for it momma.
Here’s a new spin on memory. This is a matching game with faces of children from around the world. You could up the challenge and have your kids match the person with a country as well.
Dear toy manufacturers, can you please make some multicultural superheroes? I searched high and low. They don’t exist. If anyone finds some, please let me know!
Shop with Intentionality
Although the mainstream toys you’ll find in the Holiday catalogs won’t look like the ones above, intentionally adding multicultural toys to your child’s life will help him or her begin to learn to openly accept people who don’t look exactly like he or she does or have the same abilities. We all want to raise children who see people as people, regardless of the color of their skin or origin of birth. The first step is exposure. Go ahead and diversify that toy box, your child will thank you.