“I believe children’s toys should reflect the outside world and be as diverse as they can be. It’s important to have a doll that feels representative of the child who plays with it, to develop self-worth. A doll that represents different ethnicities and cultures nurtures awareness and acceptance,” explain Minako Suzuki Lowe, founder of BOKUNO .
At the heart of her collection is diversity, inclusivity and equality. Her collection of fun, practical and skilfully crafted goods, sold via her Etsy
With an almost-infinite range of toys available, is enough being done to encourage representation?
It’s often new parents, when purchasing items for their children, who discover that clothes, books and toys don’t represent their child or family and some decide to do something about it.
Sharon McBean created a product, Nia Ballerina back 2017 after seeking out a representative toy for her daughter proved impossible.
As she explains on their website “My mother had bought my daughter a music box, however the ballerina figurine did not resemble my daughter! I wanted my daughter to have a music box with a ballerina that looked like her, and had presumed music boxes with black ballerinas were readily available. I searched for about 18 months worldwide but was unable to find any musical jewellery boxes containing black ballerina figurines so made the decision to create my own. ”
#ToyLikeMe was established in April 2015 after writer and journalist Rebecca Atkinson noticed the lack of positive disability representation in toys. Rebecca outlines on their website, “As someone who had grown up wearing hearing aids, I remembered first hand how it felt to be a child who never saw themselves represented by the mainstream and what that can do to a child’s self esteem. To exclude in the toy box teaches ALL children it’s OK to exclude in real life.”
Her claim is backed by research by Dr. Sian Jones at Queen Margaret’s that found “that after playing with disabled toys for just 3 minutes, children develop a more positive friendship attitude towards their peers with disabilities.” Demonstrating just one of the many important reasons why representation in toys matters.
Minako, founder of BOKUNO explains that when creating her collection at first she “only made animals or imaginary creatures. This was because I didn’t know what skin colour I should make if I made a human. As ethnic minority in this country (I am Japanese), I really didn’t know what should be the colour to start with. I didn’t feel comfortable to prioritise any race”.
She adds “I started Gnome collection in 2018. They are humanoids, so it was my first step to tackling this dilemma. I made them genderless with no facial hair, ageless and offered 6 skin tones, including Vitiligo and Albino. I was a little disappointed that 90% of orders were light skin for the first 8 months or so but it all changed in June 2019 when #blacklivesmatter came under a spotlight. I started to receive so many orders for dark colour Gnomes since then and it continues to be the most popular gnomes to date”.
This spurred her on to create a larger diverse range. “Three years on and BOKUNO’s Top Knot Girl collection started out with 3 dolls, Millie with freckles, Mollie and Minnie with mid to dark skin. The demand is high and the range more and more diverse.”
With more customers understanding the importance of and demanding better representation amongst the toys that they purchase, now is the perfect time for all businesses to consider how they address this within their own product assortment.
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