Very Special People: These 8 toys crush stereotypes. Yay for raising inclusive humans!
Parents hoping to find toys that children want — and reflect the diversity of humans — can find more choices than ever.
Toy makers have made strides in becoming more inclusive, especially Barbie, long-criticized for holding girls to an unrealistic ideal of the female body. In the last year, Barbie's parent-company Mattel has caught up with independent doll makers and introduced a more diverse collection of dolls.
Other toys companies also have given parents options that go beyond "his" or "hers."
"They always say the toy industry is a trend industry and hopefully it’s not a trend," said Jackie Breyer, editorial director for Toy Insider. "But society is much more aware of inclusivity and it's becoming more more pervasive among everyone to be more aware of including everyone. And toys are following suit."
Companies that don't pay attention to diversity and inclusivity will get left behind and research supports this, said Dana Macke, associate director of the Lifestyles & Leisure team at Mintel, a marketing research company.
"Mintel data shows that nearly 9 in 10 parents say they worry about the world their kids are growing up in," Macke said. "If parents have a chance to make that world a little friendlier by getting toys their kids can relate to, this is worth paying for."
Here are some of those inclusive toys you can find on store shelves now—or are coming soon.
Last fall, Mattel introduced a line of gender-neutral dolls. Called Creatable World, children can customize the doll, which isn't limited by gender. "In our world, dolls are as limitless as the kids who play with them,” the company said on its website.
The toy kit comes with short hair and long hair options, six pieces of clothing, three pairs of shoes and two accessories that are both female-presenting and male-presenting.
The kit sells for $29.99 at retailers.
Deal Mattel in on another first. The company partnered with the National Federation for the Blind to bring the popular game to the blind by putting Braille on the corner of each card, marking the card's color and the number or action available.
The box also features Braille instructing players to a website to download Braille readable files. Voice-enabled instructions are available on Amazon's Alexa and Google Home voice-enable instructions.
The deck sells for $9.99.
Wonder Crew dolls
Wonder Crew creates dolls for boys. Created in 2015 by Massachusetts psychotherapist Laurel Wider, the dolls are aimed at encouraging boys to express kindness, empathy and other characteristics not encouraged in their other toys.
"I wanted to address the developmental needs of the whole child and move beyond the stereotypes," Wider told USA TODAY. "Toys have the power to teach. Want to decrease bullying? Teach empathy."
The Wonder Crew dolls sell for $29.99 wondercrew.com and on Amazon.
LEGO Audio and Braille Building Instructions
In September, the LEGO Group announced that it was adding building instructions in audio and Braille for four building sets.
The pilot program is starting with the following sets:
LEGO Bricks and Ideas LEGO Classic
LEGO Friends Emma's Art Shop
LEGO City Sky Police Drone Chase
The LEGO Movie 2 Emmet and Benny's 'Build and Fix' Workshop!
The hope is when the pilot wraps at the end of 2019, more instructions will be launched for more sets.
The instructions are free.
Barbie dolls that use a wheelchair, prosthetic limbs
Last summer, Barbie expanded its Fashionistas line to showcase dolls in a wheelchair and a removable prosthetic leg.
"As a brand, we can elevate the conversation around physical disabilities by including them into our fashion doll line to further showcase a multi-dimensional view of beauty and fashion," Mattel said in a news release.
The doll with wheelchair and ramp accessories sell for $19.99 at retailers. The doll with the prosthetic limb sells for $9.99.
Doll inspired by children with autism
Lottie Dolls offers a doll inspired by a boy with autism. The Loyal Companion doll comes with ear defenders to shut out noise and sunglasses to deal with light sensitivity. The doll play kit includes an astronaut's jumpsuit, another set of clothes, a companion dog named Cookie and more accessories.
Lottie Dolls, an Irish company, offers a host of dolls that highlight diversity, including the Mia doll, a wildlife photographer that also has a cochlear implant and the Sinead doll, the world's first doll with dwarfism.
The Hayden doll play set is $30. The Mia doll is $25. The Sinead doll is $20. All can be found at lottie.com or on Amazon.
Hasbro launched a new version of the iconic game in an attempt to address the gender pay gap.
Female players start the game with $1,900 in Monopoly Money and males with $1,500. The gap continues every time a player passes go with women collecting $240 and men $200. It remains possible that a boy wins the game.
The game is $19.99 and available at major retailers.
Plastic Army Women
After playing the iconic Green Army Men figurines, a 6-year-old girl wanted to play with female plastic soldiers.
She got her wish, when Pennsylvania company BMC Toys agreed to make Plastic Army women by Christmas 2020. When completed a pack of 24-figurines will include six different poses and should be available at bmctoys.com and on Amazon.
The line is available for pre-order at different price points on Kickstarter.