It is essential that children see themselves reflected not only in the world around them, but also in the toys they are exposed to, starting from a young age. For many kids, one of their first toys is a doll, and it can help them relate to who they are in their environment. And while popular brands like Barbie have been around for decades, they have been limited in the kinds of toys and accessories they have sold. What they have historically had available represented the majority, which leaves out many of the children who play with their toys. The most readily available versions didn’t represent diversified skin tones or abilities.
However, the manufacturers of Barbie, Mattel, recognized that there was and is still a need to grow their lines beyond the typical blond hair and blue-eyed doll from 1959. The brand has evolved, and currently, there are 176 dolls, nine body types, 35 skin tones, 94 hairstyles and 22 eye colors.
Even though skin tones have been improved, what about kids with other differences, such as hearing aids, feeding tubes, surgical scars or cleft lip?
Luckily, one mom saw that there was a need and decided to launch an Etsy shop that sells disability-inclusive dolls and accessories. BrightEars from the Kids Activities blog was started by Clare, a mother of two girls. Her youngest, Matilda, is deaf and wears bilateral hearing aids. Clare wanted Matilda to have a doll that looked like her, so she decided to make one herself.
The Etsy shop celebrates children with a range of abilities and special needs. This handmade doll with a cleft lip sells for $46.45.
There’s also a doll with a nasogastric tube.
These dolls seem like a meaningful way to celebrate the differences that make each of us unique. We can only imagine how delighted a child would be to receive a doll that reflects his or her own reality.
If you’re ordering one of these dolls for a special occasion, you’ll want to plan ahead, as BrightEars is located in the United Kingdom. Plus, the brand warns customers that though they ship to the United States, mail orders may take longer than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic.