Why I Want My Kids to Have Toys that Look Like Them

I’m pretty sure third grade is when Barbie dolls were all the rage. I may have even had one stuck in the middle of my cake at my roller skating rink birthday party. Most of my gifts were dolls and rarely did any of them look like me. Did I care? Nope.

I played with the dolls until their limbs fell off, and sometimes even long after. I brushed their hair and styled them in the bathtub. I didn’t realize it at the time but a lot of those toys, along with the people I was surrounded by at school, influenced the way I saw myself.

My curly hair seemed unruly and messy compared to the slick shiny hair of my dolls. My eyes seemed so dark and boring. The “pretty dolls” I was gifted looked nothing like me. Therefore, was I not pretty?

While I didn’t take it to that literal equation (though self-conscious, I was always a pretty confident child) I altered the way I looked to match beauty standards. I straightened my hair, and even wore contacts–not to see better, but to change the color of my eyes.

As an adult, connecting all the dots, and becoming a mother to a little girl, I knew right off the bat we were going to do things differently. She’d see herself represented in books, movies and toys in ways I never did. I’ve made this a priority.

Apple Park Organic Toys Review

I applaud companies that also recognize the need for more diverse toys. Apple Park has long been a brand promising products that are safe for children, better for the environment and always beautifully green. But beyond creating soft baby clothes, and toys made from organic materials, they’re also aware of the importance of creating more toys that represent a wider rainbow of children.

Their newest Best Friend’s doll named Mia has a dark skin tone, braidable pigtails and to my daughter’s delight–a removable dress.

Apple Park Organic Toys New Mia Doll Review

Apple Park sent us one of their new dolls and Lil’ J was so excited to open hers, and a matching one she insists is for her baby sister. I explained how this was a new doll, and their first that looked like her, to which she interpreted to mean it’s a special doll made in her image. I haven’t had the heart to tell her otherwise yet. But I do love watching her embrace dolls, toys and characters who look more like her than most toys I played with as a little girl.

In the 1940s, a study looking into the effects of segregation by psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark found that black children not only overwhelmingly preferred white dolls, but they also had negative perceptions of black dolls. I saw these dolls in the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. It broke my heart reading how children didn’t want to play with the dolls with darker skin. The “doll test” was cited in the 1954 Supreme Court caseBrown vs. Board of Education, which led to desegregation.

Apple Park Organic Toys New Mia Doll Review

It’s important for every child to see themselves in a positive light, and to see the beauty in diversity in the world. That begins with the toys they play with and the books that they read. I’ve seen the difference it’s made in my daughter’s life and it gives me hope that we’ve come a long way and that things will continue to get better.

Our little girl on the way also has a super soft and snuggly first baby doll ready for her and I hope it’s a gift she cherishes a long time.

Apple Park Organic Toys New Mia Doll Review


CLOSED– Winner: Entrant #12 Heather

What a week you guys. Not one, but two giveaways for you! First off, Apple Park has a slew of adorable baby and children’s toys and items from books and blankets to dolls and backpacks. Use my code JB20 to get 20% off your Apple Park purchase from May 22nd until May 31st.

Now for the giveaway. One reader will win an Apple Park Prize pack filled with the sweetest goodies. This prize pack has a retail value of $150 and will include these items or items of a similar value:

To enter just leave a comment with letting me know what item you love on their website. Giveaway closes next Thursday night May 31st at 11:59pm.

Big thanks to Apple Park for being today’s blog sponsor.

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Adrienne says:

The girls are talking about skin tone more right now, especially as summer approaches. My very fair daughter is starting to tan, and they all think it’s weird. They also have a new cousin and one of their first questions were “Does she look like us or is she like Daddy?” I like that they think of skin tone on a spectrum and not black and white.


Janelle says:

I have two daughters that love to play with dolls. I only buy dolls that look like them for the same reason. The Mia doll is very cute!

Jennifer karol says:

I like this one. My twin boys love babies and need a doll to snuggle too. Gotta get them to be good daddies one-day.


Alice Anne says:

How cute are their plush teething toys! The little snails and turtles and baby birds coming out of a shell. Eeee!

Thank you for sharing. Like you, I also wore the contacts and straightened my hair. Thankfully, my daughter has me too look up too now and she will now that she is beautiful just the way she is kinky hair and black-eyed. This item is nice for back to school: http://www.applepark.com/backpacks-lunchpacks/backpacks/eco-friendly-big-kid-backpack-purple-owl.html

Alexandra macdonald says:

Absolutely love everything on this site! Can’t beat an infant doll, though…First Baby Doll (Cream).


Allison says:

It wasn’t hard finding many favorite items from Apple Park, but my most favorite is the cocoa plush bunny. It is so adorable.

Heidi says:

The backpacks look so cute and adorable, especially this raccoon who looks like he’s ready for a hug!

Nona C says:

I absolute love the MIA doll. She’s so sweet and her two natural ponytails! I love her!

Heather says:

I love the Mia doll and the My First baby doll. My baby girl is only 3 months old, but I think it would be great for her. I wish the toddler dolls also included ones with darker skin tones. They would be great for my son.


Danielle says:

Jennifer, so many of our thoughts and memories from childhood are similar. From the hair straightening to the dolls, and most in between. I’m so glad to see the growing diversity in toys. Not that I would have only played with dolls and toys that looked like me, I would have appreciated having a variety, and playing with dolls that looked like my rainbow group of friends.

I love all of the dolls, but my favorite piece from Apple Park is an abstract onesie! It’s so cute! http://www.applepark.com/essential-organic-onesie-abstract-dawn.html

Thank you for sharing so much of your life with us. I’ve been a reader of your blog since before Lil J was born, and you are truly a gem. Thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts and shedding light on things that so many can relate to. God bless you and your family! Thank you for this giveaway.

Abigail Gibson says:

I really like the Eco-friendly Lunchpack – Raccoon.

Tari Lawson says:

I also like the City Pals Plush Toy – Bettina Bunny.

kathy Persons says:

I love their line of Organic Farm Buddies since we are farmers~

Frank Lee says:

Farm buddies of course

barbg says:

They are all adorable but I love the bunny plush cocoa.

Sara Perrera says:

The Woodland soft blocks are too cute!

Kelly D says:

I love the Woodland Pals Plush Fawn.

Donna Jacoby says:

I like the Lamby Soft Teething Toy. Thank you for the giveaway!

Donna Woods says:

My favorite is he pirate pig activity blanket but they have so many wonderful things that my grandson would love.

Natalya Rus says:

I love the baby dolls with the matching bunny ! Had my first girl 5 months ago and I think it’s time to buy a few dolls 🙂

Jennifer Barr says:

i like the Organic Playground Pals Plush Little Spring Bunny – Pink

Rebecca Joiner says:

I love the cocoa plush bunny

Karley Moore says:

I love all the adorable toys, but my favorite item is the Essential Organic Onesies. They offer so cute patterns and they are fabulous for everyday wear!

Leslie Davis says:

Organic Patterned Plush Pink Floral Bunny All their toys are just adorable!

kathy pease says:

I love the Hip Hop Bunny – Blankie

Ed says:

I heart the raccoon backpacks!

Paula Hafner says:

I love the Fabric Teething Ring – Raccoon Girl.

Julieh says:

I love the crawling birdie teething toy. It is so precious.

Brenda Elsner says:

I love the Mia doll!!!

Alexandra Y says:

I like their blankies.

Wendy R. says:

You are right, adorable!! How cute is their crawling snail teether too!?!? And I love the fox Eco-friendly Snackpack!

Jenny Q. says:

I love the little plush cocoa bunny.

susan smoaks says:

i love the Organic Playground Pals Plush Little Spring Lamby – Pink

Breanne says:

I love the Organic Plush Teething Toy – Raccoon – http://www.applepark.com/baby-toys/organic-plush-teething-toy-raccoon.html

Alison says:

I love the raccoon eco-friendly snackpack.

Cassia says:

Love reading your blog. Makes me know that I’m not alone dealing with issues/situations like these having biracial children! Although the Organic Best Friends – Mia doesn’t look like my kids, she’s certainly super cute and closer than the Barbies (-_-) that have been gifted to us. It’s a ‘Yay!’ for Mia! I also find the Essential Organic Onesie in Gift Box – Purple Cloud super cute!

beth beth casey says:

all of their stuff is super cute but ill pick this Crawling Birdie Teething Toy – pink birdy

Peggy Rydzewski says:

The City Pals Plush Toy – Allistor Alligator would be great for my 9 month old grandson to grow with.

Laurie Emerson says:

I love the purple musical turtle. It is so adorable.

DaniV says:

I like the organic pacifier buddies – frenchy fox

Beverly Metcalf says:

Love their site. The toys are really cute. I think my little granddaughter would love the Best Friends Mia Doll. Thanks for having the contest!

email login says:

I love this idea! I remember the dolls I was gifted when I was a kid, they are all blonde, fair skin tone, blue eyes, nothing look like me.

Vanessa says:

Hey everyone! I just found this great box from Walmart – only $5 and it comes with really great products and coupons for each stage of your baby’s life. I signed up here: https://babybox.walmart.com/ Just got my first box and I loved it!

Olivia Ava says:

seriously this shake me a lot. form now I will bring toys that looks like my fairy

Sara says:

I would love this for my daughter! She’s one soon and it’d be a perfect 1st Birthday present!! The Best Friends Mia Doll is my favorite, but all adorable.

So cool just like the love letter you wrote to your unborn baby. I will have to share this one with Granny Baby because it is so positive. It is similar to what the Proctor and Gamble brand did with a video that encourages #TheTalk.

Tom Hanks says:

For what age groups would you recommend these toys? My daughter is age six. She has enjoyed Snap Circuits Jr since last year. Do you feel these other toys will last for a while at her age? Thanks!!

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Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget


I'm a former journalist, and lifelong creator striving to make the world a better place. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day by cherishing our individuality and celebrating our differences.

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