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.
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 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.
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.
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:
- Best Friends Mia Doll
- First Baby Doll Cream
- Little Plush Bunny Cocoa
- Backpack/Lunchpack/Snackpack of choice
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.