Sweet Inclusion Stories for Valentine’s Day

Diverse Barbie Dolls

Long-anticipated Inclusive Toys Melt Our Hearts

This Valentine’s Day, we’re thinking about what makes our hearts go pitter-pat. The answer is easy. It’s inclusion for all, especially inclusive ideas and products that inspire our future leaders.

A few recent stories really resonate this month because they involve toys, specifically dolls. Dolls play an important role in helping children through play from very early ages. They make children feel more connected, appreciated, and supported. Until recently, many children were unable to play with dolls that looked like them in skin tone, body type, or physical disabilities. Finally, that is changing.

Three Sweet Inclusion Stories: Dolls that Reflect and Relate

A Doll Like Me

Child with a skin condition holding a doll from A Doll Like Me

All of these stories are important, but this is the one that has our heart. We first introduced you to “A Doll Like Me” in September of 2019. Our exciting partnership includes donation of dolls to celebrate new clients. We’re going strong, and constantly inspired by the loving work of A Doll Like Me founder Amy Jandrisevits.

This delightful nonprofit recognized that many children are able to see themselves in dolls used in therapy. But for many other children, this is not possible. Recognizing oneself in a doll can mean everything to a child. It reinforces their ability to face the world. That’s why Amy founded A Doll Like Me to help those who have never had the chance to see themselves represented in their toys. She makes each one by hand to reflect not just the disability, but also the likeness of the child.

It seems that mainstream doll-makers have taken notice, too.

Mattel’s Barbie™ Doll

Diverse Barbie Dolls

In June 2019, Mattel introduced two new Barbie™ dolls as part of its 2019 Barbie Fashionistas™ line.

One has a prosthetic leg and the other has a wheelchair. “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 statement, as reported in this CNN article.

More recently in January 2020, Mattel expanded its offering to be what it calls the “most diverse doll line.” It features “176 dolls with 8 body types, 35 skin tones and 94 hairstyles.” It also added more inclusive options, according to this CBS News article.

If a 61-year-old iconic toy made by a 75-year-old toy brand can take these steps, we think the potential for additional progress is huge. Kudos to Mattel for this innovative and inspiring progress toward greater inclusion!

American Girl™ Doll: Joss Kendrick

Joss Kendrick by American Girl Doll

The final sweet story features the American Girl™ 2020 Doll of the Year, Joss Kendrick. Joss is hard of hearing. She wears a single hearing aid and sometimes uses American Sign Language (ASL). “Since 2012, American Girl™ has offered a variety of accessories to their dolls, including hearing aids, a service-dog set, glasses, and a wheelchair. But Joss Kendrick is the first American Girl™ doll with a story that includes hearing loss,” according to a comprehensive article on hearinglikeme.com. Hearing Like Me is a news and lifestyle website for people whose lives are affected by hearing loss.

The depth of story American Girl™ brings to its characters makes this inclusion story relatable to a much broader audience. That’s because it covers Joss as a whole. And it reflects a realistic picture of what it’s like to have an impairment that often requires adjustment to and/or by the world around us.

Inspiration for Continued Progress

We hope you are inspired by these stories and that they spark your own ideas for creating a more inclusive environment for those around you. Together we can build a better world, both online in the digital realm and in our physical spaces.