Having a variety diverse toys representing different races, cultures, gender expressions, and abilities is so important! For children who are a part of majority groups (like white, cisgender, or able-bodied) often times grownups lean towards giving these kids toys and books featuring children that look like them. While this is often well intended, is also important to expose kids to different kids of people early on. This helps reduce biases and just helps kids have a broader I understanding of the world. It also helps normalize these marginalized identities for children and helps open up dialogue about issues like gender, disability, culture, and race. I’ve curated a list of some examples of great purchases you can make to help diversify your playroom or classroom.
Click on either the name of the product or image to be linked to a website where you can purchase the item. We tried to link to the creator and not third party retailers and avoid Amazon when possible. Ideally, we promote buying from local small businesses, especially ones owned by folks from marginalized communities!
DOLLS AND FIGURINES
Dolls and Figurines are a great way to expose your kiddos to different kinds of people! Here are our top picks for the best dolls and figurines for diversifying your play space!
This is a great set of six soft baby dolls in a variety of skin tones. Especially useful for classrooms and daycares, but also a nice addition to a home playroom as well.
These hard dolls by Lakeshore Learning come in four different ethnicities. They also sell a set of adaptive equipment for the dolls including a service dog, a walker, hand crutches, a wheelchair, a protective helmet, glasses, and hearing aids. The links will lead you to the full set, but you can also buy the dolls and equipment individually on Lakeshore’s website.
AMERICAN GIRL DOLLS & ADAPTIVE EQUIPMENT ADD-ONS
American Girl Dolls are a classic! Although they only offer “girl” coded dolls, they do sell dolls with short hair. They offer a variety of skin tones, hair colors, and hairstyles as well as Dolls With No Hair. and Dolls with Hearing Aids You can buy a premade doll or create your own! They also offer an impressive variety of add-ons including a Wheel Chair, Diabetes Kit, Arm Crutches, Service Dog and Vest, Asthma and Allergy Set
Mattel recently released a line of diverse “Fashionista” dolls. There are 176 dolls in total with 9 body types, 35 skin tones, and 94 hairstyles. While the body types tend to still read as skinny (aside from the “curvy” model”), in general these dolls do a good job. They include dolls who are a wheelchair users, a doll with a prosthetic leg, a doll without hair, and a doll with vitiligo. Definitely a step in the right direction if your kid is a fan of traditional Barbies or Barbie-style dolls.
These Barbie-esque dolls feature a variety of skin tones and hairstyles. They are also made to have a fuller, more realistic body type. They are a great alternative to Barbie for folks who may not be fans of Mattel and for folks who want to support a black-owned business.
These are my absolute favorite out of all of the “Barbie style” dolls. Also created by Mattel, these Creatable World dolls each come with a short hair and long hair option as well as a variety of traditionally “masculine” and “feminine” clothing. The reason I love these so much is they allow kids to explore gender expression! While they are not particularly body diverse, I think these do a great job and could also open the door to talking about trans and gender issues with kiddos as well as help the trans and gender-non-conforming kiddos in your life feel represented!
These are great for younger kids who like the “Little People” style toys. This collection features five kids with varying ethnicities and abilities. A great way to start conversations about disabilities with young kids.
These hand-painted peg-dolls from Etsy Seller Rainbow Peg Dolls are a fun alternative to traditional dolls! This set features kids of varying abilities and of various racial and cultural backgrounds. They also make many other kinds of peg-dolls in their shop so be sure to check them out.
My Family Builders are building blocks that you can use to create diverse people and families. There are adult and children-sized blocks and they come in a variety of skin tones. There are heads, torsos, and legs that can be mixed and matched to create endless combinations!
These paper dolls from Etsy seller Joy Creating area great alternative to traditional paper dolls. The gender-neutral bases come in four skin tones, two body types. There are also bases with prosthetic legs and some with wheelchairs. The sets come with a large variety of clothing and accessories. Just know before you buy them that these were initially intended for digital use so they do not come with tabs and some of the accessories will be too small to cut out and use. This was not a problem for me as I laminated and used magnets for them, but if you wanted to use tabs, you could easily just cut out your own!
These reusable stickers from My Family Builders are a favorite with the kids I nanny! They stick to many surfaces including walls and windows. We like to play with them on the windows personally! They include a variety of heads, tops, and bottoms that can be mixed and matched for over 10,000 combinations of unique people and families!
GAMES & PUZZLES
Games are another great way to showcase different kinds of people. Here are our favorite games for featuring diverse kiddos and families.
This matching game is a great way to expose kids to what some kids from all over the world might look like!
This is another great matching game featuring the faces of all different kinds of children! A great way to show kids the diversity amongst people!
This is a cute little puzzle featuring famous women from around the globe. As an extension activity, it could also be fun to research these women together!
These flashcards feature an affirmation for every letter of the alphabet! The illustrations feature diverse kiddos as well!
This is a fun game that combines recognition and building skills. Using a wheel, you build different people and families.
This is a fun cooperative game for kids. They each get a board with different kids who need help with different things, Then you pull tokens from a bag and see if anyone needs help with that thing. Illustrations feature diverse children and the game helps build social-emotional skills.
by Maya Gonzalez
This deck of cards is truly phenomenal! It comes with up to six games to play including memory, matching, and sorting games, but the potential is limitless! The cards help dismantle gender stereotypes and teach kids that all kinds of people can use all kinds of pronouns! We highly recommend this one! And definitely check out Maya Gonzalez’s books about gender and pronoun as well.
Another great game from the folks at My Family Builders! The game features cards with families of various make-ups as well as individuals. Each player gets a family card and the goal is to find all of the members of your family first! Families featured are diverse in make up, skin tone, and ability! A great one for teaching kiddos about different kinds of families.
Having play food from a variety of cultures is a great way to diversify play! If you’re even a little crafty and have some felt, there are lots of easy ways to make different kinds of foods. I will show you some of my favorite products, as well as some things you can easily make at home!
This is a great set of play food from the people at Lakeshore Learning. The plastic food play set includes traditional foods from Italy, China, Japan, and Mexico. A good one shot option for teaching kids about the foods of various cultures.
MELISSA & DOUG MULTICULTURAL PLAY FOODS
Melissa & Doug have a few higher quality food play sets. There is a wooden sushi set, a Mexican set where you can fill your own tortillas, and an Italian set with a variety of pasta. If you have the money, these are worth investing in! They are really well made and long lasting.
FELT PLAY FOOD (FROM VARIOUS ETSY SELLERS)
These play felt food sets from various Etsy sellers are great options for multi-ethinc food play! I’ve chosen these both for quality and affordability, although these hand-made sets don’t tend to come cheap. I;ve included and Italian pasta set, a Mexican set with tacos, burritos, and nachos, a Japanese set with Sushi, and a Chinese Dim Sum set.
MAKE YOUR OWN!
These are some examples of no-sew foods I have made with just some felt, (stuffing for some of them), and hot glue! They’re super easy to make and fun for kiddos! For the sushi I used cotton balls!
Another thing to consider in keeping art supplies around in a variety of skin tones. Crayons just came out with a great new set of crayons and they also have paints in various skin tones as well. You can also buy packs of paper, face cutouts, and body cutouts in different skin tones as well. When I was a classroom teacher, I would allow the kids to pick the color they felt most closely matched their skin tone. I would never comment on the kids choices even if they picked a color that was wildly different from their skin tone. Here are some of my favorite arts and crafts products that come in different skin tones!
This is a great set of 24 crayons form Lakeshore Learning in a multitude of skin colors. This set was around before the newer Crayola Colors of the World set, so I like to promote supporting them!
This newer set from Crayola is an updated and more comprehensive version of their older “Multicultural Crayons”. The set features 24 crayons in varying skin tones.
Crayola also carries washable paints in various skin tones as well for all your painting projects!
These people cutouts are another great option for craft supplies to keep handy. They come in 12 different skin tones!
Another great craft option, especially for the classroom or daycare setting! These foal face cutouts feature eight skin tones. They can be decorated and used for many different kinds of projects!
Out final recommendation for art supplies is Pacon’s Multicultural Construction Paper. It comes in two different sizes, 9×12 and 12×18. There are five different skin tones. They also offer a ten skin tone variety, but it is unfortunately harder to find, which is why I linked the five skin tone one here. Pacon is known for having heavyweight construction paper that does not fade in the sun. These can be used for all kinds of projects like self portraits, hand cut outs, or really anything you can imagine!