20 Diverse and Multicultural Toys to Encourage Inclusivity
Kids are like little sponges that soak up everything in the world around them. Your child might not be able to discuss the latest C-SPAN hearing just yet (and really, who can?) but in general, kids are far more perceptive and incisive than we give ‘em credit for—and they are learning everything from what they witness and what they play with. So, should you include multicultural toys in your kid’s growing collection of playthings? Absolutely. We spoke to Dr. Bethany Cook, child psychologist and author of For What It’s Worth: A Perspective on How to Survive and Thrive Parenting Ages 0-2, to better understand the role toys play in developing a child’s understanding of the world, and the message was clear—just like representation in every realm, multicultural toys matter.
“Toys from other cultures offer parents a fun and appealing way to teach their children about diversity and begin to instill in them a passion for the new and novel,” which in turn helps children “develop an understanding that there is more than one way of doing, being, thinking and playing.” Remember, too, that play is not a frivolous endeavor for children: In fact, the doctor says it plays a pivotal role in creating “positive feelings of connection” in the form of neural pathways that kids rely on “to build relationships with people and ideas that are different from them in the future.” So now that we’ve settled the ‘why’ question, let’s move onto the ‘what’: Here are some of the best multicultural toys around to help introduce your little to concepts of inclusivity and neighborly love.
1. Wooden Children of the World Racial Cognition Dress-up Puzzle
Introduce little kids to different cultures and incorporate the spectrum of skin tones into play with a simple and cute puzzle that depicts happy kids from diverse backgrounds. The smiling faces and varied clothes make for an inviting aesthetic and the toy itself will help develop your toddler’s visual reasoning and fine motor skills as their hands and brains work to reassemble each three-piece character.
2. My Family Builders Friends Edition Diversity Building Block
This Parents’ Choice Award-winning interactive building set provides kids with endless possibilities for constructing a community of multi-racial characters with mix-and-match magnetic blocks. Little ones won’t tire of the toy since the blocks can be constantly combined into new arrangements. The opportunity for pretend play allows for a child-led exploration of diverse friendships, family dynamics and neighborhood roles, while ultimately opening the door to important, age-appropriate conversations about inclusivity.
3. Snuggle Stuffs Multiracial Diversity Plush Doll Set
Your child loves to play with dolls, but BFFs definitely don’t need to look the same. Get the message across with this multiracial pair of plush friends.
4. Crocodile Creek Children of the World Jigsaw Floor Puzzle
Puzzles are one of the best ways for children of all ages to hone valuable skills, including critical thinking, visual reasoning and hand-eye-coordination. Crocodile Creek jigsaws—with their durable, oversized pieces—are especially well-suited for younger kids. The Children of the World jigsaw is a sprawling floor puzzle featuring bold and beautifully colored artwork--an engaging challenge for three year-olds and preschoolers that ends with a powerful visual celebration of diversity.
5. My Family Builders Happy Family Card Game
Next family game night, have your kiddo try his hand at this fun, socially-conscious card game that aims to teach children about diversity in every form—touching on ethnic and cultural differences, as well as differently-abled people and gender-fluidity. The objective? Exposure, acceptance and of course, plenty of fun. This card game is a great way to bring kids to the table for big conversations and tons of entertainment.
6. The Conscious Kid Book Subscription
If you’re eager to dive into hot topics like race relations and social justice and don’t know how, do your research at the library. Better yet, do the research alongside your child with a carefully curated selection of socially conscious books delivered to your door. Each piece of reading material is age-appropriate and provides a helpful guide for teaching pertinent lessons and raising a good human.
7. JC Toys Lots to Love Babies with Different Skin Tones
When young children grow attached to and play with babies, they mimic the nurturing they receive at home from parents and it’s an invaluable exercise when it comes to empathy building. Add diversity to your mini’s selection of baby dolls with this four-piece set so he has an opportunity to demonstrate love and caring towards all people—those who look similar and those who don’t.
8. Crayola Multicultural Marker Class Pack
Scoop up this multicultural marker set from Crayola so your budding artist can draw self-portraits and pictures of friends that truly reflect the diversity. Okay, your babe may still just want to make you purple because that’s her favorite color—but it’s important to give kids the right materials so they can use art to represent the diversity they encounter in their own lives when they’re developmentally ready to do so.
9. Melissa and Doug Multicultural Family Puzzle Set
Expand your jigsaw collection and have your kiddo put his critical thinking skill to work and complete all six of these super cool 12-piece wooden puzzles. The reward? A sprawling, photorealistic depiction of six families from various ethnic backgrounds doing what families do. Oh, and a tremendous sense of accomplishment too, of course.
10. Kaplan Multicultural Friends Puzzles
Toddlers can get a multicultural education (because you can’t start too young) with this chunky nontraditional puzzle that allows growing minds to soak in a variety of figures from different ethnic backgrounds. Each piece features young people from diverse cultures, dressed in a style that represents their unique heritage...and they’re all ready to make new friends.
11. Crayola Multicultural Large Crayons
Same idea as the Crayola multicultural skin-tone markers, but friendlier for the tiniest tots. These crayons come in an extra-large size that helps young children grip ‘em without snapping them in two, so even the smallest artist-to-be can get creative with this supplement to the standard crayon box—one that delivers a diversified palette to boot.
12. eeBoo I never Forget a Face Memory Matching Game
Kindergarten kids and older can get in on the fun with this award-winning matching game which hones visual recognition and spatial memory skills. A diverse cast of faces make appearances throughout the game, promoting multicultural awareness while demanding your child’s full attention and concentration.
13. Queens of Africa Black Doll Bundle
This dress-up doll is infinitely more interesting than the rest (sorry, Barbie) because each doll in the Queens of Africa collection represents an authentic slice of culture. The clothing (both modern and traditional) is all designed to resemble genuine African textiles and every character comes with a unique story to share. This particular bundle includes the Nneka doll—who hails from the Igbo people, ethnic to Nigeria—as well as a powerful book that encourages kids to love themselves, embrace new cultures and grow up to be a positive force in the global community.
14. Friends and Neighbors: The Helping Game
A multicultural representation of neighbors takes center stage in this social-emotional learning game that helps kids (age 3+) connect with their own feelings and empathize with those of their peers, all while instilling invaluable lessons about cooperation and caring. Fun to play with a group but also incredibly helpful as a one-on-one, parent-child activity to start conversations and spark compassion in young kids.
15. Selma’s Dolls The Ameena Muslim Doll with Storybook
Forget about American Girl Dolls for a sec: Selma’s Dolls is a company that specializes in making plush friends that represent people with a variety of ethnic, religious and special-needs traits. Hand your child this Ameena doll, a sweet and loving muslim girl in hijab, and they’ll be fast friends. The book that comes along with it is also a useful tool when it comes to introducing concepts like cultural awareness, acceptance and the importance of friendships that transcend social constructs.
16. Remo Rhythm Club Conga Drum
You might want to reserve this item for older kids (‘cause the younger ones will likely drop beats until you’re in migraine territory). That said, if your kid likes to make sweet music, you should absolutely give her the gift of global influences with this groovy Conga drum. This beautifully constructed piece of African percussion is outfitted with an ornate, multicultural-themed covering. The end result? An instrument that looks and sounds just right.
17. Little People, Big Dreams Matching Game
In case you missed it, “Little People, Big Dreams” is an award-winning series of children’s books that focuses on inspirational women who accomplished big things as writers, scientists, artists and activists. Definitely buy and read the books to your babe, but also check out the matching game based on the reading material. (Note: Kids don’t have to be acquainted with the books to play the game.) Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Josephine Baker and Ella Fitzgerald are among the spectacular women that get the spotlight in this skill-sharpening activity, which celebrates diverse historical heroines of every stripe.
18. MyCoolWorld India! Diwali and Story of Prince Rama Craft Kit
Crafting meets imaginative play in these exciting kits, which seek to introduce kids of all ages to the global community with enchanting stories from different cultures. Get your kiddo to help you with the art project while you both absorb the fascinating story of Diwali and Prince Rama, which is honored every year in India with the Festival of Lights. Kids will be captivated by the story and the exposure to foreign traditions, and the crafting aspect is both simple and fun.
19. Marvel Education Friends with Diverse Abilities Play Set
Let your child lead his own exploration of inclusivity with this pretend play set that allows kids to work with characters with a range of different abilities. The possibility for imaginary play is open-ended and the representations of people communicate an important message of empowerment and open-mindedness.
20. Unokki Kalimba 17 Key Thumb Piano
Possibly the coolest instrument ever, the Kalimba (also known as a Mbira) is a traditional African thumb piano that turns out melodious tunes regardless of your child’s skill level. (In case you’ve grown tired of hearing high-pitched raspberries blown into a harmonica.) Best of all, this puppy is gorgeously crafted from mahogany and features engraved steel keys. The quality can’t be beat: This piece of African culture looks and sounds like a keepsake that will stick around through the college years.