Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Does everybody have blue eyes ?

My daughter was only 2 1/2 months at Christmas time but my mum still wanted to buy her first doll for her, a strange looking ' Tiny Tears ' doll just like the one I received for my first Christmas. Tiny is still in her box waiting for Sofia to get a little older so they can play together and in the meantime there is a large toy box that is beginning to burst at the seems already. When I had my daughter I didn't really think about what toys I would buy her, I just assumed I would pick things up as we went along, if me or Sofia seen something we liked. Over the last few months, however, I have been reading a few articles about not encouraging girls to wear pink clothes, buy pink toys or apparent gender specific toys such as dolls, kitchens, nurses outfits etc. The articles that I have read have raised questions in my mind about gender stereotypes and how I may come across some of these issues as Sofia grows up but ultimately I think I will let Sofia lead the way and if she wants pink then she can have pink or if she wants to play with a tractor then she can play with a tractor. That said I do know I need to play my part in encouraging a diverse range of toys and play that will allow Sofia to fit in well in the often complicated world we live in.

Last week, Sofia led the way and indicated that she would like a doll to play with now, whilst she waits to play with Tiny, as she took a liking to her cousins little friend when we were visiting last week.  So, off I went into town and headed to a large department store to see what I could find that would be suitable. As I have said, I do want to encourage diversity and with that in mind I thought that I would get Sofia a doll of a different ethnic origin. Educators and experts in the childcare field agree that toys, like dolls, can help children explore their personality and aid relationship building so a wide range of toys is encouraged. With this in mind I think it is essential to encourage children to have an awareness of different religions and cultures etc to help them be confident and happy in the big world we live in, enjoying the diversity is has to offer. It terms of buying toys, this was going to be much harder than I thought as I walked around the shop and scanned dozens of but eyed, blonde haired baby boys and girls ( along with some of the strange looking newborn dolls you can get) but low and behold not one doll with a different skin colour other than white. Thinking that it could be just the one shop I wondered around to another three high street shops, all of which had those lovely blue eyes staring but yet again no other options, to represent the worlds diversity. Now, It is not as if i live in a little town where there is not much choice; I live in a very big city that celebrates all oaks of life. 

Back home I immediately sent off an email to the shops I visited, asking why they had such a limited range of dolls. Up to now I still have not had a reply but if and when I do I suppose I will get a perfectly worded explanation that will not wash with me until we start to see a diverse range of stock in all stores. So, off to the internet it was, in search of a doll for little Sofia. I came across a few great sites but such as Nubidollz and Kids like me ; both of which have a wide range of dolls from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. You could question whether or not the dolls on the sites reinforce stereotypes but for me they allow the toy box to represent what we may see when walking down the street and every day and can only benefit our children's education. Through a wide range of toys, books, cultural days out and a wide variety of food from different countries we can all make our little ones children of the world. Our children's centres and schools are doing some great work to bring different cultures together and it is our job as parents to encourage the same, despite where the high street leads us.

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