"Among the first toys we buy for our girls, dolls can help young Latinas negotiate racial identity, develop a healthy self-image, and form a well-rounded worldview, says family therapist Maria Pilar Bratko, clinical director of the Women's Therapy Center in Berkeley, California. In a society that often devalues darker skin colors and natural hair textures, dolls that mirror our children "affirm that they exist," Bratko says. "When parents give a child a doll that looks like her, they're saying: 'There are people like you in the world. You matter just as much as anyone else....But don't let dolls be just about self-love. Use them to foster respect and understanding for people of all backgrounds, Dr. Gonzales says. "Make sure kids have a variety of dolls that reflect the world that we live in and should value." - How Important Are Ethnic Dolls? at Parents.
Children are absorbing everything in their environment and are trying to make sense of the world. This is why it's important that we provide accurate and diverse dolls. Children are looking for dolls they can identify with and that accurately reflect the world they live in.
Dolls can often be found in Montessori environments such as the home, afterschool care, playgroups and childcare centres. Ideally, we want anatomically correct dolls that can be bathed. In these environments, we also need to be careful to avoid unintended racial stereotypes and indirect or passive racism.
I was asked for recommendations for multicultural dolls for an 18-month-old. I don't have a lot of experience with dolls so I asked the How we Montessori readership on Facebook and here are a few of the suggestions. Thank you to everyone who left a comment or emailed!
1. Washable Baby Dolls - Lakeshore Learning. These are machine washable and have a soft body.
2. Lots to Love Babies - Kaplan Easy Learning.
5. Continent Clo - Colourful, soft African style dolls on Etsy.
6. Baby Stella - Manhattan Toys. Readers have mentioned these are nice and soft, perhaps for snuggling or sleeping with however the faces are stylized, their facial features and expressions are the same and the darkest skin colour is beige.
7. Little Muslim Dolls. Made by a mother who couldn't find dolls that represented her children - on Etsy.
Paola Reina Dolls. Made in Spain and also anatomically correct.
Rubensbarn Dolls. These are soft dolls that generally have the same facial features however, come in a large range of skin, eye and hair colours. Made in Sweden.
Steiner-Inspired Global Friendship Dolls - Dolls 4 Tibet "As children have the need to identify themselves with their most cherished doll, they might prefer one resembling their own features."
Tree Change Dolls. This is an Etsy store (next restock Feb) is about rescuing and rehabilitating dolls so that they reflect real children.
Nesting dolls are also an interesting way of exploring culture including Muslim and Indian nesting dolls. I also looked on Etsy for various skin toned peg dolls but couldn't find any. How about dolls with diverse abilities? Try Friends with Diverse Abilities Figure Set at Constructive Playthings or Adaptive Equipment for Dolls at Lakeshore Learning.
Want to know more about developing an environment in which diversity is valued? I found this article, Resources for Talking to Kids About Race and Racism at the Huffington Post really useful.
Does your school or childcare centre provide skin tone pencils, crayons or markers? We have the Lyra Skin Tone Giants and they really made a difference in the diversity and skin tone of the people in my children's drawings. Rather than everyone automatically being one colour it stimulates thought and provides the ability and stimulus for diversity.