It shouldn't be so hard for little kids to find dolls that look like them. Whether it's because they share the same skin tone, hair shade or eye color, small children usually find it thrilling to have a silent buddy to whom they can relate even on just a surface level.
American Girl makes it pretty easy to find dolls that share features with many girls (even if American Girl isn't quite as easy on the girls' parents' wallets). There have been Barbies over the years that aren't actually blonde (although not too many). What happens, though, when all the colors align, but what's incongruous is something completely different?
Children with disabilities are often hard-pressed to find dolls with birth marks, (purposefully) missing limbs or other prominent physical characteristics that are essentially foreign to children who only know life with good hearing and vision, and with 10 fingers and toes, two arms and legs.
A recent social media campaign directed at the toy industry, Toy Like Me, implored manufacturers to start including all children when designing dolls, not just the ones who traditionally have a place on toy store shelves. Fortunately a British company listened and is aiming to elevate the expectations of children with disabilities via a new line.
'I just want everyone to feel good about themselves no matter if they have something 'wrong with them.' -Anja Busse, 11
According to Kveller, Makies is launching a line of dolls with disabilities. Whether it's a seeing-eye dog, feeding tube, glasses, walking aids, wheelchairs, birthmarks or a missing limb, 3D technology will allow the dolls to be uniquely customized, including appropriate accessories, to closely resemble its new owner.
The movement for a wider range of doll types isn't new. Not long ago American Girl announced it would start selling diabetic care kits for its dolls beginning this month. The move was prompted in 2014 by an 11-year-old girl recently diagnosed with diabetes who said via a Change.org petition, "I feel so different now and my whole life has been turned around. I want to have diabetic accessories for my American Girl doll so she is just like me. I just want everyone to feel good about themselves no matter if they have something 'wrong with them.' Whether they have a disability, blindness, deaf, diabetes and so much more! It's important to feel good about yourself! No matter who you are!"
Jen Reeves, founder of the blog Born Just Right, and mom to Cameron and Jordan, whose left arm stops at the humerus, has been working hard to make even more dolls representative of even more kids.
"If I lived in a dream world," Reeves told Mom.me, "all three of those brands would take physical differences under consideration when creating products."
Beyond the playroom, Reeves would also like to see playground manufacturers be more "mindful" of children with limb differences.
"I would love for all of us to think about the traditional elements of when children learn how to interact with each other, and find ways to make it more inclusive," she said. "All kids need a chance to learn about physical and developmental differences at a young age."
While there might not be as many kids who need dolls with special accommodations, the point is that all kids may want to play with dolls that look like themselves—or like people they know or see, not all of whom fit into the same mold.
Makie's goal, according to BrightSide.me, is "a more positive representation of children through their toys [that] will help make our society more inclusive, and kids with disabilities will stop trying to follow the impossible and unnatural 'beauty standards' and standards of conformity which we're all used to when they get older."