The turbulent year that was 2020 has taught us we need to do all we can to foster a world of inclusivity and empathy. As the holidays approach, and we’re starting to gift shop for the kids in our lives, it’s our chance to help them learn to celebrate the beautiful diversity in our world.
Kim West knows just how important this is. The Founder of Kids Swag, an online marketplace offering children’s toys, books, and lifestyle items that represent Black children, created her business after her Black daughter, who was two years old at the time, began saying she wanted to have blonde hair and blue eyes.
West coined the concept Mindful Representation, which is all about being intentional in the images, words and experiences you share with your child. “Most of what a child learns about loving themselves and how to engage with others is based on what they see, say and do,” she said. “Diverse images help to normalize that we all are important and belong.”
Children of all cultural backgrounds, gender identities and abilities benefit, when their loved ones intentionally mix things up in their choices of toy and book gifts. Having a doll with a wheelchair, books with kids of colour as protagonists and action figures that challenge the traditional gender binary all go a long way towards normalizing ―and celebrating ― diverse identities.
And while some big brands, such as Mattel and Crayola have in recent years paid more attention to diversity in their offerings, be sure to buy from small businesses owned and operated by people of diverse identities too. You can increase the impact of your gift by supporting them in the work they’re doing to make the world a more welcoming and compassionate place for all.
Click through the slideshow to see 15 gifts, for kids of all ages, that will help kids see the world we live in reflected in their toy box and bookcase.
Note: If you’re on a mobile device, click on the slideshow below to see pictures of the items, and see a description of the items below the slideshow.
All product choices are made independently by our editors. HuffPost Canada may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page.
A long-overdue line of crayons, pencil crayons, paints, markers and sketch paper that give your child many skin tones to choose from for representing the people of our diverse world. Suitable for ages three and older. Get them from Amazon.ca
This ultimate collector’s set of 11 Disney princesses includes icons Tiana, Moana, Pocahontas and Jasmine, allowing kids to embrace their diverse stories and cultural backgrounds. Recommended for children over three years old. Get it from Shop Disney.
Barbie has come a long way from her generic blonde roots. Now your child can choose from 35 skin tones, including a doll with vitiligo, 94 hairstyles and textures, and a variety of physical abilities and body and spectrum of gender types. Diverse representation not only matters ― it’s cool and fun. Suitable for ages three and up. Get them from Toys R Us Canada.
This U.S.-based company, which ships to Canada for a nominal fee, mails snacks from a single country of origin with an activity booklet to teach kids about the culture of that place. Suggested age: five and up. Get it from Universal Yums.
Introduce children to different international cuisines: from sushi rolls to tacos to Italian pastas, the tasty play foods come with all the utensils and fixings kids need to have the full make-believe experience. Suitable for ages three and up, Get it from Melissa & Doug.
An award-winning memory game by eeBoo, a woman-owned business, it’s is a fun way to help kids develop their cognitive skills and become familiar with the faces of children from around the world.For ages five and up. Get it from Toy Sense.
A popular game, with many variants, played in Africa, South-East Asia, the Caribbean, and the Middle East, which is easy to learn and sharpens kids’ STEAM skills. Suitable for ages six and up. Get it from Outer Layer.
A spin-off of the original Monopoly game, it introduces Mr. Monopoly’s niece, an investment guru, and the board is a celebration of women entrepreneurs and inventors. This game is for ages eight and over. Get it from Real Canadian Superstore.
Let kids explore the vast, rich continent of Africa by putting together a 100-piece jigsaw, by Very Puzzled. Specific countries from Africa and the Caribbean are also available. For ages 3-6. Get it from Kids Swag.
A screen-free activity for that tween in your life, celebrating people of diverse cultures and identities. With puzzles being a staple in our new quarantine life, this 1000-piece jigsaw will be a most welcome holiday gift. For ages eight and over. Get it from Mudpuppy.
Made in Canada from eco-friendly materials and double stitched for durability. Great for developing fine motor skills and a perfect keepsake, they come in three skin tones. For ages three and over. Get them from Fable Kids.
Teach kids that Canada is one of the most diverse places in the world. A box of activities arrives each month, exploring a province or territory. Suitable for ages 5 - 7 (alternative options available for older kids). Get it from Crate Joy.
These 25 double-sided cards teach children a variety of yoga poses as well as facts about Indigenous cultures and wisdom. The set is Indigenous-made, in Canada, and a great gift for kids of all ages. Get them from Strong Nations Publishing.
These 5-inch play people will help your toddler get familiar with different disabilities and assistive devices. The company also sells infant dolls and puppets of different hues and figurines of diverse families and diverse people in a range of careers. For ages 18 months and up. Get them from Get Ready Kids.
Kids can build one-of-a-kind characters with mix-and-match magnetic blocks. Great for guiding conversations about inclusivity, diversity and multiculturalism within a family. Suitable for ages four and up. Get it from My Family Builders.
WATCH: SEE WHICH TOYS JUST GOT INDUCTED INTO THE NATIONAL TOY HALL OF FAME