For many young children, playing with dolls is an essential part of one’s childhood. Children, both girls and boys alike, use dolls to tell stories, act out scenes and begin to understand key parts of self image and self worth. For many, it is an easy task to find a doll that reflects a specific look or way of life that emulates that of the child, giving them something to relate to, but for some, even with the popularity of customizable dolls, that wasn’t always the case.
Customizable dolls have been around for years and while they have been mainstream for quite some time, mainly through major toy brands like American Girl Dolls, many children with disabilities still had a hard time finding these customizable dolls that could look similar to them.
In 2012, two deaf mothers started the #toylikeme campaign on social media as an effort to bring awareness to the lack of diversity in toys children were playing with. As part of this campaign, parents began posting pictures of their disabled children with dolls many of the parents personally modified to have the same disability their child had.
After going viral, a British toy company, Makies, responded by introducing a new line of dolls that included versions of the doll with walking sticks, birthmarks and scars. The company also included a doll that was wheelchair bound.
By utilizing 3D printing technology, the company can design and make additional add-on impairment aids and accessories so young children to customize the doll.
The new line of dolls has received an overwhelmingly positive response because this is a step in making the toy industry more inclusive of kids with disabilities.
When introducing the new dolls, Makies knew they had a customer base with about one out of every 20 children under the age of 16 having some sort of disability, based on a study from the Disabled Living Foundation. Similarly in the United States, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every one in six children aged three to 17 years old have disabilities.
Many children growing up use dolls as a mechanism to start reflecting on body image, and for those kids with disabilities it is difficult for them to feel normal when they aren’t surrounded by anything that looks just like they do. Through the customizable dolls, they now have a way to see their disabilities in a more positive way and that there is nothing wrong with being different from those around them.
The only down side to the new Makies dolls are that they cost about $115 and like any other toy that expensive, could be out of reach to children who could benefit. The dolls are more expensive than other typical doll options because they are made uniquely for each order and are personalized for each child. However, with limited options on the market for dolls with disabilities, the dolls are well worth the price tag because they give children with disabilities a way to relate to what they go through. There is plenty of positive praise for what the toys are doing in many kid’s lives to make the cost worth while.
Ever since Makies introduced the new line of dolls, other big brands has been following suit as part of the #toylikeme movement across the toy industry.
All in all, the new line of dolls, which can be made for both boys and girls, are a positive way for children with disabilities to cope with their reality and to start seeing themselves in a positive way.