The Importance of Diversifying Toys in the Therapy Room
By: Gabby Howard, MA, CF-SLP
Here are my favorite things about being a pediatric speech language pathologist:
- Shopping for new toys and books I know my kids will enjoy.
- Working with kids from different cultures, ethnicities, and abilities.
- Finding toys, books, and other materials that reflect the diversity of my caseload.
As a professional who utilizes toys, games, and books on a daily basis, it is incredibly important to me that my kids not only enjoy playing with them, but that they see themselves in my books, dolls, and puzzles. Children learn about the world through play and therefore the toys and books they are exposed to. They learn about difference and acceptance. They begin to understand that people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They see that use of wheelchairs and crutches, hearing and communication devices doesn’t make someone different in a bad way, but it makes them unique. It encourages celebration of differences and shows that there is no one size fits all.
So how do you diversify your games, toys and books? It’s simple! All it takes is intentionality and effort. While browsing the Target isles or searching Amazon, remind yourself to consider the following:
- Do the toys, games, and books you are looking at have characters of one or multiple colors and abilities?
- Do they represent each in a positive or negative way?
- By choosing this toy or book, what message are you sending?
I have compiled a list of various games, toys, and books that can be used in my therapy space, as well as in your home.
- I Never Forget a Face Matching Game– This game is great for improving memory and recognition skills, and also features a diverse set of faces!
- Barbie Fashionistas Dolls– The classic Barbie doll has greatly expanded its doll collection. The Fashionistas collection features dolls of diverse skin color, shape, and abilities!
- What If We Were All the Same!– This children’s book discusses the topic of acceptance and embracing our differences. It is an easy to read book full of fun rhymes and colorful illustrations.
- Tickle Me Elmo– Tickle me Elmo is a classic we all know and love. He now speaks both English and Spanish! This is a great toy for little bilingual language learners.
- Braille UNO Cards– Everyone loves an intense game of UNO and this set in collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind is available with Braille on every card, making this game accessible for blind and low vision players.
These items mentioned are only a small few of those that are available. I hope this serves as a jumping off point to diversifying your child’s toy, game, and book collection! Remember, all it takes is intentionality and effort to build diversity and inclusivity.