Dolls With Disabilities Are Diversifying The Toy Industry’s Narrow Portrayal Of “Normal”


There are numerous studies which show kids as young as 6 start to shape their ideals and views of the world. And when you think about the influences that are present in a child’s life at that age, they are usually limited to parents, toys, and some form of media.

When a child’s range of toys and dolls all look the same, there is a subconscious and dominant message being given out about the world’s general standard of “normal”. As a young girl grows up and starts to consume other forms of media such as magazines, TV and advertising, those narrow views of “normal” are perpetuating considerably more. So it is important for the right types of influences, i.e, diverse and positive influences, to be present in a person’s life from a very early age.

But a quick trip down the pink toy aisle can leave parents and kids alike feeling very disappointed. Thankfully the toy industry is being infiltrated by creators who are sick of the standards being upheld and who want to create better examples for kids everywhere.

Goldieblox, Queens of Africa, and Lottie Dolls are some great examples of how Barbie’s standardized power is slowly waning.

The collective voice of parents being fed up with the products offered to their kids is becoming louder and louder, and many non-parents are joining them in agreement.

In Australia, a scientist and illustrator named Sonia Singh from Tasmania who is a mom of a 2 year old girl got a lot of attention for her personal doll project. She created a range of Tree Change Dolls by finding old Bratz dolls and giving them a more realistic make-under. The overwhelming positive and viral response proves just how needed her message was.


She doesn’t plan to become a doll manufacturer, the Tree Change Dolls range is only created from used or recycled dolls. Sonia now sells them on an Etsy store which she established after being inundated with requests from parents for her inspiring creations. She now does video tutorials for fans showing them how she removes the existing makeup on a doll. But we warned if you think of clicking on her Etsy store and buying a doll, the demand is huge but her supply is not like that of a major toy manufacturer so it takes her some time to have a collection of new dolls available, which in the past have sold out within seconds!

It’s so fascinating to see how a project like Sonia’s can go so intensely viral. The more we think about it, it completely makes sense. Parents are sick of having a lack of control over what influences their children, they want to change the status quo.

This movement was exhibited perfectly in the online Toy Like Me campaign started by a group of parents who wanted to see more toy brands create products that showed characters with disabilities. The idea is that they want kids and society to see people with disabilities as normal and celebrated just like those without disabilities.

They have created petitions for specific toy manufacturers to include a disabled toy in their ranges being offered in order to better represent diversity.

In response to this growing need for toy diversity, a British toy lab called Makies has created a range of dolls with disabilities using 3D printing.


They feature a doll with a birthmark, one that wears a hearing aid, and one that has to use a walking cane.

“It’s fantastic that our supercharged design and manufacturing process means we can respond to a need that’s not met by traditional toy companies. We’re hoping to make some kids – and their parents – really happy with these inclusive accessories,” said Chief Technology Officer of MakieLab, Matthew Wiggins.

Unlike other independent toy brands, Makies ships all over the world because they want their message of inclusivity and diversity to reach as far as possible. Heck, if the reign of Barbie is ever going to be legitimately challenged in a day-to-day manner by actual sales (not just viral and awesome campaigns), a competitor has to reach every corner of the market like Mattel.


The other cool aspect of this range is that each doll can be customized to look like the child who will be its eventual owner, as seen in the video below. Each doll is priced at £69. Sure you could find many cheaper dolls, but how many can you find that are custom-made to reflect a child’s individuality and send a strong message of empowerment along with it?

This is a brand we wish were around when WE were kids, but nonetheless, there is no doubt they are going to make an impact on a whole new generation on the way they see themselves and shape their worldviews accordingly.

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