Multicultural Toy Business Aiming To Diversify Toy Boxes & Empower Children

The range of Tara dolls from Culturorama Toys.

By Kusuma Reddy

In today’s globalized world, it’s important for children to learn about and appreciate different cultures. One way to do this is through play, and my company Culturorama Toys provides an excellent tool for children to learn about and celebrate diversity.

A child’s initial tools for learning when growing up are toys. The toys we obtain and how we play with them shape who we become as adults. I grew up playing with white dolls, decorating them with bindis and wrapping the doll with scarves and hand kerchiefs to make it look like it was wearing a saree. This was my dress-up and pretend play. As a young girl, I did not know better that cultural identity is not simply a matter of superficial appearance or decoration. For years, I played with dolls by reducing cultural identity to a single visual element.

Years later when I was a volunteer teacher at an informal slum school in Bangalore, one of my students brought a white doll to the classroom. The doll was her proud possession and she wanted to show this off to her friends in the class. As we started talking about the doll, there were some shocking revelations from these young girls. Unfortunately, those kids believed that white skinny girls with blonde hair and blue eyes are “beautiful” which was why the dolls all looked like “beautiful foreign girls” and we Indian girls were not beautiful enough to be made in to dolls

Those words really struck a chord. The toy industry, along with other media and societal factors, have contributed to unrealistic beauty standards that are negatively impacting the self-worth and pride of young girls who do not conform to these standards. Many dolls are designed with a narrow definition of beauty, that often emphasizes Western features.

When young girls are exposed to these narrow beauty standards from a young age, they begin to internalize the message that they are not beautiful or valuable unless they conform to these standards. It was at that moment I realized that rather than adding a bindi to a white doll, more appropriate thing to do is to seek out dolls that are specifically designed to represent Indian culture and diversity.

However, there were not many options available on the market, except for a few from big toy companies that passed white dolls dressed in traditional Indian clothing as an Indian doll. They do not have facial features, attributes, skin tone that resemble those of everyday Indian people. I knew something had to be done to address this and I decided to create diverse and inclusive representations of beauty in dolls. 

Just like that, what started as a simple conversation with one of my students led to the creation of Culturorama Toys. I want our girls to be proud of who we are, what we wear and how we look. I wanted to create toys for children that reflect their unique experiences and backgrounds and help them develop an appreciation and understanding of different cultures.

Today Culturorama Toys is a multicultural toy business that is dedicated to promoting diversity and empowering women and children. Before Culturorama came to play, Indian children were solely exposed to white dolls, and it was easy for children to feel that the individuals the dolls resemble were the ones that matter to the rest of the world. And many children lost their sense of self-love and esteem because they did not recognize themselves in the dolls. We want to create more dolls of color, one that every Indian child can identify with and feel reflected in.

What sets Culturorama Toys apart from other toy companies is our focus on handmade dolls that showcase traditional Indian features, fabric, dress, and accessories. These are not another princess doll in glittering dress or another barbie in an Indian attire. These everyday dolls are simple, childlike, and carry a down-to-earth style. These dolls are lovingly handmade by rural women artisans in India, who use high-quality organic materials to create beautiful and unique dolls that reflect the rich heritage and culture of India.

By supporting these women artisans, Culturorama Toys is not only creating job opportunities and empowering these women, but also helping to fund girl child education in rural communities. A larger portion of the proceeds from the sale of these dolls is donated to fund education programs that help to keep girls in school and ensure that they receive the education they deserve.

The Keshav doll from Culturorama Toys.

Culturorama Toys is also committed to sustainability and reducing our environmental footprint. Our dolls are shipped in cotton bags with zero use of plastic, ensuring that the toys are not only beautiful and unique but also eco-friendly. The cotton bags these dolls are packaged in, are also hand stitched by a group of women from a remote village in India who started stitching to sustain their families from drought.

Dolls from Culturorama Toys are more than just toys – they are a celebration of diversity, culture, and empowerment. By introducing these dolls to children, parents can help their children learn about Indian culture and traditions and develop an appreciation for diversity and inclusion. And by supporting women artisans and funding girl child education, we can make a positive impact on communities in need.

With our collection of handmade dolls inspired by Indian heritage, we are trying to make a difference in the world, one doll at a time. So if you’re looking for a unique and meaningful toy that celebrates diversity and supports communities in need, look no further than Culturorama Toys.

The Culturorama Toys rattle teether

Kusuma Reddy is an employee of an IT company by day and founder of Culturorama Toys by the night. Through her multicultural toy business, Culturorama Toys, she aims to promote diversity and empower women and children. Born and raised in India, Kusuma immigrated to the USA in 2015. In India she worked in the IT industry while also volunteering as a teacher in an informal school in India. Her experiences as a teacher inspired her to create Culturorama Toys as a passion project to celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity. Today Culturorama Toys is a women-owned, women-run – all-women enterprise that is diversifying toy boxes one doll at a time.

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