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Toy companies didn't make dolls their kids could relate to, so these moms did it themselves.

Because it's important for kids to see themselves reflected in their toys.

Toy companies didn't make dolls their kids could relate to, so these moms did it themselves.

It all started when Tinker Bell got a cochlear implant.

Photo by Toy Like Me.


Three moms in the U.K. — deaf journalist Melissa Mostyn, who has a daughter who uses a wheelchair; journalist Rebecca Atkinson, who is deaf and visually impaired; and former play consultant Karen Newell, who has a son who is blind — wanted toy companies to make dolls more inclusive of children with disabilities.

They hoped "to highlight the lack of positive representation of deafness and disability in the toy box and show toy manufacturers that there is a demand for more inclusive toys." Unfortunately, toymakers don't offer many toys with different physical disabilities.

So they did what innovative moms often do; they made one themselves as an example. Toy Like Me campaigner Rebecca Atkinson explains:

"For parents of Deaf children I think there is something very emotive about seeing a familiar mainstream character like Tinkerbelle with a cochlear implant or hearing aid. It creates a very positive image of disability that is seldom found by marrying up something mainstream with something affecting a minority. It's a powerful mix for parents of Deaf children, and the children themselves.

When I was growing up, I never saw a doll like me. I had two hearing aids. In the real world, there were people like me. In the doll world, I didn't exist. What does that say to Deaf and disabled children? That they aren't worth it? That they're invisible in the toys they play with? That they're invisible in society?"


What the moms didn't know was how popular their Tinker Bell doll would become — the image was shared many times on social media — underscoring the consumer demand for diverse toys.

Less than one week later, the British-based toy developer MakieLab was on it.

Cute dolls! One has a facial birthmark, one has hearing aids and signing hands, and one has a mobility aid. Photo by MackieLab.

MakieLab creates its toys with a 3D printer, so they were able to respond to the demand almost instantly.

"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." — MakieLab CTO Matthew Wiggins

Progress!

To keep the momentum going, Toy Like Me is asking people to help.


Toy like me modified these toys as another example. Photo by Beth Moseley Photography.

The three women believe that "by sharing images of toys that reflect disability positively, toys that have been homemade or altered to give them impairments, and letters from children with disabilities calling on the toy industry to make more 'toys like them,'" mainstream toy manufactures might respond.

Just look at some of these cute ideas.

Photo shared by a Toy Like Me fan, who said, "I've inserted an NG tube into this doll for my little girl who has quad cp and is tube fed."

Photo of a guide dog and family submitted to Toy Like Me Facebook page by a fan.


If you're interested in participating, you can use the hashtag #toylikeme.

Hopefully toy manufacturers will take notice and make some new and more inclusive toys.

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