It’s no secret that children learn best through play and learning about disabilities is no exception. Fortunately, toy companies from American Girl to LEGO have diversified their lines to be inclusive so that every child can have a playroom that includes toys that are diverse as the children they will meet at the playground. Read on to find out about everything from dolls with Down Syndrome to a play diabetes kit to superheroes you may not have realized were disabled.
A Fully Accessible Schoolhouse
Playmobil knows that all kids should have the chance to go to a school where they can get around easily. This schoolhouse has everything from a working bell to a biology lab. Best of all, this set comes with a student who uses a wheelchair. Thanks to the school's ramp, elevator and accessible bathroom all students at this school can get to all of the classes and have fun with their friends. Kids who use wheelchairs will delight in seeing a school like their own. Able-bodied kids will gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by their disabled peers just by playing school!
Buy it here, $101.60.
The Incredible Blind Superhero
Daredevil lost his vision as a child but in exchange gained the ability to use his other senses with superhuman accuracy making him "The Man Without Fear." Even though Daredevil cannot see, he is an expert in martial arts and a talented lawyer. Thanks to his powers he can defeat the bad guys on the street and in the courtroom even without sight. Some of the best toys for kids are those that show them that disability does not have to limit anyone’s power. A Daredevil figure with his iconic red glasses makes a great addition to any toybox to remind kids that anyone can become a superhero.
Buy it here, $19.87.
Fashionista Barbie with a Prosthetic Leg
Barbie can do anything from becoming a doctor to flying an airplane. Now Barbie is showing kids that she can do all that and more with a prosthetic leg or while using a wheelchair. These Barbies send a powerful message that a disability doesn’t have to stop a child from doing anything want. Because both dolls are part of the Fashionista line these Barbies also prove you can look cute while doing it! Read more about the line here.
Everyone in LEGO City may be yellow but Lego minifigures come decked out in different clothes and accessories. Some minifigures get around using their legs and some minifigures use wheelchairs. Some are just cute and some, like Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker also have disabilities.
Buy the set here, $72.96.
Doll with Autism
The Loyal Companion Lottie Doll is based on a real child with autism. Just like many autistic kids, this doll likes to wear headphones when the sounds of the world become overwhelming. He also wears a t-shirt with the name of his autistic heroes and has a loyal dog who stays by his side to provide emotional support. Kids who don’t know much about autism can learn more by reading the included pamphlet about the boy who inspired this doll. Kids who are autistic will love playing with a doll who shares their diagnosis. Lottie Dolls also makes other dolls with disabilities, including one with a cochlear implant and the Sinead, a Lottie Doll based on a Little Person who is a writer for British Vogue. These dolls play an important roll in including children of all abilities in play at school and the playground too!
Buy it here, $19.95.
An Inclusive Party Puzzle
Sometimes the best way to normalize disability is to present it simply as one of many ways children can differ from one another. Some are boys and some are girls. Some are blonde and some are brunette. Some walk and some use wheelchairs. The Woodland Party Jigsaw puzzle shows happy children engaged in all kinds of activities regardless of ability. At the party depicted in this puzzle, one adventurous child dresses up like a pirate while another dances with a fox. Among the many children at the party is one who uses a wheelchair happily feeding a deer. It may appear that there is nothing special happening at this inclusive party but that is the beauty of some of the best toys for children—they learn acceptance and tolerance naturally through play.
Buy it here, $27.76.
The First American Girl with a Visible Disability
American Girl is a leader when it comes to making sure every child can have a doll that looks like them from dolls without hair to offering wheelchairs and hearing aids as accessories. American Girl’s 2020 Girl of the Year, Joss, is American Girl’s first doll whose disability is part of her story. Joss is hard of hearing and wears a hearing aid. Her hobbies include surfing and cheer-leading alongside her hearing friends. Joss’s accompanying book explains that while she can do everything her friends can do her disability does pose some challenges, like having to ask her coach to use a microphone. On the other hand, her disability comes with some benefits, such as being able to tune out her annoying brother by removing her hearing aid anytime she wants some peace and quiet. Joss's accessories include items like a Nifty Cheer Backpack Set that anyone who loves cheer-leading would love, which underscores how every child can do with they love if inclusion is supported and valued.
Order Joss here, $110 & up.
Disabled Characters from Across the Galaxy
Some of the characters your child already knows and loves may be disabled. Nemo from Finding Nemo has one fin smaller than the other. Luke Skywalker lost one of his hands in an epic light-saber battle and has used a prosthetic hand ever since. Darth Vader is a quadruple amputee who doesn’t wear a noisy black suit just to be intimidating—it’s actually a complex life support system that helps him breathe and keeps him alive. Make sure your child has some of these popular disabled figures in their toybox. A Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker hyper-real figure that shows all the details and even has removable hands is a great choice. Or, try a plush Nemo that clearly shows the difference in his fins.
Most kids have ten fingers and ten toes. But some kids don't have quite that many and that's okay too! Some kids are missing either because they were born without a limb or because needed one (or more) amputated. The Vermont Teddy Bear Company has been making bears for those with limb loss or limb differences for decades. These bears are just as soft and cuddly as all of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company's other bears. Choosing a bear from the Amputee Collection is a great way to promote the acceptance and inclusion of those with disabilities, even for very young children.
Shop the collection here, $59.99.
Annie the Doll with Down Syndrome:
Dolls are such a popular toy because they always allow kids to have a friend along and gives them the chance to act out all kinds of situations. Annie, made by Selma’s Dolls, is a soft, cuddly doll who happens to have Down Syndrome. Annie comes with a storybook about getting to know kids who are different complete with conversation starters. Whether Annie looks like your child or not she can help make a more inclusive world a reality.
Buy Annie here, $29.99.
American Girl's Wheelchairs, Diabetes Care Kits, Service Dogs & More
American Girl has been a leader in representing all kinds of girls for decades. Girls with disabilities are no exception. American Girl dolls can truly look like children with a range of disabilities. Their accessory line includes a wheelchair, a service dog, a diabetes care kit, glasses, hearing aids, arm braces, asthma and allergy set and more. American Girl also has a doll without hair for kids going through chemotherapy or who have alopecia. These accessories aren't just for dolls that belong to children with disabilities. Every child will benefit from having their dolls use the same equipment their peers with disabilities use every day to help them better understand their friends' experiences.
—Jamie Davis Smith
Images courtesy retailers