Equal Play

Toy makers are creating more inclusive products

Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history, and, tied to that reality, it also stands to be the most open-minded. They are extraordinarily inclusive, not wanting anyone to be left out of the fun because of race, gender, physical ability, etc. This is trickling into the world of play as kids seek toys that look more like them and unite them with their friends. 


At LEGO stores, kids and adults alike can create their own custom LEGO figurine, frequently opting to design one that looks like them. While the characters’ yellow skin is racially neutral allowing for a wide range of kids to see themselves in their blocky creations, the brand has only recently addressed underserved groups. It directly addressed girls with its successful Friends line, and now, it has introduced its first disabled figurine. The figure, dressed in a hoodie and jeans, is in a wheelchair. It will hit store shelves in the second half of 2016 as part of a Fun in the Park playset from its community-focused LEGO City line


Mattel has long been criticized for upholding unrealistic beauty standards with its Barbie brand. But this January, Mattel announced that Barbie will now come in three new body types—tall, curvy, and petite join Barbie’s classic shape—as well as seven skin tones and 22 eye colors. Known as the New Fashionistas, the curvier doll features wider hips and a thicker waist, while the tall doll has a thinner, less shapely body. This not only makes it easier for girls to find a Barbie that looks like them but also has the potential to give girls a more realistic body image during their formative years. 


Girls aren’t the only ones who struggle with body image; boys do, too. The Lammily toy line was born when an artist created a doll to match average body types of young women based on CDC data. The message that “average is beautiful” was well received and the brand launched through a crowdfunded campaign in 2014. This year, the brand turned its attention to creating a male doll, again based on the average measurements of real young men. The result is a “dad bod” doll, with a bit of a tummy hanging over his denim shorts—a stark contrast to the typical broad-chested, muscular male dolls and action figures.