Rolling Without Limits

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What Toys can Teach Us about Disabilities
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What Toys can Teach Us about Disabilities

Toys allow children to not only stay entertained and busy, but they teach children about the world and help them develop social skills and learn valuable lessons through play. Play is a very powerful tool that can equip children with the skills and lessons they need as they grow into adulthood. Toys of all kinds are designed to help children relate to things that they see in their everyday world.

Dolls especially represent a multitude of racial and cultural backgrounds that allow children to play with toys that they have a special connection to and with which they can directly relate. Did you know that dolls and other toys featuring disability are also becoming more and more popular, allowing children with disabilities to discover their world through toys that look just like them?

Check out some of my favorites toys representing disability!

  • Wheelchair Barbie: A Barbie fanatic as a child, wheelchair Barbie (aka “Share a Smile Becky”) that came out in the mid-90s was always on my Christmas list. She even came in a pink and purple wheelchair which inspired my very own wheelchair as a kid which was also pink and purple with a Barbie decal! A similar version of “Share a Smile Becky” came out a couple years later called “Barbie Becky. I’m the School Photographer” featuring Becky in a red wheelchair. Controversy arose when Becky’s wheelchair did not fit inside the dream house. You can still find wheelchair Barbie on ebay today. 
  • Playmobile: Playmobile encourages children to use their imaginations. When I was in the hospital as a child, I remember receiving a playmobile ‘hospital themed’ set in which the dolls came with crutches and casts that you could clip on and off. They even have a child with wheelchair doll. Check it out on Amazon.   
  • American Girl: A big shout out to American Girl for embracing disabilities of all kinds through their dolls! They create almost every kind of doll you can think of representing multiple hobbies, cultures and historical periods, not to mention abilities. They have all kinds of accessories available for your American Girl doll including hearing aids, a wheelchair, a service dog, crutches and a doll without hair to represent kids going through cancer treatments. You can read more about American Girl dolls with disabilities here. 

While these toys are an awesome representation of the growing trend to introduce disability into children’s play time, imagine what could result if toys with disabilities became mainstream and not just something that could be found primarily online, but rather in toy stores everywhere as easily as toys without disabilities?

Do you have a favorite toy featuring a disability? Share in the comments!

*Photo courtesy flickr creative commons

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