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Valuing differences. Nurturing belonging. Sparking conversations. There are so many benefits to teaching little ones from an early age to celebrate diversity. And we’re so excited to share ideas with you on setting up a playroom that encourages inclusivity through play.

To lend her expertise in getting the most out of playtime, we've partnered with Child Life Expert and Founder of Roo Family Caron Irwin to share tips and recommendations when it comes to bringing these ideas to life.

Dolling up your imaginary world

Playing with dolls is more than just about putting creativity into play. It’s about learning self expression, practicing empathy, and developing social skills with make-believe (and real) friends. What an amazing opportunity to show kids that each doll, like each person, is unique and beautiful

By age 3 children start to become aware of the differences among people – gender, race and ability. Play is a young child’s tool to learn about their world. Through play, children rehearse what they see, develop language and enhance their understanding and acceptance. Providing diverse play materials normalizes differences, creates comfort, teaches children to ask questions and learn that unique qualities are just part of life.


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Start a new chapter with a diverse library

Books are a powerful gateway to help kids feel empowered by seeing themselves in the stories they read. By adding books that reflect diversity and inclusion to your home library, you’ll also open up a new world (literally and symbolically) to help kids learn about different cultures and experiences. Be sure to check out our diverse selection on diversity!

One of the most influential ways to teach children about diversity is to start and continue conversations at home. Children’s story books are a wonderful tool to initiate meaningful conversations. Conversation starters that you can use with your children include:

"How would you feel if you were treated badly (or differently) because of how you look?"

"What do you notice about the character in this book?"

"How are they different from you?"

"I have a book that I wanted to share with you. Let’s read it together and then afterwards talk about how it makes us feel."

The theme of diversity doesn’t always have to be at the centre of the book – books that represent characters of diverse backgrounds normalizes differences and promotes inclusivity.

Books that give back

This year, we will be donating a portion of proceeds from the Diversity & Inclusivity book collection to organizations supporting inclusion of all kids in communities across Canada because we believe everyone should be included in play.


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Encourage kids to play their way

From dressing dolls to drawing portraits, choosing artistic sets with versatile options gives kids the confidence and freedom to make characters whoever they want them to be.

Being creative is a natural way for children to formulate ideas and develop their understanding of the world. In your art centre at home, expose your child to materials, artists and works of art that represent different backgrounds from their own.

Faber-Castell and Crayola are an excellent choice for art since they include colours with a diverse range of skin tones.

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Getting down to your child’s level and engaging in their play alongside them not only is a meaningful way for parents and children to connect, it provides a natural opportunity for parents to engage with their children in discussions through their play.

It is important to include a diverse representation of dolls and toys into your child’s dramatic play experiences. Through dramatic play children often practice different roles, rehearse experiences and gain more understanding about what they see in their world around them.

 

Create a toybox with diverse Barbie dolls featuring a range of skin tones, body types, and varying abilities to help kids understand and celebrate the importance of representation.

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Glitter Girls are an amazing addition to a child’s playroom with different hair colours, skin tones, and bright accessories.

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Children might have questions about diversity and inclusion and as adults we might not know the answers. This is empowering for children, as it shows that there are always opportunities to learn more and resources to help find answers. A way for parents to address a question you don’t know the answer to is:

  • "That is a really good question. I don’t know the answer. Let’s try to find it out together. And then offer some guidance on where they can learn more information (i.e. library, books, internet)."

Or:

  • "I don’t know the answer to that question. Let me learn more and I will come back to you soon with some more information."

Additional Resources on Diversity & Inclusion

Need more ideas on how to introduce diversity and inclusion to your children or students? Click on the links below for definitions, play activities and more.


Understand definitions of diversity and inclusion, also known as D&I

Learn the importance of developing cultural sensitivity and learning to appreciate people's differences

Find activities that can help kids of all ages build respect for different genders, races, cultures, and abilities


Caron Irwin, is a Canadian-based mother of three and founder of Roo Family where she and her team provide parents with comprehensive support to navigate the adventures and challenges of parenting and family life.

Caron holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Studies and is a Certified Child Life Specialist. She has over 10 years of experience supporting children and families through illness at Canada’s largest children’s hospital, The Hospital for Sick Children.