I strive to raise my daughters to be open minded and inclusive (read my thoughts on how I’m teaching my kids about Pride). I audibly gasped when I found out that Mattel created a line of gender neutral dolls as part of their new Createable World line. Each “doll kit” (MSRP $29.99) comes with a gender neutral doll with short hair, a long hair wig, and 12 assorted clothing pieces including pants, skirts, and accessories. Currently there are 6 variations of the doll including Asian, African American, and Hispanic ethnicities. The Creatable World line was designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in, making play more inclusive than ever before. Mattel sent us three dolls to review for free.
How to Talk to your Kids about Pronouns
Upon first glance, my daughters weren’t sure if the doll was a boy or a girl. I told them that Mattel made this doll to be whatever they wanted it to be. They mused over the beautiful long wig and giggled as they tried it on the doll. I asked them if they wanted this doll to be a boy or a girl or something else, and they agreed on the pronouns “she/her”.
We opened up another Creatable World doll and again I asked them, “What pronouns do you want to use for this doll? She? He? Them?” They thought about it for a second and said, “Him! Him! This one is a boy.” As they looked over the clothing pieces that came in the doll kit, they picked out what pieces they wanted him to wear. My older daughter picked out a striped shirt and camo pants and my younger daughter plucked up the tutu. Initially, my older daughter chastised, “No, he can’t wear that!” to which my youngest retorted, “But why not?” She only paused for a second before musing, “Oh, you’re right! He can wear it ON TOP of the pants! That’s so cute.” While their initial reaction was “skirts are for girls”, my daughters were able to correct themselves and remembered that clothes can be for any gender. They worked together to try on his wig and concluded that it looked very pretty on him. It was also a reminder to them that wigs and long hair can be worn by anyone, not just girls.
It is necessary to normalize asking about pronouns if you are striving to normalize people. I would like my children to treat non-binary, trans, gay, pansexual, gender fluid or straight people with the same amount of respect. The first step to being comfortable about this is by talking about it in a natural way. Here are some ways that I am teaching my children to be more inclusive:
- Ask what pronouns a person prefers. If you don’t make it weird, it won’t be weird.
- Remind kids that clothes know no gender. Anyone is welcome to rock a skirt, pants, hats, or any variation in between.
- Hair length does not determine gender. There are many women who have short hair and many men who wear their hair long. People can choose to style their hair any way they want.
- Be honest that you don’t know all the answers and that you’d like to learn more about other communities. None of us have all the answers and it’s okay to be ignorant in areas. What makes us grow as people is seeking out knowledge.
- Get to know the LGTBQ+ community. Learn what makes them different and see how you can celebrate with them. Raising my Rainbow is a mom who is raising a gender fluid son. Stephenie describes gender and sexuality as a spectrum and to leave the understanding open for kids to insert their own understanding and ask their own questions. The more you are connected to people who aren’t like you, the less “foreign” it becomes.
- Give your children opportunities to see inclusion in action. Take them to family Pride celebrations, go to Drag Queen Storytime, have playdates with people who are different than them. In these experiences, your kids will realize we’re not as different as we think and it will normalize humans.
Creatable World and People of Color
I had the opportunity to visit Mattel Headquarters and talk with toy creators. I was enlightened to see so many women in every step of the toy creation process as well as a good number of Asian designers. I asked them when more Asian dolls would grace the shelves and now I see why they couldn’t give me a clear answer. I am grateful that people of color are being represented and kids can find dolls that look more like them on the shelves. I can’t even describe the feeling when I heard my daughter exclaim, “She looks like ME!” The Creatable World Doll Kits come in 6 varieties:
- Black Braided Hair with dark skin
- Brunette Wavy Hair with brown skin
- Copper Straight Hair with fair skin
- Black Straight Hair with fair skin
- Blonde Curly Hair with medium skin
- Blonde Wavy Hair with fair skin
Play without Limits
These dolls don’t necessarily be walking narrative for LGTBQ+ rights. The Doll Kits also foster imagination by giving kids a blank canvas for their imagination to run wild. When my daughters first looked at the doll, they thought of at least five different story possibilities. “Oh! She’s going to the barber to get a haircut! Oh wait, he wants to be a runway model. Mom look, she’s you in your romper! It’s grandma with her classes! No, I want her to be me! Let me change my outfit.”
Mattel is allowing kids to create without limits by giving them a doll without lables that is gender neutral. Kids are allowed to create their narrative and the doll can fit an infinite number of roles. It’s also very cost efficient to buy your child one doll that can be used for so many different scenarios.
I am beyond excited to see a big company like Mattel give attention to these minority groups. I hope that these dolls can be be catalyst for change and help start conversations. You can find out more information about the Creatable World dolls on Mattel’s website or on instagram @CreatableWorld (#AllWelcome). Please visit us over on our Instagram @LittleGrayThread.