Sunday, October 28, 2007

Kids and disability culture

[Image description: A three-story dollhouse, with an elevator running through the center of the design.]
Kids want and enjoy toys that reflect their own experiences--and for more and more kids today, their experiences include disability, whether first-hand or in their family, friends, neighborhoods, and classrooms. Bint Alshamsa recently blogged about the dearth of appropriate toys, riffing from the "Trache-ing Elmo" post at Kintropy in Action.

Which was all on my mind when I read this paragraph about the Green Dollhouse Project, a design competition held by the Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education in San Mateo County, earlier this year:
During all the negotiations, the children kept gravitating to what we call the Elevator House (but which is officially called Rosaceae Sustainus) to play. So, we had an inkling of which one should win the Kids' Choice Award. The children particularly loved the hand-cranked elevator in the middle of the house. This house was open, making the spaces easily accessible, and it also included a grey water system with shell sinks.
So an open, accessible dollhouse with an elevator was a clear winner with the kids--even while the adults preferred other models. (UPDATE: The Elevator House entry was designed by a Portland OR firm, WGS.)

Now, dollhouses and other toys have had elevators for a while; but the Barbie dollhouses I've seen online have elevators for a single standing doll only--her friend Becky couldn't use them (nor any of the doors in Barbie's dream house). The old Playskool parking garage had an external elevator for cars--so that was big enough for the little wooden dolls to use in multiples, and if they had a Playskool wheelchair it would probably work fine in that elevator too--but it'll only take you to the roof of the parking garage, hmmm...

If you shop for holiday gifts for children this season, notice what's available to promote a sense of inclusion; and what reflects the everyday diversity kids know and accept already. Why shouldn't we try to find toys that support and encourage that?


Ruth said...

What a great image - toys that promote inclusion are sorely needed. When you consider the hours kids play with these toys and the impact it could have for them to see inclusion as a familiar concept (should I say inclusion as the 'norm') - it's huge. It's giving me some ideas about ways to promote inclusion for this upcoming holiday season....thanks Penny.

Rob at Kintropy said...

What a cool dollhouse (& glad to hear a local company in Oregon is pitching in, too).

Right now, we're also working on accessible costumes for Halloween. Hannah is going as Princess Peach & her brother, Gabriel, as Luigi (both from Mario Bros games). Janette put the costume together to work with all of Hannah's support "stuff." We'll post & let you all know how it goes.