California teacher Genesis Politron wanted to make sure her students never felt as if they weren't normal, so she developed toys that made her pupils feel accepted.
Perhaps the first time young children encounter body image or identity issues is when they engage in play. Whether it's with toys or other children, the kind of play they engage in can influence how and what they think of themselves, in ways that remain with them for long after they've grown out of toys. In an effort to help children feel like they belong, toy companies have attempted to be more inclusive in the kinds of toys they produce. Mattel, the toy company that makes Barbie dolls, for example, has introduced a new gender non-binary line. Barbie, too, has a collection of dolls with varied body shapes and sizes. However, we can always do better. Sensing a gap in the market when it comes to toys that represent various disabilities, California teacher Genesis Politron decided to paint hearing aids onto toy dolls in an effort to promote inclusivity.
Taking to social media platform Twitter, Genesis posted a photo of the dolls she had painted on, stating, "I teach preschool and kindergarten for deaf/hard of hearing kids, and my students never see toys that resemble their hearing devices (hearing aids/cochlear implants), so I added some to our new baby dolls on my own. I wish everyone could see their faces playing with these." Of course, this was an incredible gesture. The post quickly went viral and gained reactions from Twitter users across the country, with some wishing they had such dolls to play with when they were children.
Jojoboocakes wrote in response, "This is the sweetest thing ever! My friend has two deaf daughters and she got them custom American Girl dolls with hearing aids... To see their faces light up was priceless! Nice job, teach! You’re a hero!" Emmypaigethough added, "I have a deaf client who would LOVE that processor one. Totally stealing this idea for her." KanztheRainbow stated, "As a former Deaf Education major, this is so beautiful. I love seeing this and really hope there’s the balance where even if the implant is given to the child they’re still able to learn ASL and have a connection with the deaf community if they choose to."
In an interview, Genesis shared that she hoped the dolls would empower her students. "Being an educator, it’s my job to be as inclusive as possible, but really, I believe it should just be part of being a human being," she said. "No child should ever feel as if they aren’t ‘normal’ or as if they don’t belong. I wanted to allow my students to see themselves in toys for once, to feel accepted, and overall be able to have fun playing with toys that look just like them. As an educator for the deaf, I want my students to be proud of such a special part of their identity. Children’s minds are extremely malleable, and I believe it’s our jobs as adults to mold them into empowered, confident, and most importantly, happy little people as best as we can." If we had more teachers like Genesis working with our kids, we're sure they'd be all that - and even more.