Kids benefit from toys that reflect how they look. Here are six brands offering multiethnic options that children will enjoy playing with.

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Credit: Courtesy of manufacturers.

Toys, books, and puzzles nurture a child's imagination because they help spark discovery. There are thousands of toy options on the market—and now there's a growing market of multiethnic ones to pick from.

It's important for children to play with toys that reflect how they look. But experts say exposing children to diverse toys at a young age is also great way to help them understand the world around them. "Children learn about people and the different cultures and traditions in their physical world through the imaginative play they engage in with their toys," says Maryhan Baker, Ph.D., psychologist and parent expert based in Hampshire, England. "Our role as their parents is to scaffold their learning by exposing them to new and varied experiences which help them build up their knowledge bank."

Besides fostering culture inclusivity, different toys enable children to develop important skills, explains Bhavin Shah, a behavioral and developmental optometrist based in London. "Toys help to improve physical fine and gross motor skills and in turn develop critical thinking and creative skills. Having diversity in their toys helps to broaden children's horizons and widens the development of their model of the world and can help to promote wider critical and creative skills," says Shah. 

Here are six unique multiethnic toys and brands that break down cultural barriers and promote a collaborative learning environment.

Modi Toys

Co-founders Viral Modi and Avani Modi Sarkar are a brother and sister duo who were inspired to create a brand that reflects their heritage and roots after realizing the market lacks South Asian representation. The Modi Toys' collection, launched in 2018, includes plush toys in the form of Hindu deities (gods and goddesses), including Baby Ganesh and Hanuman, which play devotional Hindu prayers (sung by child artists in India) when squeezed. Modi Toys also offer complementary board books, each illustrating a popular story in Hindu theology. The co-founders' goal is to pass down facets of the Hindu faith to the future generation and to expose children to these toys at an early age in an effort to spark curiosity about their culture. International shipping on these products is available in more than 36 countries.

Bright Bandar Co.

Based out of Toronto, Bright Bandar Co. (translated to bright "monkey" from Hindi and Urdu) created by Dhvani Shah, promotes bilingualism by teaching children how to communicate in their native language. The brand features a set of bilingual "My First Words" board books in six South Asian languages—Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Telugu, and Urdu (with more languages to come). These books contain 100 native words alongside their English translations. This is a tool for children to not only develop language skills, but to connect with their grandparents, participate in family conversations, familiarize themselves with traditions, and understand cultural jokes and nuances.

Kulture Khazana

Founded in 2018 by Akruti Babaria, Kulture Khazana ("Khazana" meaning treasure in Hindi and Urdu) aims to connect families with cultural stories through accessible and affordable books, puzzles, kits, and videos. The products allow children to learn about festivals around the world, mythology, and more and aims to create a society that celebrates differences. The brand transforms aspects of South Asian culture, like the Indian rangoli, a popular patterned design used as decor during holidays, into puzzles kids can put together. There are other puzzles, sticker collections, and coloring books expected to launch in summer 2021.

Worldwide Buddies

Inspired by a move abroad, founders Evi Triantafyllides and Nefeli Malekou decided to create a platform through which children would be able to experience a more accurate view of the world, as well as appreciate multiculturalism early on. Worldwide Buddies is an educational startup that creates picture books and toys celebrating diversity. The collection features bundles, including the "China Gift Bundle" and "Mexico Gift Bundle," which comes with a picture book that is an immersive introduction to that country's culture, a plush animal toy, and a set of bilingual cards. The brand also released its latest 120-page picture book called The Book of Cultures featuring 30 stories with multinational characters.

Little Global Citizens

Little Global Citizens is a subscription service created by Akeelah Kuraishi and Tim Minnick for children ages 4 to 10 years old. Inspired by her own travels, Akeelah wanted to create a product that demonstrated the richness of culture she experienced through visiting more than 19 countries. Little Global Citizens' gives the option of exploring the world from home. Currently it offers boxes for India, Kenya, Thailand, China, Egypt, Peru, England, and Jamaica among others. Each box is created in consultation with natives of each country to offer the most authentic experience. The goal is to educate and teach children to respect and appreciate different backgrounds. Each new country is brought to life through carefully curated storybooks, up to three expertly developed cultural activities, multiple hands-on crafts, language skills, and recipes.

Ish Dolls

Based in New York, Amanda Ealla wanted to explore a new way to help her children connect to their cultural identity and incorporate religion into their lives in a non-overbearing way. She launched Ish Dolls in May 2020 with a plush toy of Baby Krishna. She realized quickly how her diverse customer base also craved a more diverse playroom for their children to preserve traditions and values so she expanded. Ish Dolls features other deity dolls, along with T-shirts, and onesies bridging culture and play.