These kids apps highlight diversity
Toca Boca shows a wide diversity in its characters.
Toca Boca strives for great diversity within all of their apps, as can be seen in this character lineup from Toca Life School.
In Toca Life: School, kids interact with 32 characters, representing different races, ages, backgrounds and physical abilities. The app allows kids to move the characters in and out of the five scenes to act out stories set in a school location. In each scene, players will find a wheelchair, so that any character can be placed there to tell a story.
In a similar app called Toca Life: City, the tailor shop sells a scarf that can be used to represent a hijab. And in Toca Hair Salon 3, the app intentionally presents characters who appear gender neutral, so that kids can decide to add a beard to any client.
Other apps that do a good job showing diversity in their characters include My PlayHome Hospital (a digital playset located in a hospital) from PlayHome Software and Thinkrolls: Kings & Queens (a series of logic puzzles that showcase ball-like characters) from Avokiddo.
Some developers create apps about groups of friends from different backgrounds. In the Middle School Confidential 3: What's Up with My Family by Electric Eggplant, players read a digitalized graphic novel by teen relationship expert Annie Fox. The app focuses on six friends from different cultural upbringings. The app shares stories about family issues and includes blended families and divorced parents.
Children's view of the world can be influenced by the media they consume. By introducing apps that celebrate differences in others, parents can build awareness and acceptance.
With the app Me by Tinybop, kids start the differentiation process by examining what makes them unique. Players respond to a series of prompts to create a digital self-portrait that pulsates with their own drawings, animations, writings and sound bites. In the process of defining self, kids reflect on what makes them different from others as they also build portraits of their core social group. "By playing the Me app," says Raul Gutierrez, CEO of Tinybop, "kids eventually build portraits of their social worlds. We believe self-awareness of their own stories and the stories of classmates, teachers and family are a child's first step towards empathy."
The Wee You-Things app by Wee Society uses characters' differences as a reason to rejoice. The book app shows 24 characters — some realistic and others fanciful — and through rhyming verse, revels in each character's trait that makes him or her unique.
For other apps that celebrate our differences, see this list.
"Subtle diversity representation of biracial families shows up in Nosy Crow's Goldilocks and Little Bear app, where kids see parents with different skin/fur tones.
Two book apps from Nosy Crow modernize traditional fairy tales and, in the process, show biracial families. In the Goldilocks and Little Bear app, both Goldilock's family and the bear family show parents of different skin/fur tones. Likewise, in Cinderella by Nosy Crow, the skin tones of Cinderella and her prince are different.
Non-white lead characters
In Disney's Doc McStuffins: Mobile Clinic Rescue, players join Doc McStuffins in "doctoring" broken toys. With Nickelodeon's Dora and Friends, kids record animated stories by moving around Dora and her group of friends. Both apps have the added benefit of being playable in multiple languages.
Other sources for diverse lead characters are folk tales from other countries. Grandma's Great Gourd, the most recent app from Literary Safari, stars a spunky Bengali grandma who outwits hungry forest animals wanting to eat her. In addition to a fun story, the app offers cultural awareness through added activities. Literary Safari's founder, Sandhya Nankani, helped to launch KIDMAP, an initiative that has created a free toolkit to help children's media developers create inclusive and diverse media.
While playing apps, kids see representations of possible career choices. Sometimes, apps negatively further stereotypes, such as when they only show boys driving trucks and only show girls wanting to be models, actresses and fashionistas. Many app developers have taken on this diversity challenge in positive ways.
In Cool Careers Dress Up for Girls, app developer Laura Tallardy taps into a popular play pattern for girls; but, instead of presenting fashion models, her dress up is about how to outfit judges, doctors, astronauts, senators, scientists, computer programmers and more.
Fox & Sheep's Little Farmers - Tractors, Harvesters & Farm Animals for Kids shows both males and females driving the big machinery.
Placing an avatar maker into a children's app allows kids to design characters that look like them. But it also encourages kids to try on different looks. For apps with detailed avatar makers, check out Mystery Word Town by Artgig Studio, Tiny Pirates by Wonderkind and Thinkrolls: Kings & Queens by Avokiddo.
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