My son didn't have any toys that represented him, so I created them
As I walked, pregnant, through the aisles of one of the UK’s biggest retailers, I was eager to find educational toys and games for my unborn son.
However, I was struck by the lack of diversity amongst the shelves – the memory still sticks with me vividly.
There were plenty of options for white kids, but very few that represented children of colour. I searched and searched, but couldn’t find anything that would be meaningful for my child; there wasn’t a single toy that would look like him.
I left the store feeling frustrated and discouraged, without having bought anything. It was hard to believe that, in this day and age, there were still so few options for parents like me.
I knew that I needed to do something to change the situation, so I set about creating educational toys and games that represented all children – including those of colour.
I believe that everyone deserves to see themselves represented in the toys they play with, and I’m dedicated to making that a reality.
After my unsuccessful shopping trip, I spent the next few months searching for diverse toys and flashcards for Black babies and toddlers online, determined to prove myself wrong – but the options were slim.
The ones that did appear only featured one skin complexion – not a variety of dark and light shades, or different hair textures and styles.
Even on Amazon, when I typed in ‘diverse toys’ or ‘flashcards for Black children,’ all I could find were Batman outfits and black gloves. It was frustrating and disheartening. I hadn’t realised until falling pregnant just how much of an issue it was.
This lack of diversity in toys was the norm when I was younger but I didn’t expect that to still be the case in my adulthood.
It wasn’t until I was given learning flashcards by a friend for my baby shower that I really saw the extent of the problem. All the cards in the set were of white characters, and there wasn’t a single person of colour represented.
And so, Little Omo was born.
Little Omo is an inclusive educational brand that provides learning materials and toys, teaching about diversity through play. All of our products are designed and made here in the UK.
Our product range includes wooden face puzzles featuring different characters with different skin complexions and hairstyles, learning flashcards, jigsaw puzzles, books, posters, and gifting items.
I’d never started a business before, having previously worked as a e-commerce fashion stylist, so was it hard at the beginning – but sheer grit and determination got me through it. I never forgot that moment of disappointment in the store, and I didn’t want my child to feel the same alienation I had.
Despite the challenges, it has been incredibly fulfilling to see the positive impact Little Omo has had on children and their families. It has been very successful in the UK and also internationally, and we’ve received amazing feedback from people of all backgrounds and races.
After becoming the first inclusive toy brand to launch in Selfridges last year, our toys are now being sold in Disneyland California, and are currently stocked in Canada, too – with great success.
In the UK, one of the major changes that I’m pushing for is more inclusive educational resources in schools, and online. It’s why I’m determined for Little Omo to be stocked in 30% of educational institutions in the UK by 2025.
These resources need to be accessible to everyone – and as individuals, we need to educate ourselves more in order to raise anti-racist, inclusive children.
This means reading more books, being open to discussing difficult topics, and using age-appropriate language to talk about race and racism. It’s important for there to be a conscious effort to include representation and diversity in everything that is offered to our children.
Schools in particular have a responsibility to make sure that all students see themselves represented in their curriculum and materials.
This means going beyond just celebrating diversity during Black History Month or Ramadan, and making an effort to include diverse perspectives and experiences in everyday teachings.
It’s important that we all do our part to promote diversity and inclusivity, and to make sure that all feel seen and valued for who they are. As parents, too, we must remember that children are always watching and learning from the adults around them.
This means that we have to be mindful of our own biases and to model respectful and inclusive behaviour. One of the biggest obstacles to having conversations about race with young people is often fear.
Many parents worry that they will say the wrong thing or that their child will become confused or upset. But the reality is that children are much more resilient than we give them credit for, and they’re often much more open to learning about diversity and inclusion than we might think.
Our products are not just for Black people, but for parents and kids of other races too – it allows them to understand the how diverse the world around them is through play.
According to one study, children as young as three can identify race, and associate certain races with negative or positive stereotypes.
That’s why it’s so essential to have a diverse range of products available in the home and classroom.
This can be done through things like watching movies and TV shows with diverse casts, and participating in community events and activities that celebrate different cultures.
Ultimately, it’s important to be more afraid of our offspring becoming disrespectful or racist, than we are of having difficult conversations with them.
Now, it feels absolutely amazing to see my products on the shelves of iconic stores – I feel relief that finally little ones like mine have access to toys they can see themselves in.
I’m so proud of my brand and happy that my son has a variety of products that can teach him about not only his culture but others’ as well.
By taking the time to teach our children about diversity and inclusion, we can help build a more accepting and understanding society for everyone.
You can find out more about Little Omo here
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