It’s no secret that the toys your child plays with have a direct impact on their physical, mental and emotional development. And while it goes without saying that these toys should be sustainable, it’s also critical that they expose children to diversity from a young age.

Author and black-doll enthusiast Debbie Behan Garrett explains on her blog: “It is very important for children to see themselves in playthings, in books, and in media. This helps develop self-love and prevents the fallacy that there is only one standard of beauty from entering impressionable minds.”

Encourage your child’s imagination, boost self-esteem and promote racial inclusivity with these 6 local POC-owned toy brands for toddlers.


1. Imibongo kaMakhulu

When passionate entrepreneur Nondumiso Gogela became a girl-mom in 2018, she was inspired to create a range of children’s dolls that her baby would grow up identifying with.

“Essentially when playing with dolls, children see a friend, an equal, someone to care for and nurture. If you only learn to practice these skills on one kind of doll, and you add media beauty standards to the mix – which has an abundance of westernized everything – you will find the result is less regard for anything other than what they interact with,” Gogela says on her website.

Entirely handmade by Gogela herself, each doll is uniquely crafted with individually made clothing and accessories, making them keepsakes to be treasured for years to come.

Imibongo kaMakhulu dolls can be purchased at the OB Market in Lakeside, Mzuri Mamas in Kalk Bay or online.

2. Colour Me Kids

Created by early-childhood teacher Kaylee and her husband Justin, Colour Me Kids was born out of frustration at the limited availability of skin colours in children’s stationery in South Africa.

Kaylee mixed her own paints for a while, but  felt she needed to do more. “A huge part of childhood development and creative expression is drawing, but children were being limited with how they could express who they are”, their website explains.

Eventually the couple developed a range of crayons celebrating 12 shades of skin colours “designed to celebrate the diversity of our rainbow nation”.

Colour Me Kids crayons can be purchased on their website (with 5% of their profits going towards educating underprivileged children in South Africa).

3. The Sibahle Collection

Named after the Zulu word meaning “we are beautiful”, the Sibahle Collection has an offering of dolls, books, puzzles and more, which aims to encourage black children to be comfortable in their own skin and to teach children of all races to celebrate diversity.

Their first two dolls, the Nobuhle and Bontle dolls, “smell of vanilla and have typical 4C Afro hair. Our hope with these dolls is that they can teach our black children how to care for their own natural hair from a young age as well as grow up being affirmed and taking pride in being African” say founders Caroline Hlahla and Khulile Vilakazi-Ofosu.

The Sibahle Collection shop is located in Ferndale Village Shopping Centre in Johannesburg and  their merchandise is also available online.

4. Girltivity

This local POC-owned business offers a subscription to the Girltivity Box – a jam-packed monthly educational activity box especially designed to empower girl children between the ages of 3 and 12.

With a selection of boxes aimed at different ages and interests, the Girltivity Box covers all the areas of their acronym STEAMED UP, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics, Entrepreneurship, Design, Understanding and Practice. Favourites include the The Curious Coder box, The Helpful Environmentalist box and the Space Adventure box which aim to break stereotypes of what it means to be feminine and encourage young girls to explore and celebrate interests in all fields.

For owner Kiara, it became her mission to let girls know that they can be anything they dream of, “even an astronaut in space”. For more info visit their website or email

5. Origins Publishers

Originally from a rural village in Matatiele, South Africa, author and founder Mosa Mkhize was inspired to start Origins Publishers when she was pregnant with her first child. With first-hand experience of the developmental benefits of multilingualism – which include increased problem solving skills, enhanced memory and improved writing and reading skills – Mkhize wanted to equip her child with a rich sense of her heritage and culture.

When she was unable to find multilingual books that she could use to this end, Mkhize decided to create her own. Origins Publishers now produces a huge collection of books in a bilingual format, making learning accessible to everyone.

“We invested a lot of time and effort into developing a product that would be exciting for little readers,” says Mkhize, talking about the books’ use of graphics, colours and textures for interactive fun. 

Visit their website where you can shop their extensive collection.

6. Tamba Naturals

Hand-crafted by Gauteng-based entrepreneur Vimbai Kavhumbura, these beautiful and colourful bath products for kids make the perfect gift for toddlers and children of all ages.

Vimbai’s range includes bath crayons in bright colours and fun shapes – including stars, fish and animal friends. Made in small batches from 100% locally sourced ingredients with non-toxic pigments and natural wax (paraffin free), these bright beauties will make bathtime for little ones that much more fun.

Tamba Naturals products are sold online or at the Irene Village Market in Pretoria and the Field Market in Sandton.

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