Bullying is often written off as a normal part of childhood—growing up as a boy with a girl’s name, I was an easy target for schoolyard taunts. But it might be fair to say that this current generation of kids has it harder than ever. Consider Lee Hirsch’s recent documentary Bully, the countless news stories about youth being victimized by their peers through social media, and the It Gets Better Project aimed at ending the alarming trend of kids senselessly taking their own lives.
At Toy Fair, I was pulled aside by a man holding up a child-sized doll with an adorable face and yarn hair. I later learned the doll was part of the My Friend Huggles line, which is among a growing number of toys that have a larger message. My Friend Huggles seeks to teach kids virtues such as kindness, fairness, and generosity. Each doll features a satin ribbon with a poem about the doll’s virtue. In addition to the regular doll collection, the My Friend Huggles line also includes a brother-sister duo dressed as anti-bullying superheroes.