October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and whether or not you believe bullying is a natural rite of passage among children, versus a series of preventable behaviors that can leave lasting emotional damage on the young, one thing is clear: It has become a part of the national conversation. Joining the voices chiming in on the subject is the toy industry, which in the months leading up to October, has seen a number of actions among various players to address the problem of bullying. Some take the form of products that try to make kids understand the bad feelings that come with being picked on; others seek galvanize youth into taking a stand against bullying together.
In the former category is Alice’s Pawfect Tea-Party Kit, from The Storybook Tea Kit Company, which is an all-in-one tea party set for kids, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It includes tea and various treats, as well as an excerpt from the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland chapter, “A Mad Tea Party.” The text is intended to demonstrate the pain of exclusion, per the way that the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse behave toward Alice. The set includes instructions on how to create a “pawfect” tea party, in which all are welcome, and the intent is for kids to carry these lessons over to other settings.
Another product, Roll A Role: A Bullying Prevention Game, from The Guidance Group, has been around since 2006. It places kids in the shoes of bullies, their targets, and bystanders, with the goal of helping teach techniques for dealing with situations in which bullying is occurring. In theory, the game can also educate kids (and possibly grown-ups) who may not recognize bullying as it’s going on. The basic set consists of cards; however, Roll A Role Cubes—foam cubes that let players put a different card in each side of the cube, for an even more game-ified version of bullying prevention—are also available.
This month, in partnership with the anti-bullying group Stomp Out, Marvel Comics is releasing variant covers to several of its comic books, each one showing a Marvel super-hero empathizing with a bullying victim. The Marvel characters include Captain America, Gamora from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Hulk.
Some fairly large players in children’s media have been doing what they can to address bullying, too. No less than Disney, through its Disney’s Friends for Change program, in association with the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) Center, recently launched a Choose Kindness campaign intended to raise awareness among youth. Meanwhile, Random House Children’s Books has its own Choose Kind program, inspired by children’s book author R. J. Palacio, in which the publisher will donate $1 to PACER for every school-age child that pledges to perform a kind deed.
No doubt, there are countless toy companies that do their part year-round to inspire feelings of positivity and inclusion among youth, and this was not intended to be a comprehensive list. If you know of any other toy- or game-related initiatives that also take a stand against bullying, let us know about them. In the meantime, be good to one another, and enjoy the rest of National Bullying Prevention Month.
For more commentary from Phil, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!