The conflicts in war-torn Syria and Iraq have brought an influx of immigrants to the U.K. and it’s often difficult for children from different countries to settle into school.
However psychologists may have found a simple way of encouraging pupils to welcome children from unfamiliar cultures.
Psychologists at Goldsmiths, University of London, believe ethnically diverse Playmobil figures will help pupils overcome a fear of difference and embrace friendships across racial divides, reports the BBC.
Psychologists were inspired by the results of research they previously conducted on Playmobil figures in wheelchairs.
Dr. Sian Jones, a psychologist specialising in the way children cope with diversity, said, “It seems to work very well in terms of getting them to think about engaging with disabled children and getting over any issues or perceived problems about playing with them.”
Assumptions and generalisations about the ethnic origin of immigrants often leads to stereotyping and hostility, which has presented schools with new challenges as they attempt to tackle these issues. The hope is now that role play with these toys could help promote more diverse friendships between British schoolchildren.
“We are going to get them to imagine they are in ‘golden time,’ and then to ask them to pick up the Playmobil and tell them that the figure is a recently arrived pupil and get them to imagine what playing with them would look like,” Dr. Jones said.
Dr. Jones and Professor Adam Rutland will spend a year working with children between the ages of five and nine across various London schools, TES reports.
They intend to ask children to play with these diverse Playmobil figures just once, for about three minutes.
Researchers will then evaluate how the children felt before and after they played with the figures and measure their anxiety levels to determine how the new experience has affected them.
After playing with the toys, the schoolchildren will be asked to look at profiles of immigrants online and answer a series of questions about their feelings towards them, including whether they would share toys with these children. The reactions will be measured against children who have been asked to “imagine a friendship with an immigrant child.”
Hopefully the toys will have a positive influence on children and encourage them to pursue a real-life friendship with their new classmates.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something as simple as a tiny plastic toy could help bridge social divides?