The 2016 Summer Olympics are officially underway and millions of people across the globe are tuning in to multiple television channels and websites to watch thousands of athletes from approximately 200 countries compete in 306 events. Held every four years, the Olympics is the oldest, largest and most prestigious sporting event on Earth. Given the grandeur and popularity of this occasion, it is likely that children who watch the Olympics will garner increased interest in both sports and other countries--and the toys and games industry has a few products that are absolutely ideal presents for kids during this special time.


Cultural diversity is one of the primary themes of the Olympic Games and it is also a big part of the philosophy of the “Gift ‘ems” franchise. These small collectible toys by JAKKs Pacific feature figurines--most of which are female--that each hail from a different city. Fittingly, the tag line of this brand is “A Gift of Friendship, a World of Friends!” Each figure comes in a box that is shaped like a present; children cannot see what doll they have collected until they open the box and reveal the figure (including a fun tongue-in-cheek name), the name of her city and country of origin.

Each box also includes media relating to its character’s specific city such as a photo of an iconic landmark related to it, an illustration of its country and/or information about certain animals that dwell there. For instance, the Australian figurine’s box includes a photo of a koala bear. While these toys are similar to other collectibles such as Shopkins and Splashlings, they are unique in their global theme.

“It’s very rewarding to know that we have created a brand that has meaningful educational and cultural benefits as well as great play value,” stated Michael Bernstein, SVP of Marketing for JAKKS Pacific. “We hope Gift ‘ems becomes an established mini-doll brand that continues to promote educational and cultural awareness.”


Also coinciding with the start of the 2016 Olympics, Mattel recently released a "Flipping Fun Gymnast" Barbie which depicts the world’s most famous doll in the role of a gymnastics teacher.

The set comes with a Barbie, the figurine of a young child and a balance beam. The toy is designed with magnet inlays that enable the child doll to flip in the air and land firmly on the mat--just like actual gymnasts do during the Olympics. The set also includes a gold trophy and lots of pink hues which are absolutely iconic of the Barbie line. Whilst other doll companies such as Madam Alexander have created collectible dolls to honor athletes, this Barbie is more durable and, therefore, suitable for children to play with.

Final thoughts

Global sporting events like the Olympics are a great way to expand children’s minds about both their capabilities as athletes and the wider world as a whole.

Fostering an interest in sports and/or traveling opens children’s minds--and futures--up to all kinds of exciting possibilities; although toys and games might not be the driving forces behind these interests, it is certainly a forward-thinking step for the toy industry to depict sports and multi-culturalism in a positive light. Hence, it is very exciting to consider what toys and games might be available four years from now!

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