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Lego Friends sets and characters are a win for kids with disabilities

Although toy trends change vastly from year to year, there are a few classic toy brands that have withstood the test of time. Some of the most iconic childhood staples are Lego building blocks, which have been helping children learn, grow, and have a great time since the 1950s.

There have been some changes to their design over the last several decades, and recently one of the most refreshing debuts is the addition of new disabled Lego Friends characters. A long-overdue acknowledgment of the importance of inclusion, these new disabled characters are making children with disabilities feel seen, heard, and important.

For my son, who has autism, the day his inclusive Lego Friends sets arrived at the door sparked a connection that has only grown stronger since the moment he first held the box. Perhaps most important of all, his attachment to these mini-doll figurines opened unexpected avenues for a critical conversation.

Shop Lego Friends at Lego store

What are Lego Friends?

Reviewed / Eden Strong

The Lego Friends HeartLake Downtown Diner includes Liann, Aliya, and Charli mini-dolls from the 2023 generation of Lego Friends characters.

Located in Heartlake City—the fantasy Lego community centered around a heart-shaped lake—there are shops, restaurants, a grocery store, a hospital, and everything else a town would need, which is an ideal place for the Lego Friends to live.

A collection set apart from other Lego sets due to their “real life” appeal, the Lego Friends were created to connect with the children who interact with them. Featuring building sets that include each character’s home, school, town hangouts, social activities, hobbies, and more, they represent the characters’ lives, friendships, and now, their disabilities. Bringing playtime to life, children become absorbed into the storylines Lego has crafted, which can then be reflected in the worlds kids create.

Who are the disabled Lego Friends?

The Lego Friends Organic Grocery Store

Reviewed / Eden Strong

The Lego Friends Organic Grocery Store comes with 2023 series characters Leo, Autumn, Jordin, and Isaac mini-dolls, plus a younger sister Alba and Churro the cat figurine.

Although Lego previously featured a character who uses a wheelchair, there are now some new friends in town who are living life with visible and non-visible disabilities.

  • Paisley battles anxiety but has an amazing vocal talent to showcase.

  • Autumn may have an arm limb difference, but that hasn’t stopped her from being adventurous.

  • Leo loves to please his friends but struggles with confrontation if something is bothering him.

  • Nova is a gamer with a huge online following, but forging real-life social connections is difficult for her due to social anxiety.

  • Lianne can be impulsive due to her ADHD, but her art talents are incredibly impressive.

  • Aliya is an amazing friend, but inside she is still trying to find self-confidence.

  • Olly sometimes misses the cues needed to respect boundaries, but he’s working hard to achieve his dreams.

  • Fionna has Down syndrome, but she is most known for her love of crafts and the ability to identify every flower species by name.

  • Jordin, an original Lego Friend, has skin with colorless patches due to vitiligo, but more importantly she’s a fast learner.

What Lego playsets include disabled friends?

The Lego Friends Autumn's House set on a pink background.

Reviewed / Eden Strong

The Lego Friends Autumn’s House set includes a kitchen, living room, dining room, bathroom, Autumn’s nature-inspired bedroom, a balcony, and a small toy horse stable.

There are so many sets that include the new disabled Lego Friends that it’s easy to become impressively overwhelmed with options. To get you started, here are a few of our favorites:

For more Lego Friends sets, or to find a set containing a specific Lego Friend character, you can visit the Lego website and utilize the search feature.

Trying out the new Lego Friends playsets

A child playing with the Lego Friends Autumn's House set.

Reviewed / Eden Strong

The Lego Friends Autumn’s House set includes four Lego Friends mini dolls: Autumn, Leo, Aliya, and Daisy the dog

I never want to recommend something I haven’t personally tested out, and luckily my son was thrilled to build a few Lego Friends sets so we could see what all the hype was about. Snagging two large sets, Autumn’s House and the Organic Grocery Store, as well as the smaller Heartlake Downtown Diner set, he couldn’t wait to get to work!

Product image of Autumn's House

Autumn’s House

This Lego Friends house set features a nature-themed doll house toy for kids ages 7+, with different rooms and four Lego Friends mini-dolls.

$70 at Amazon

Featuring the same great Lego simplicity that has sparked creativity and hours of fun for many generations, I appreciate that each set clearly labels the front of the box which characters it contains so that, if you are looking for a specific Lego Friend, it’s super easy to find a set featuring them.

Each box has everything needed to build the set, as well as an instruction booklet with easy-to-read, step-by-step instructions. Pieces for each set are separated into several different packages, which are labeled in the order of which they are to be used. This arrangement makes the process a lot less overwhelming than dumping 800+ pieces at a time, and it was significantly easier than sorting through them all while looking for a specific piece.

It was the toys’ meticulous attention to detail that I found to be the most impressive. From the television remote and the pictures hanging on the refrigerator door in the Autumn’s House set, to the “caution wet floor” warning sign in the Organic Grocery Store set, every detail is accounted for. My son in particular loved that the grocery store had a sliding entrance door, just like the stores in our real-life hometown.

Product image of Organic Grocery Store

Organic Grocery Store

The Lego Friends grocery store comes with 2023 series characters Leo, Autumn, Jordin and Isaac mini-dolls, plus a younger sister Alba, and a Churro the cat figurine.

$90 at Amazon

In awe of the characters’ differences, my son spent hours immersed in building the sets that represent the lives his Lego Friends are leading. And although I thought he would instantly connect with the characters who have traits similar to his own, he was actually even more enamored by the characters who were most different than him; wanting to research their disabilities to learn more about why Jordin’s skin had variations in the color and how Autumn can do various tasks while having a limb difference in her arm.

The conversations that followed were exactly the conversations that need to happen if we ever expect children with disabilities to feel understood, respected, and included, and if I’m being honest, the dialogue helped me learn quite a bit myself.

The only downside to this entire experience was that my son’s autism has given him the incredible gift of being able to replicate the building of almost anything with lightning speed. In just a day-and-a-half he built all three sets (and was begging for more).

Product image of Heartlake Downtown Diner

Heartlake Downtown Diner

The Heartlake Downtown Diner features a fun restaurant toy for kids, with a drive-thru window, outdoor seating, an arcade machine, moving jukebox, and three mini-dolls.

$24 at Amazon

For a less-experienced builder I anticipate the larger sets taking at least a few days to tackle. If the Lego system is new to your child, starting out with a smaller set, such as the Dog Rescue Bike, might be a great first step so the process feels more manageable and enjoyable. For veterans and newbies alike, these sets are a great gift for kids ages 6 and up.

Are Lego building sets the only way that Lego is bringing inclusivity to their toys?

What makes Lego Friends so unique is that they are more than just building sets. In the Lego Friends video series, which streams free on the Lego Friends website, children can watch the characters come alive as they navigate school, hobbies, and their disabilities.

For children who have a disability, the representation is both undeniable and valuable. For children who may not be familiar with a specific disability, the opportunity to understand children who may not look or act exactly like them is priceless.

Would I recommend Lego Friends for inclusivity and representation?

Three different Lego Friends sets featuring, Autumn's House, HeartLake Downtown Diner, and the Organic Grocery Store.

Reviewed / Eden Strong

Lego Friends sets include Autumn’s House, HeartLake Downtown Diner, and the Organic Grocery Store.

I honestly don’t know in what way I could say “no,” because Lego has hit the mark with this one. Not only have the new Lego Friends sets arrived with the same well-known Lego quality that promises hours of engagement, but, as the mother of a child with a disability, I loved seeing my son play with toys that represent who he is.

Yet even more impressive than that was the door it opened to start the conversations that bridge the understanding of inclusion for all. This product line screams “yes” as a toy, a tool, and a teacher. Not only do I recommend it, I also strongly encourage making it a part of your family’s playtime fun.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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