Role-play with ethnically diverse Playmobil figures could encourage friendships across racial divides, researchers believe.
Psychologists at Goldsmiths are set to ask pupils to imagine the figures are recently arrived children from overseas and play with them.
It is thought the role-play may help pupils overcome a fear of difference.
A similar project involving figures in wheelchairs found pupils’ willingness to make friends was greatly enhanced.
“We have been doing some work over the past few years with Playmobil figures in wheelchairs,” said Dr Sian Jones, a psychologist specialising in the way children cope with diversity.
“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.
“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.”
About 200 pupils in several schools will be asked to play with the figures just once for about three minutes.
The researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London, will question the children before and afterwards and also measure their anxiety levels to see how they have been affected by the experience.
The toys are expected to increase the ease by which children can imagine positive exchanges with immigrant children, and therefore their reactions to newly arrived children when they enter classrooms or the playground.