Nowadays almost every part of our children’s daily life is influenced by a rigid categorisation of “for boys” and “for girls”. There are movies for boys and movies for girls, boys and girls clothing, backpacks and shoes. You even get to choose between a boys version and a girls version of Kinder eggs. The same goes for toys. You can usually tell straight away if a toy is meant to be for boys or for girls. As a consequence of these predetermined categories, kids do not have many possibilities to freely experiment and try different forms of toys, which would help them find out what they like. They are being told from the very beginning, which category of toys is meant for them. Within their category, girls are then allowed to choose if they would rather play with a baby doll, a barbie princess or with a pink doll house. Boys can decide whether they want to play with race cars, Star Wars Lego or superhero action figures.
Gender specific toys can influence the way children develop important skills and abilities
From the age of three years onwards, children tend to start identifying with their own gender. When areas of their life are divided into gender specific categories, it is normal that children tend to choodr things that are aimed at their gender. Toys that are marketed towards boys tend to support other skills as toys from the category “for girls”, which can bias how children develop. Construction and building toys (typical boys’ toys) for example promote the development of spacial awareness, whereas typical girls’ toys, such as dolls, support language acquisition and social skills, such a empathy.
Toy marketing and the portrayal of gender roles
The form of marketing and the images used in advertisement campaigns influence the way children understand their gender and its roles in society. Women are generally portrayed as the ones responsible for the household and the children, who at the same time always do their best to look pretty and attractive. In order to get prepared for their futures, girls can practise with toy brooms, doll buggies, toy kitchens and of course with little pink make up cases. According to typical toy advertisement and marketing, the modern man is active and confident. From an early age on, boys can put on super hero costumes, can race around with toy cars or let their dinosaur figures roar. Loud and clear.
Neutral toys for a playtime with more diversity and choice
It is about time to break up the gender-specific toy categories and get rid of the stereotypical images used in toys advertisements. Girls should know that they are also allowed to be strong and loud and that construction toys and toy cars are not just for boys. Boys, on the other hand, should be given more opportunities to play with toys that promote social skills. Of course there are differences between boys and girls, there always will be. However, we believe that children should be given the choice. Through more neutral toys and without gender-specific categories, kids would be allowed to experiment freely, try out a variety of different toys and be able to decide with what they would like to play. This would help children develop as free individuals and would also have a positive impact on the way they define gender roles.