Toys are crucial to development

Allison Browne

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A boy does not know he is supposed to play with toy cars and like the color blue. A girl does not know she is supposed to like the color pink and play with toy dolls.

The only reason they start believing this is because we tell them they are supposed to.

Children are not black and white in their perceptions. They only see genders as opposites because we present it very simplistically that way, and they only conform to the “social norm” for their gender because it is what they are expected to do.

There is a very distinct divide in the ways toys are designed, and subsequently marketed to boys and girls.

Toys often seem decades behind the real world, reflecting outdated stereotypes —- doctor kits for boys, nurse kits for girls, weapons for boys, cooking for girls, fighting for boys and princess glamour for girls.

Let Toys Be Toys recently conducted a survey where parents volunteered to visit shops nationwide, investigating how their toy departments were marketed. They reported all the science and Lego products were targeted solely at boys and all the “home play” toys at girls.

TOP-TOY, a company that creates advertisements for Swedish Toys-R-Us, made headlines for creating a gender-neutral toy catalog. They featured pictures of boys vacuuming and playing with dolls and girls playing with Nerf guns and toy cars.

“We want our catalogs to reflect the way that boys and girls play in real life, and not present a stereotype image of them. If both girls and boys in Sweden like to play with a toy kitchen, then we want to reflect this pattern,” retail marketing director Thomas Meng said in a statement on their website.

Toys are crucial to the emotional, mental and social development of children.

Toys focused on action, construction and technology help develop spatial skills, problem solving and encourage children to be active. Toys focused on role playing and acting allow them to practice social skills. Arts and crafts are good for fine motor skills, creativity and perseverance.

Both boys and girls need an equal chance to develop these life skills and dividing stores into “girl” toys and “boy” toys is putting a severe limit on a child’s chance to learn about the world around them.

What children learn early on, often through the toys they play with, has a huge impact on what they become capable of later in life. Why would we want to put a limit on the possibilities?

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