The issue of gender neutrality in children’s products has been debated since a bill was introduced in 2005 to stop the use of gendered marketing on toys—the “Girls and Boys Toys Bill”. It is now being argued that gender-specific toys can have lasting negative effects on society, especially on women. Recently, a German toy store banned the sale of ‘girly’ toys to independent children to promote gender neutrality in young children.
But whether people are talking about the legalization of gay marriage, genderless toys in Happy Meals, or an upcoming science fair project, this same question keeps repeating itself. Should parents and educators encourage children to follow gender stereotypes or encourage them to break free from them? Today, parents do their utmost to prevent the socialization of gender.
But girls aren’t only influenced by gender-based marketing. The toy industry has a notorious reputation when it comes to marketing towards kids, and more broadly, women. Ingenious toys are being released that encourage children to learn valuable skills and develop necessary functions. Since learning begins at a young age, why not provide forward-thinking toys that will help children in the future? The world is going to be radically different by the time today’s toddlers graduate from college. Why not give them a head start by giving them a gender neutral upbringing?
Gender-neutral toys are a part of fighting gender stereotypes and sharing the activities that you do with your kids. It promotes both creative plays as well as more strength in kids to be able to interact and understand other children from different backgrounds or with different toy preferences. At the end of the day, I think toys should be gender-neutral. Boys should be able to play with girl’s toys and girls should be allowed to play with boy’s toys.
What’s important to realize is that society’s beliefs about how a girl plays versus how a boy plays, based on biological traits they’re born with, are inaccurate. There are people out there who feel the need to defend toys and say, “Well, you know girls like to play with dolls and boys would rather have cars.” This is simply not true. Toys and play serve a key role in our lives. They help us prepare for what’s to come later on in life. We’re introducing children to a variety of important learning techniques that they can use to navigate the future.