The days of pink and blue aisles may soon be a thing of history, as many toy outlets are hopping on the gender neutral trend these days. While gender-enthusiast applaud such movements, and others seem rather on-the-fence about the whole idea, researchers have from time to time come out to back up the benefits of exposing children to gender neutral toys.
According to a previous research study done by Dr. Elizabeth Sweet; a sociologist and lecturer at the University of California, “Gender toys do shape children’s play preferences and style. Because gendered toys limit the range of skills and attributes that both boys and girls can explore through play, they may prevent children from developing their full range of interests, preferences, and talents.”
Sweet emphasizes on the point that de-gendering toys has its benefits, as she states that this will simply enable children to have the freedom of choice to explore their diverse interests beyond the narrow confines of gender stereotypes. For instance, she mentions the fact that if you simply remove a sign that reads ‘Girls Building Set’, it doesn’t prevent a girl from picking that toy but rather, it allows both girls and boys to have the desire to choose it.
Such effects seem to be parallel to Let Toys Be Toys, a UK based campaign that was primarily established to focus on eliminating the gendered labeling and marketing of toys. A visit to their website reveals information pertaining to the effects of gender labeling toys such as, “The stereotypes we see in toy marketing connect with the inequalities we see in adult life. By late primary age, research shows that children already have very clear ideas about the jobs that are suitable for boys and girls; ideas that are very hard to shake later on.”
It may appear that a simple trip to a toy store could end up teaching young girls that their inevitable end goals in life are to be able to cook and to look after the babies, all while keeping themselves looking glamorous and beautiful. On the other end of the spectrum, boys might leave the toy store believing they should behave more rough, tough, and rowdy, while their interest should always be more centralized on adrenaline-filled action.
Ultimately, children should get to decide for themselves what they think is fun. Whether it’s a girl finding the joy in playing with a fire truck or a boy curiously feeding imitation milk to a plastic baby, there’s no denying that both of these children can learn a thing or two from play.
Matthew Alexander is a free soul. At least, that’s what he thinks. In reality, he’s a Mass Communications graduate, a pop-culture addict, and an aspiring writer. If you can’t find him over analyzing that latest art-house film or obsessing over his current acoustic creation, he’s probably unpretentiously doing yoga.”