Should the World of Toys Be Gender-Free?

“stereotypically gendered play patterns may have a more negative long-term impact on kids’ potential than parents imagine. And promoting, without forcing, cross-sex friendships as well as a breadth of play styles may be more beneficial. There is even evidence that children who have opposite-sex friendships during their early years have healthier romantic relationships as teenagers.”

The article attached to the image is an op-ed penning in the New York Times. It addresses the topic from a developmental perspective and also alludes to altering behavior that may go against what normative behavioral patterns exist. There are differences in behaviors among boys and girls and sometimes it is just natural; however, persuading gender identity in parenting is simply poor parenting; if of course done in a negative way.

The article suggests parental influences in play styles, but is this really needed if children are just socialized through positive parenting practices? I don’t know the answer and any media reporting seems to lack any real data to show how best to deal with this challenge.



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4 Responses to Should the World of Toys Be Gender-Free?

  1. I’ve always thought that it must make good business sense to produce toys that are gender neutral. If you market your product only to boys then you’re missing half the population! Wouldn’t it make a difference on the bottom line if everyone was interested in buying your toy?

    Take diapers, for instance. If you buy generic, they’re just white. But if you buy name brand they come with Disney Princess for girls and Cars characters for boys. This happened to me once when my kids were in diapers (I have girls): went to Target and the Princess diapers are all gone. Just blue boy diapers with Cars. The generic ones don’t hold as much, so I’m not buying those. There’s no way I’m driving across town to the other Target. So I put my girls in boy diapers.

    I can imagine that for some other parents this would not have been such an easy decision. Especially if the problem was the same and gender swapped: boy needs diapers and only Princesses are on the shelf.

    I don’t know. Obviously Proctor & Gamble aren’t hurting, so they must know what they’re doing. But my point is, when you pitch a thing exclusively at one gender don’t you lose half the market? What kind of decision is that?

  2. karlishavb says:

    I always thought about how ridiculous it is that everything has to be divided by gender. It makes you question why the companies always want to separate and catergorize things so much, especially toys. I have a male cousin that flips out if his two year old boy tries to play with a doll. I have a daughter and she has always loved trucks and cars. I have never tried to stop her from playing with them. She had just as many trucks as she had dolls. But now she is at the age where she is separating “girl” toys from “boy” toys.

  3. Djhop21 says:

    I believe that the toys could be a little less gender oriented for more educational reasons. But toys such as dolls and action figures are oriented to the right group. Playing with an action figure constructs what in a child because i am clueless. Dolls may start shaping a more motherly foundation in girls but whats wrong with that. On the educational side i do think they need to have girls in these commercials playing with science toys and more mathematical stuff. I think this is the reason more males excel in math and science than women. They say things like leggos and construction sets build critical thinking skills and these skills are used in math and science every day.

  4. nitiapablo says:

    I read an article about how people parent boys and girls differently. Girls are helped a lot more with everyday things while boys are given the opportunity and even encouraged to figure things out on their own. This can often lead girls to have a sense of helplessness not found in young boys. Maybe this is why parents don’t encourage more opposite-sex friendships. They’re afraid that little boys will be too rough with their daughters or that if their sons have a lot of female friends that he might be gay. I’d like to think that some parents don’t intentionally persuade gender identities. But it’s got to be difficult when the very first question anyone ever asks when given news that someone is expecting a child is, “Is it a boy or girl?” I wish this wasn’t the case, but at the same time, what else would someone ask? It’s not like fetuses have personalities.

    I guess toy manufacturers and others in the business of making things for babies and young people just use the one thing they know about their target audience: the person playing with the toy will be either a boy or a girl. Biology is all they really have to rely on. I don’t really know any children, but the few educational toys that I’ve seen recently didn’t seem to be gendered. Two of my little cousins have these little V-Tech laptops. They have the same educational games and are the same colors. Maybe the demands for kids to have a certain level of technological understanding will encourage less gender separation in children’s toys.

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