As the world makes tremendous strides in bridging the gender gap in education, employment, politics, and other aspects of life, the toy sector seems to be have been forgotten. Most toy stores today are separated into 2 distinct sections, where a girly pink section is filled with dolls, kitchen sets, makeup kits, and house maintenance toys, while a blue section features toys like building blocks, soldier figures, chemistry kits, miniature helicopters, and train sets.
Some toy stores even label their sections “boys” or “girls” and stock them with gender specific toys. Does this form of marketing make toy shopping easier or just lead to negative repercussions? Well, as it turns out, gender specific toys can incorporate harmful ideas in kids and even hamper their development.
Here’s a quick look at how gender-specific toys can negatively affect child development.
Gender-Typed Toys Can Encourage Sexist Attributes
Studies show that children will naturally go for toys they believe are intended for their gender. This choice for toys becomes so in-built that kids who deviate from their designated choices get ridiculed by others. As a result, a gender divide is created right from an early age. For instance, girl toys are mostly associated with physical attractiveness, nurturing, and housework play where little girls host tea parties or mimic doing household chores.
Boy toys, on the other hand, focus on competition, violence, danger, and excitement. This gender stereotyping of toys limits the skills and hobbies children feel they are allowed to follow by sending messages such as girls should stick to nurturing and housework duties while boys are encouraged to go for more challenging roles. Once this way of thinking is ingrained in children, reversing it becomes difficult since beliefs and values gained at this young age become deeply rooted.
Gender Specific Toys Can Interfere with Child Development
Toys are more than playthings as they have a powerful influence on children’s creative response, thinking, and interaction with fellow children. Girl toys tend to lean towards developing interpersonal skills and enhancing imagination, while boy toys encourage creative thinking, problem solving, and “roughing it out” skills. While both set of skills are good to have, both genders get to miss out on the skills the other gets to develop when playing with gender specific toys.
Children conform to what their world tells them. So, eliminating gender specific toys and replacing them with neutral ones can help get rid of the harmful stereotypes that are being sold today. Several initiatives and campaigns across the world have already come up asking people and toy stores alike to embrace the idea of gender-neutral toys.