Should Toys be Gender Specific?

This Christmas, a group of people are lobbying major retailers to remove overt gendering from the toys that they sell. The Let Toys Be Toys campaign is hoping to stop retailers from grouping products as “Boy’s Toys” and “Girl’s Toys”, as they believe that these labels help to reinforce gender stereotypes. They also hope to reduce the prevalence of pink and blue colour schemes being used to market toys for specific genders.

Some parents do not agree with the campaign, as they feel that it is a trivial issue which is taking attention away from bigger problems. However, learning development experts continue to promote the idea that the toys which a child plays with before the age of 5 will help to shape their development. For example, building block toys help children to develop problem-solving skills and spatial awareness skills which are useful for practical tasks and jobs in later life. On the other hand, toy kitchens are ideal for helping children to build their cognitive skills. It is therefore important that children are able to play with a wide range of different toys.

Many adults also argue that the campaign is irrelevant because their male child will always choose the toy truck, whilst their daughter will always choose the doll. Nonetheless, a large number of studies have been carried out which suggest that children do not show a gender preference for toys until they have been in a position to learn about the gendered ideas of society.

When children accompany their parents to the shops and see that toys are divided into two distinct aisles, they understand the cues which are being given to them. Following an experience like this, the child is then more likely to choose a toy which they believe is right for their gender. In one experiment, researchers placed a selection of miscellaneous toys into “girl boxes” and “boy boxes”, before letting children pick which toys they wanted to play with. Girls predominantly choose toys from the “girl box”, whilst boys choose items from the “boy box”.

Leading sociologists and gender specialists are keen to support the campaign, arguing that imposing rigid labels onto toys could be harmful for child development. Assigning gendered labels to toys can increase feelings of anxiety amongst children who may be worried about playing with the wrong toy. Before 3, children are likely to play with whatever toy is put in front of them. Any gender cues that they pick up on will come from their parents or others in the room. Negative cues from adults about the appropriateness of toys will be picked up by infants. Older children will start to take their cues from other things, such as the colour scheme of the product. There is strong gender development phase between the ages of 3 and 5, and interactions during this time period can have a lasting effect. Experts believe that gender anxiety during this phase may have psychological effects for years to come.

Campaigners also argue that giving toys a gendered colour scheme is a trick that was invented by marketers as a way to sell more products. Colour schemes were only introduced in the last 20 – 30 years to fit into gender stereotypes. Marketers realised that they could encourage families with multiple children to buy new toys if they were able to ascribe gender to certain objects. It is now possible to buy different versions of the same toy in both pink and blue, depending on the gender of the child that the toy is being purchased for.

Regardless of whether the campaign succeeds or not, there is still a stigma which needs to be overcome. If adults are unable to change their opinions about specific toys and games being right for specific genders, then it is unlikely that toys will stop holding such deep meaning to children. A male child wearing a princess dress is still likely to draw comments from people, even though it may be socially acceptable for a female child to dress up in a superhero costume. Any change in children’s toys needs to be accompanied by a widespread shift in the adult mindset in regards to gender issues.

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    • Joanne Scholes on 23/10/2020 at 12:44 AM
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    I don’t think toys should b genera Pacific, I couldn’t relate to my friend playing with barbie, I understood more about playing with action man, n star wars, the only ‘girl’ toy I felt comfortable with was a pink and white dog, I called it ‘mopercrump’ looking back it’s not a very ‘gender persific’ name well it had no PRIATE parts, no that’s not a big give away!!

    • brenden on 15/03/2021 at 7:08 PM
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    toy stores should NOT do this because a toy is a toy and its not healthy growing up into a mold

    • John, not JANE, or Joanne on 29/08/2021 at 10:03 AM
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    I do NOT agreein the slightest. Nature provides the gender and it should be followed. It has worked for 100 of years and nothing wrong with heterosexuality it makes the world go around. To start messing with childrens minds to steer them away from this is a great prank and funny crossdressing and role-playing until they grow up when it is definitely bad for their mental health when they grow into adults and don’t know where to turn. There are many who went doen the gender re-assignment nonsense and regretted it majorly with massive mental health issues which can largely ne irreversible, particularly if they have gone down the surgical route to remove male genitalia.

      • James Simpson on 17/09/2021 at 12:02 PM
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      I’m sad that you feel this way. There have been all kinds of genders and non-gendered people for as long as humans have existed. As for your claim that it is bad for children’s mental health for them to be allowed to choose their own toys… you’ll need some strong evidence for that. Do you have any? The same applies to your claim that many who have had gender reassignment surgery have since regretted it. Where is your evidence?

      • 44 on 03/11/2021 at 7:03 PM
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      you mean transgender? So your transphobic?

      • your mother is back on 04/11/2021 at 6:13 PM
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      no one cares lmao

      • Jay on 17/12/2021 at 7:36 PM
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      In response to your last couple lines, I have some studies and collections of information and data for you to read. It seems you are seriously misinformed, especially around detransition.

      Here’s a good website where you’ll find a very large database of studies. The text above the collection of studies outlines the major findings in the studies, to make it easier for you to read. 🙂

      https://whatweknow.inequality.cornell.edu/topics/lgbt-equality/what-does-the-scholarly-research-say-about-the-well-being-of-transgender-people/

      I’d like to highlight this section:

      1. Regrets following gender transition are extremely rare and have become even rarer as both surgical techniques and social support have improved. Pooling data from numerous studies demonstrates a regret rate ranging from .3 percent to 3.8 percent. Regrets are most likely to result from a lack of social support after transition or poor surgical outcomes using older techniques.

      It’s been noted that these rates themselves are largely due to a result of lack of social support. In addition, “detransition” statistics are often incorrect because they do not take into account that a large amount of people discontinued their transition TEMPORARILY due to a wide range of things (social pressures, health, financial problems, starting a family etc). Up to 62% of people included in those statistics restart their transition in a matter of years.

      It’s very interesting that you attempt to argue the last statement, the one in refused to trans women and gender confirmation surgery. You made a statement that you presented as fact, with absolutely no scientific backing. Ironically, scientific research proves your exact assumption incorrect, and you’ll find a study in that here:
      https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1024086814364#page-1

      • Jay on 17/12/2021 at 7:48 PM
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      And in response to your comments about mental health and regret, i can only shake my head. When trans people are given gender affirming care, life quality and satisfaction is increased, and mental health problems, specifically anxiety, depression and suicide rates, decrease dramatically. Transition is life saving health care for thousands of people.

      I have over 45 studies on hand that represent the impacts of gender affirming care. Here are a few, if you care to lose ignorance today:

      https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1326190

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5010234/

      https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-014-0453-5

      https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1024086814364

    • Laura Randelli on 22/08/2022 at 2:29 PM
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    You sound quite arrogant. It matters not how many studies you have found, until you have been through gender transition you haven’t a clue.
    Quality of life, post-op is never assured, there are so many obstacles, bigots and problems to deal with that I often wondered, ‘why have I put myself through this crap?’
    After 25 years as a trans ‘woman’ I am reverting back to my biological sex.

    • your mom on the toilet on 21/02/2023 at 8:21 PM
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    Most of these replies don’t even make sense. Like people fix your spelling.

    • Tristan on 21/08/2023 at 5:58 PM
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    No, what are you talking about? I mean come on, think back to when you were a kid, we all just knew that your gender affected who you were, if you are a boy, you would not be interested in girly things, such as the color pink, barbie, and dolls. You would be interested in Nerf guns, Ninjago, and Bionicles. Vice versa could be said of girls. We all just agreed this was right, and we just lived our life. Also, boys would hate being referred to as girls, that’s how the whole, “Girls have coties” thing started, from kids, Now many people are trying to be ‘trendy’ by having their kids be of different genders I mean these kids are 5 to 8, in most cases, kids of that age only really associate themselves with their gender-specific toys. Also, there have been many times parents told their children to do all this, and they are just little kids who don’t know what is going on and they trust their parent’s judgment. This is all then recorded on camera for views or likes on videos that they would soon post on social media.

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