“As a mother to three small children under 5, including boy/girl twins, it’s fair to say we have a large and widely varied amount of toys in the house that they are free to play with. My 4 year old boy chooses to play mainly with tractors and diggers, my 4 year old girl plays with a wider variety; she, like my son, enjoys transport toys but also adores dolls, craft, playmobil and more.
“My children can play with whichever type of toy they wish – whether that’s my son playing with a doll or my daughter playing with a tractor, I do not have a problem as long as they enjoy themselves. This is why I get so frustrated walking into toy shops and seeing the types of toys segregated into ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ sections. The girls section is almost exclusively pink, with dolls, fairies, princesses, kitchens and little housework sets. It’s rare in this section to find products that now seem to be aimed at boys, such as transport, mechanical sets or action figures – even though my daughter, for example, enjoys playing with these sorts of toys just as much as my son, and just as much as the other toys which society dictates she ought to own simply because she is a girl.
“Back when I was a child in the 80’s, toys were just toys; mainly in primary colours, aimed at any sex and any gender, so why has it changed now?
“Even though she has only just started school, my daughter has already noticeably started to change her preferences away from toys such as tractors towards more stereotypical ‘girls toys,’ even declaring that ‘girls things are pink’. Likewise, should her twin brother take in a doll or housework set with him to school, I can guarantee he would get teased because ‘it’s for girls’.
“Studies have found that gendered toys shape children’s play preferences and styles, because gendered toys limit the range of skills and attributes that both boys and girls can explore through play. As a result, this may prevent children from developing their full range of interests, preferences, and talents.*
“Why can’t we just let our children play with the toys they want, without fear of being teased or told that they’re wrong, and let them enjoy their childhood for as long as they possibly can?”
*Dr Elizabeth Sweet, University of California – ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ Campaign
Photo credit: Harriet Evans
Editing: Harriet Evans