A Good Practise Award from Let Toys be Toys
We are honoured and delighted to be awarded the 2020 “Let Toys be Toys” good practise award. LTbT challenges gender stereotypes in childhood, especially in toy marketing, education and the media.
PomPom has worked hard to help push the boundaries of these stereotypes, working closely with our suppliers and lifestyle photographers on imagery and indeed, within our wording on social media, newsletters and website. Interestingly given how hard we had to think about it ourselves, it is clear that we too are conditioned from children through adulthood and keen not to pass this on.
You might ask why it matters? Let Toys be Toys explain this better than anyone:
- Kids should decide for themselves what they think is fun. Why put these limits on play?
- Play matters. Children need a wide range of play to develop different skills.
- Marketing matters. Directing consumers in this way is restricting children’s play.
- The real world has moved on.These gender stereotypes are tired and out of date.
It’s easy for retailers to make a positive difference, and they should benefit too.
Play is crucial to how children develop and learn about the world. In education it’s recognised that children need access to a range of toys and play experiences. Toys focused on action, construction and technology hone spatial skills, foster problem solving and encourage children to be active. Toys focused on role play and small-scale theatre allow them to practise social skills. Arts & crafts are good for fine motor skills and perseverance. Read more about toys and learning.
Boys and girls need the chance to develop in all these areas, but many stores divide toys into separate boys’ and girls’ sections. Action construction and technology toys are predominantly marketed to boys while social role play and arts and crafts toys are predominantly marketed to girls. Both boys and girls miss out this way.
How toys are labelled and displayed affects consumers’ buying habits. Many people feel uncomfortable buying a boy a pink toy or a girl a toy labelled as ‘for boys’.
Other buyers may simply be unaware of the restricted choices they are offered. They may not notice that science kits and construction toys are missing from the “girls” section, or art & crafts and kitchen toys from the “boys”. If they’re never offered the chance, a child may never find out if they enjoy a certain toy or style of play.
And children are taking in these messages about what girls and boys are ‘supposed to like’. They are looking for patterns and social rules – they understand the gender rule ‘This is for boys and that is for girls,’ in the same way as other sorts of social rules, like ‘Don’t hit”. These rigid boundaries turn children away from their true preferences, and provide a fertile ground for bullying.
Children don’t pop out of the womb with expectations about their future careers, or beliefs about what their work is worth, but the stereotypes we see in toy marketing connect with the inequalities we see in adult life. By early primary age, 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.
Themes of glamour and beauty in toys and playthings directed at even the youngest girls tips over into a worrying emphasis on their appearance.
Stereotyped attitudes about boys are equally harmful. The constant assumption reinforced in toy advertising and packaging that boys are inevitably rough, dirty, rowdy, interested only in action and violence tells calmer, more sensitive or more creative boys that they’re getting this whole ‘boy’ thing a bit wrong, and feeds low expectations of boys that feeds into their experience at school. It’s easy for retailers to make a positive difference, and they should benefit too. We are not asking retailers to change the toys they sell, but to organise toys by theme and function rather than gender. There’s no need for ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ aisles: take down the pink and blue signs in stores and on packaging, and instead let toys be toys. Is a doll really harder to find marked ‘dolls’?
It’s an easy change to make.
Plenty of UK retailers sell toys, books, bikes and more items for children without signposting to girls or boys. Let Toys Be Toys recognises shops with good practice with a Toy Mark Award for good practice as PomPom just recieved. Over 50 retailers have now been awarded across the UK.