Why are gender neutral toys important?

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Why are gender neutral toys important?

Why are gender neutral toys important?

The subject of gender neutral toys seems to induce a lot of eye rolling, that emotive word "woke" gets thrown around a lot, and my father makes strangling noises. 

However, as adults we have such a huge influence on children based on what we buy for them; toys, books and clothes and how those things speak to a child. 

However, the importance of gender neutral toys is increasingly highlighted by child specialists, as the negative impact of toys marketed exclusively to one gender. 

5 Reasons Gender Neutral Toys are Important

1) Kids should decide for themselves what they think is fun. Toys based on gender put very specific limits on play. 

2) Supports Child Development. Children need a wide range of play to develop different skills; social, developmental and physical - a range of toys support this development.  

3) Prevents detrimental marketing. Directing consumers based on gender means children are directed to a very specific range of toys, and respond accordingly. 

4) Stops harmful gender stereotypes which are tired and out of date, which impacts boys and girls alike. 

What are gender neutral toys? 

They are toys that are not marketed specifically to a gender.  It is no more complicated than that.  It is suggesting that we ditch the classic, "blue for boys and pink for girls, tools are for boys, dolls are for girls", when toys are marketed to kids and their parents.  It is the suggestion that all toys are everyone. 

Gender Neutral Toys - Fun for Kids - PomPom 

1) Gender Neutral Toys Allow Kids to Decide for Themselves what they think is fun.  

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.  

Unless children have access to a range of toys, they can never discover the vast world of aerospace, cooking, scientific experiments, ballet and art.

Dr. Robert Keder, a developmental pediatrician at Connecticut Childrens’ says it can help lessen the idea of “gendered interests or hobbies” from children’s minds.  “Boys might want to do crafts; girls might want superheroes,” he says. “It allows for the exploration of interests that might have otherwise been precluded because there has been this societal bias against it.”

Gender Neutral Toys - Supports Child Development, PomPom

2) Gender Neutral Toys Support Child Development

If children only have access to a certain type of toy, this hones skills in a certain direction. 

  • 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. 

Boys and girls need the chance to develop in all these areas. 

If 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.

gender neutral toys prevent harmful marketing - PomPom

3) Gender Neutral Toys Prevent Detrimental Marketing

Interestingly America has been very forward thinking in this, particularly in California, where last year it became state law that shops had to include a gender neutral toy aisle, although they were still able to market to boys and girls in other sections. 

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’.

We are often not aware of how restricted we are in our choices, we might not be able to find the science experiment set in the girls department or simply a nurses outfit rather than a firewoman.  Perhaps you might not find the wooden tea set in the boys' area or a distinct lack of glitter pens.   

Children are constantly looking for patterns or rules in daily life and whether consciously or not, they quickly understand the gender rules, 'this is for boys, that is for girls.'

These rigid boundaries turn children away from their true preferences, which at best drives interest away and at worst, provides a fertile ground for bullying. 

Gender Neutral Toys stop harmful stereotypes

Stereotypes of Gender Neutral Toys

The stereotypes we see in toy marketing reinforce traditional, societal norms and stereotypes.  

Is this a problem? Yes it is. 

It channels boys and girls into certain studies, jobs and hobbies at the expense of skills and interests.  This creates huge divides within industries and ultimately in life. 

While we are not a fan of the plastic giant, Lego but they released a fascinating study in 2021, showing that, 

"Girls are typically encouraged into activities that are more cognitive, artistic and related to performance compared to boys who are more likely to be pushed into physical and STEM-like activities (digital, science, building, tools).

Parents from this study are almost five times as likely to encourage girls over boys to engage in dance (81% vs. 19%) and dress-up (83% vs. 17%) activities, and over three times as likely to do the same for cooking/baking (80% vs. 20%).

Adversely, they are almost four times as likely to encourage boys over girls to engage in program games (80% vs. 20%) and sports (76% vs. 24%) and over twice as likely to do the same when it comes to coding toys (71% vs. 29%)

Themes of glamour and beauty in toys and playthings directed at even the youngest girls tips over into a worrying emphasis on their appearance.  It also moves them away from jobs in construction, science or finance.  

And what about boys? 

The message of 'slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails" is equally harmful. 

The constant assumption reinforced in toy advertising and packaging that boys are inevitably dirty, rowdy, interested only in action and worse, violence feeds low expectations of boys.  It also trips up boys who choose a more creative path, as they are fighting against a societal norm. 

 gender neutral toys at PomPom

How does PomPom support gender neutral toys? 

We are honoured and delighted to be awarded the 2020 and 2021 “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.   

We organise our toys by theme and function rather than gender. 

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 to our own children or other people's. 

There is no need for pink and blue signs, just let toys be toys.  As LTBT point out, "is it really harder to find a doll, when it is simply marked "doll" ?!

5 Gender Neutral Toys All Kids Should Have. 

1) A rag doll.  Encourage your child to be caring, loving and compassionate, just like the person you want them to be. 

2) Building Blocks. Gross and fine motor skills at work here.  It also helps kids learn about patterns, gravity, science, as well as fostering creativity. 

3) Crafts.  Get creative, get crafty. Paints, crayons, crayon rocks, the magical clay. 

4). Fancy Dress.  Keep old clothes in a basket with lots of hats, let them be anything they want to be.

5)  Pikler Triangle.  Regardless of sex, kids need to climb, preferably outdoors but when they are inside, they need to move, climb and slide, exercise their bodies and their imaginations.  

Author Biography: Hello! It’s lovely to be introduced to you, I am Cecily Henderson, one of the co-founders of PomPom.  We have worked hard at PomPom to ensure that we have been energetically and deliberately choosing gender neutral to help bust the stereotypes that are out there.  I have 2 boys and Katherine 2 girls, so we are both very aware of how society can channel children in certain directions and how it is to push those boundaries.  If you have any questions, just drop a comment below or do get in touch!

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