Barbie dolls for girls, cars for boys. That’s how it goes, doesn’t it? But what if your son enjoys playing house over crashing cars, do you take his dolls away then? Do you stop buying them, just because him playing with it doesn’t confirm a specified gender role? Do you take away your son’s happiness in the name of gender stereotypes? No. Because that just seems silly. Then why do toy stores emphasise so much on having different sections separated for boys and girls?
If the whole point of a toy is to enable the child to have fun, why are they taking the fun out of it by restricting them to shop only within this square so effectively drawn by society? We think it’s about time we put these gender stereotypes in toys to a rest and here are 5 reasons why.
1. Gender specific toys limit a child’s ability to explore
It’s true that toys enable children to learn and grow. However, by putting a bar to that growth and allow them to only explore a certain direction, in fact, limits their potential. Children are born creative because they live outside the box. They don’t even know what the box looks like unless you physically pick them up from the floating space of creativity they so happily delve in and put them into the box by limiting their play to only a certain type of toys.
And whom do we blame for this? The toy companies. So, if your daughter gravitates into the blue aisle, let her. Childhood is all about exploring their interests and these toys tend to limit that capability in children.
2. They limit learning potential
Toys often teach children certain skills, as subtle as they may be. Playing with cars, trucks and building blocks are shown to develop spatial skills, motor skills and coordination and balance. On the other hand, dolls develop a child’s nurturing and empathic abilities, linguistic and social skills as well as accelerate their cognitive abilities.
All these skills are desirable ones we want our children to possess irrespective of their gender. Then why specify the development of certain skills only to boys or girls in particular. Allowing for gender neutral play extends a child’s learning curve and lets them explore and reach their learning potential.
3. They take away the child’s freedom of choice
When you tell a child this blue aisle is for boys like you or the pink aisle is for girls like you, you are in fact robbing them of their choice. Taking away their choice is like pulling them away from their interests. So, instead, you can give them their freedom to choose by taking them to all the aisles in the toy store and letting your child pick what they want. If your son happens to show a preference to action figures, that is fine, but if your daughter to shows the same preference to the action figures, that is fine too.
4. It stunts gender equality
When a girl goes over to her brother to play with his cars, you may hear him say “You can’t play with this, you’re a girl.”. Now, he didn’t inherently learn this, did he? By separating their toys, the toy moguls are in fact separating children. Gender specific toys tell children that only boys are capable enough to drive cars and only girls to operate kitchen tools, which they grow to believe at a larger level.
They grow to believe that women aren’t capable of jobs relating to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), or they believe that boys aren’t supposed to possess qualities like sensitivity and aren’t allowed to explore the fields of nursing or caretaking.
5. It leads to the larger issue of gender discrimination
Gender discrimination – an evil we are so vehemently trying to rid ourselves of, yet so subtly plant its seeds in impressionable minds at a very young age. Ironic indeed. When you snatch away the doll from your son’s hand and replace it with a dinosaur, you are sending him a subliminal message that dolls are wrong, dolls are bad and hence, young boys begin associating those who play with these “bad dolls” as bad, leading back to that same evil we were so bent on getting rid of.
In this age of women empowerment and gender equality, is this what we want to do and dig the crater of divide even deeper? Gender stereotyping is deeply ingrained in our society, it’s everywhere. So, the least we can do is spare their childhood play from it.