You may remember this big announcement from Target back in August that they were doing away with gender labels in their toy section after customers, including young customers, complained that toys should be for anyone who’d enjoy them, regardless of gender. Of course, there was the predictable backlash from people “sick of political correctness” followed by these humorous responses from someone claiming to be Target customer service (but whom, I assure you, was not). It was a whole thing. There’s also this fun story from Reddit about a father who built a really cool stove for his two-year-old son because he couldn’t find anything gender neutral in stores. This father, too, got a lot of angry comments.
So, why all the controversy? Why shouldn’t parents give toys based on what kids like versus what companies say they should like? I’m baffled, too, but will try to explain.
From The Odyssey Online
For many, the issue is about tradition and status quo. Girls have traditionally been expected to play with toys related to home and family like dolls and pretend irons and vacuums, the idea being that these items prepare them for their eventual role as a wife, mother, and homemaker. Boys have traditionally been expected to play with more active toys like cars and trucks, basket/base/soccer/footballs, pretend guns, etc., etc., etc. to prepare for competing in the workforce.
Against Status Quo
BUT, some little girls want to be active. They want to sweat, get dirty, and compete. Some little boys prefer to have quiet time and they may even want to feed lunch to a baby doll.
From Best Kiddy
Both Sides Now
We all have the capacity to be active and competitive – even girls – and we all have the capacity to be nurturing and kind – even boys. Strengthening all of these skills through play leads us to be much more successful. Adults who can switch between active and passive tasks, alternately compete and cooperate, and be both decisive and nurturing depending on the situation are mentally and physically healthier and more likely to be able to maintain jobs and relationships. A major complaint of wives about their husbands (and ex-husbands) is that they have difficulty with tasks like taking care of children and expressing emotions – both skills that girls are much more likely to be taught than boys. How might the divorce rate be affected if little boys were also taught how to show and discuss their feelings? What if little girls were encouraged to be more assertive about their needs?
It’s totally normal, healthy, and beneficial for kids to try out different aspects of their personalities – regardless of gender. Consider how keeping kids from playing with things they’re interested in because of concern about gender labels may affect their lives. Your daughter may be destined to become a world-famous scientist unless she’s strongly discouraged from playing with her brother’s toy microscope. Your son has the potential to be an amazing dad one day and practice taking care of a baby doll might set him on that path. Yes, your kids could learn these skills without access to such toys in childhood, but having your blessing and encouragement to pursue these passions will last a lifetime.
In summation, I’ll leave you with this chart that helps you figure out whether a toy is meant for boys or girls. It does a pretty good job of getting the message across.
Articles You May Also Enjoy
- 10 Best Christmas Crafts for Kids
- Destination: Christmas
- Your Son Wants to be a Princess? Just Let it Go.
Kristen Berthiaume is a clinical psychologist whose other day job is as mom to three willing product testers. Find her articles on all things child-wrangling at “Parenting with a Ph.D.” over on birminghammommy.com.