As a mom of two kids, Christmas or birthdays leave me overwhelmed at toy stores. Part of the problem is the sheer number of toys. How do I choose? But more than that, I'm distressed that the majority of the toys are blatantly gender-specific. Walk into any toy store, and you see immediately that most of the packaging colours adhere to the blue-for-boys and pink-for-girls tradition. So where are the gender-neutral toys?
I have one boy and one girl, so I’d like to buy something they can both enjoy. But just try and find such a product. Gender-specific toys reinforce societal stereotypes. Why are toy companies aggressively marketing these stereotypes? Do boys only like to play with trucks, cars, and action figures while girls only play with dolls, play kitchens and tea sets? Kids should be able to choose the toys of their interest and not feel uncomfortable about wanting a toy because it's in the blue or pink aisle.
You can see from these display and packaging examples that girl toys are generally in pink; boy toys are generally in blue.
In my household, my four-year-old year son plays with Hot Wheels, Legos and action figures, but sometimes he likes to put these toys in baby strollers--occasionally with little ponies. My daughter, two-and-a-half, does prefer baby dolls and purses. Yet she'll happily play with Legos and put race cars and construction trucks in her purse to take out and enjoy.
There are a lot more colours than pink and blue. Why can't toy companies rebrand packaging so ALL kids can feel comfortable selecting a toy of their choice? Why must we continue to reinforce this idea that they shouldn't be playing with certain toys?
Make the colours of toy packaging neutral to appeal to both genders. Categorize toys by type, not by colour. Stores could feature puzzles sections, blocks sections, cars sections, sports sections and so on. Packaging and shelving could both use colours like greens and yellows, while the packages could feature images of a boy and a girl to neutralize gender bias.
In the UK, a parent-led campaign called "Let Toys Be Toys" is lobbying both the toy and book industries to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting certain toys and books as suitable only for specific genders. I think it's time we moved in the same direction here.