Pink is for girls: What’s up with all the gendered toys?

This is Part Two of 5 Days of Holiday Bull$hit: A five-part series on Christmas consumer crap. Here’s the introduction, and Part One: Holiday sales events.

I popped into a few toy stores the other day to do what most parents do around the holidays — buy toys for under the tree. It’s been several decades since I was a kid eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival, so as a newish parent with a two-year-old daughter, I wasn’t prepared for the stuff stocked on store shelves.

Two words: gender stereotypes

While experiencing shock with a side of horrified, I was neatly directed into Walmart’s “Girl” section by following the aisle painted pink.

girls toys

gendered toys girls

In this corner you’ll find everything needed to: Raise a princess.

princess dresses

Train a homemaker.

Barbie raises baby. Perhaps the baby "drinks & wets!?"

Barbie raises baby. Perhaps the baby “drinks & wets!?”

Baking Barbie. Those cupcakes better be gluten-free! "Delicious!"

Baking Barbie. Those cupcakes better be gluten-free! “Delicious!”

And maintain your daughter’s looks. You know, the important grooming needs of young girls — hair, makeup, and manicures.

bratz

barbie makeup

manicure toys

Not impressed by the level of education and skills acquisition available in the pink aisle, I wandered onto the path of blue for some toy inspiration. Boy, was I disappointed.

boy toys

gendered toys boys

The world of play offered to boys in boyland is crazy gendered too. In this corner, boys are encouraged to build things using power tools.

fisher price tools

Destroy things. Well, create first and destroy second.

A fun motto for friendly play: "Create 2 Destroy"

A fun motto for friendly play: “Create 2 Destroy”

Fly planes, operate trains, and drive automobiles. Also, monster trucks.

toy cars

And exert a wee bit of tension using a little physical violence. I’m gonna knock you out?

Hulking hands are meant for hitting?

Hulking hands are meant for hitting?

Sorry, I skipped the toy gun aisle. I prefer to keep it real with hand-to-hand combat.

“Back when I was a kid…”

Old(er) people used to say that to me, and I hated it. But as a frame of reference, this is how toys looked in the 1970s when I was a kid.

Girls built cool things in shades other than Pepto-Bismol pink.

Lego Ad

Toys were “fun for a girl and a boy.”

Based on my level of ungendered play, I think I turned out OK? I kicked the checkered ball on the All Stars (all gals) soccer team. No pink uniforms here.

Soccer is serious: Real All Star players don't smile.

Soccer is serious: Real All Star players don’t smile.

I marched to the beat of a musical tune, tooting my own horn.

I'm the kid smiling big.

I’m the kid smiling big.

As a much older ‘kid’ I studied journalism with a strong side of computer science. I competed in Ironman triathlons. Today I’m an entrepreneur-thing running my own business.

None of these non-pink activities prevented me from getting married or becoming a parent, BTW.

So what’s the problem?

Raising my daughter to be a princess is probably a path with limited career opportunities. The roles offered to boys in the blue toy aisle are limited too. I’m not alone with this obvious observation since scientists have done science to study the impact of gendered toys on kids.

Something called the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) interviewed someone named Judith Elaine Blakemore — she’s a professor of psychology who researches gender roles — and together they offer this lightbulb moment:

Blakemore: “Strongly gender-typed toys might encourage attributes that aren’t ones you actually want to foster. For girls, this would include a focus on attractiveness and appearance, perhaps leading to a message that this is the most important thing—to look pretty. For boys, the emphasis on violence and aggression (weapons, fighting, and aggression) might be less than desirable in the long run.”

“If you want to develop children’s physical, cognitive, academic, musical, and artistic skills, toys that are not strongly gender-typed are more likely to do this.”

Source: What the Research Says: Gender-Typed Toys

Blakemore’s study Characteristics of Boys’ and Girls’ Toys (PDF) concludes that “strongly gender-typed toys appear to be less supportive of optimal development than neutral or moderately gender-typed toys.”

So what’s a parent to do, especially at Christmas?

Do you buy gendered toys for your kids?

With a two-year-old in tow, I’m too new at parenting to know what lies ahead. I have a hunch that as Chloe’s language skills develop and she sees the big world of toys, she’ll eventually ask for princess dresses, Barbie dolls, and all things pink.

For now I’m avoiding the gendered crap under the tree by giving her neutral toys for Christmas and on her birthday in January.

Kerry K. Taylor

Trying to wrap Christmas presents. Being a snuggle bunny is better.

My Toy List: A classic bag of Mega Bloks picked up for $3.99 at Value Village, a bunch of books (including Richard Scarry), a Green Toys School Bus (because you need something to haul the Mega Bloks), and a big Jelly Cat Bunny (because snuggling is yummy).

Your turn: Do you say “NO” to gendered toys, OR are these gifts unavoidable? Also, am I worried about nothing? :)

Comment away!

Love,
Kerry

Your two cents:

  1. Jen N December 19th, 2013

    I totally agree. It is hard, but not impossible to find toys which are not gender focused. I prefer shops like Etsy and Mastermind which have more choice (but you still have to search through to find good choices). Avoid ToysRUs and ToysToysToys stores like the plaugue.

    Now, I did buy a doll-house for my daughter but only because she loved to play pretend with her toy animals. We got the “Hape” one which is not pink and has wooden/cloth dolls.

    It is more expensive and more challenging to get neutral toys, but it is possible.

  2. Jackie December 19th, 2013

    Totally agree, Kerry!!!! I have two boys and a girl, and I vowed never to but toys that are geared towards either gender! So my daughter plays with Lego, and my sons cook in their little tykes kitchen!

  3. Jess December 19th, 2013

    Kerry I love your articles but I wish you would choose stores other than Walmart. Walmart’s low prices are a direct result of slashing employee wages and benefits and pressuring merchants to offer inferior products. You would find way better toys at an independent toy store and I’m sure there are tons of them in the Toronto area. Buying from independent toy stores also helps support our local economy and keeps $ out of greedy retailers like Walmart. Yeah it’s a few dollars more but I think it’s more than worth it!

  4. Jules December 20th, 2013

    For the most part, I think you’re worried about nothing. My parents tried to impress me with pink stuff. I would have none of it. So you never know. And besides, there is nothing inherently wrong with being a princess–Merida is a princess, after all, and she kicks @$$. We shouldn’t demonize girls who *want* to be housewives or princesses, just as we shouldn’t demonize boys who want pink stuff–if they really are into pink, trying to get them away from pink will make them just as miserable as someone who hates pink getting a Barbie doll. The key is to teach your daughter (and you sound like you’re doing an awesome job of it) to think for herself, no matter what she is. That sure, she can be a princess–but sitting around waiting for Prince Charming is kinda lame.

    We have no gendered toys–I think the closest thing we have is a fire engine that doesn’t look like a fire engine. It wasn’t by design–most of them were presents, mostly from parents whose thinking seem to be something along the lines of, “Hm, we should give them something for both boys and girls, in case they have a girl in the future.”

    Oh wait, I just remembered–we do have a toy bus that goes “vroom”. It scares the bejesus out of the kidlet.

  5. Tricia December 20th, 2013

    If you focus on playthings that encourage creative or educational play, I’m pretty sure you won’t have to worry about gender stereotypes there. At least not to the extent these photos show. And you’ll be light years (not Buzz!) ahead as far as the good your child (and future children, because, well-chosen, these sorts of toys last a long time) will get from them.

    Some examples that I particularly like are a set of wooden blocks of different shapes and sizes; nesting toys (maybe for a bit younger than your daughter, though; these are also available in wood); something called ‘pattern blocks’ (for a bit older child and many years thereafter), with which the child can create beautiful mosaic-style things, or not, and learn tons in the process; legos (as you chose); and, one of my son’s favorites when he was little, wooden Tinker Toys, though I couldn’t find wooden ones at a store when I looked for a set for HIS son years ago. (Oops, now I’ve really dated myself, haven’t I?)

    There’s something very special about handling wood, also. These toys are all-around much more natural than the ones in the photos. You might pay more for these sorts of toys, but in my opinion, this is an area where it’s well worth it!

  6. Kerry December 20th, 2013

    @Jess I rarely shop at Walmart. I do a lot of price checks at Walmart for my blog since the retailer is relatable around the world. My readers are international. The toys purchased on my list are all from local retailers in Toronto’s Bloor West Village — an area where a price check is meaningless to a reader living in Western Canada or anywhere in the United States. Hope this helps! :)

  7. Michelle December 20th, 2013

    I had an Easy Bake Oven, which I loved, and I believe is gender neutral, because even boys need to learn their way around the kitchen. I also had Lego’s which let me be the master of the universe. I had Lite Brite and colouring books and crayons…all of which let me create and express myself in terms of colour. The only real gender based toy I had was Barbie, and I hated it.

  8. Rachel B December 20th, 2013

    Thank you for writing about this important topic of pink and blue. It drives me crazy! I’m sharing it on Facebook with as many people as I can.

  9. Jenn December 20th, 2013

    I have three boys between 1 and 4. We do have some gender toys (a tool kit and a hand-made sword from cardboard), but they almost always play with their trains, cars, toy animals and megablocks.
    My oldest does enjoy playing with the tools, because he actually does like to help us when we’re doing renos around the house.
    I, too, fought against gender toys (definitely a big sports player, non-maker wearer for most of my school-age years), but I definitely did enjoy playing with barbies as well.
    Also, although I do have a part-time, work-from-home job, I didn’t mind at all being a stay-at-home mom only. It’s a lot of work raising kids and who better to do it than their parents (if possible, of course)? I’m kind of feeling that there’s so much talk about it that most women feel that they aren’t allowed to JUST raise their kids if they want to.
    Thanks for your informative posts, as always.

  10. Nicole December 20th, 2013

    This is my daughter’s first Christmas and I also struggled with what toys to buy her. She has been given so many pink toys (who the heck rides a pink school bus??) that I wanted to even it out. We got her a fisher price little people farm (with animals) for $10 of kijiji, a fisher price singing tool bench for $5 off kijiji, and a plastic tonka truck with big wheels (kijiji $3) because she has a fascination with wheels right now (which is the only reason I tolerate that pink bus). I had toys very similar to these growing up, and they got passed down to my younger brothers. I’m so sick of the “pink is for girls and blue is for boys” attitude!

  11. Jodi December 20th, 2013

    Great post! I’m glad it’s not just me who thinks things are too “genderfied” It drives me absolutely crazy. But you are probably worried about nothing.
    I remember playing with legos, board games, puzzles and other “neutral” type toys growing up. I think it was my parents acceptance of what I liked and wanted more than what society thought appropriate.
    If it helps, my girl who is 3 is getting a doll with dress up clothes, a pink airplane, dinosaurs and a set of K’nex. I’m figuring she should be a pretty well rounded kid
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

  12. Rob December 20th, 2013

    Kerry,
    check out goldieblox: https://twitter.com/goldieblox
    Planning to get my daughter something like this when she’s a little older.

  13. Bicks December 20th, 2013

    As a girl I played with “mini-bricks” and tinker toys – although I did (and still do) love dolls. I made puppet theatres out of shoe boxes, drew clothes for my cut-outs, cut the fingers off my sisters’s gloves to make 5 pairs of shoes for my doll …. as long as you keep her busy (and minimize the TV and computer time) – finger painting was fun, play dough….wagons to attach to a trike (for a parade,) play food, tea sets and a big hat for a “party”…..large boxes to make a car or house out of – or just climb into….a blanket to make tents…..So if she’s only 2, I don’t think I’d be spending a whole lot – the dollar store probably has everything to make her happy! Boys AND girls at 2 also seem to go through a stage where they like little mops and things to help you clean….but it doesn’t seem to last!

  14. Martilyo December 20th, 2013

    How about we let boys be boys and girls be girls? My daughter loves Hello Kitty, but also loves Pokemon and Minecraft. If a girl loves Barbie then get her barbie. If a girl loves Hotwheels then get her that. Why does society need to “mold” genders together? Is it wrong with girls to be feminine and boys to be manly? By the way, violence exists in this world and more than likely will always exist. It is my opinion that one should teach a child about violence and it’s harmful effects than trying to shelter it. I grew up playing cops and robbers with those guns that “pop” but that does not mean I am a violent person or go around shooting people.

  15. Anne Doak December 20th, 2013

    Hi Kerry,

    As a grandmother I too am appalled at the gender based toys. I was trying to buy Ravensburger puzzles for my grandsons & eventually ordered online at Indigo. Another year I’ll try & locate Tangram puzzles for them & their new baby sister [she can't play yet but it will definitely be non gender based& educational]. Another thing I do is get them kids magazine subscriptions which they love receiving every month.

  16. Merlin December 20th, 2013

    Sorry but I completely disagree. Girls are girls, and boys are boys. When you have one of each you will know that they are wired differently. God created them that way. Raising them “gender neutral” won’t do anything for them. Raising them to be ladies and gentlemen will. I know nice, feminine young ladies who can ride a dirt bike like the best of ‘em. I also know young men who are gentle and compassionate.

  17. Laura G December 20th, 2013

    As parents of one four year old and one eleven month old girl, we share your concerns! We’ve tried to avoid pink/princess/character/battery toys for the most part. It seems to be paying off! Our older girl is in preschool, and she runs both with the boys, and the girls. She’s not bound by pink, and loves to build with blocks. We do not forbid princess stuff, but we sure try to choose other things. For toy shopping, I usually order things from Amazon. We go for open-ended toys, which encourage creativity and imagination, or educational toys to help develop skills for their age group, but in a fun way. Some favorite companies are Plan Toys, Green Toys, and Melissa & Doug. Still, they do have some toys from the department stores, but we try to go with things that are more gender neutral. For example, they love the Sesame Street play set, which is a small plastic apartment with some figurines (I had the Little People version the 70s) which gets creatively played with almost daily.

  18. Liam December 20th, 2013

    While I whole-heartedly agree conceptually, I have come to discover over the years that in spite of our best attempts, some things seem to be “hard-wired” into kids DNA. We were always careful not to get gender-specific toys for our boys, and we totally avoided the “warfare” type toys (guns, swords, etc.), but as soon as they could figure it out they would pick up a stick and make shooting or slashing gestures. Happily, they also occasionally still have “Iron Chef” competitions using their Easy-Bake ovens…

    I try not to stress too much about “gender” when looking for toys (although the warfare toys are still mostly on the verboten list) and just go for what I think they’ll like.

    BTW – as your princess gets older, I would highly recommend just about anything by LeapFrog – ton of fun for the kids and they actually seem to deliver on the educational promise (certainly helped my kids with the whole reading adventure)

  19. Anne December 20th, 2013

    Hi Kerry,

    I agree girls are girls & boys are boys- I had both & have both for grandchildren. I agree with previous contributor. However the calibre of toys suggesting violence or preoccupation with looks makes shopping difficult. I, for one, want an educational component such as Lego, puzzles, & role playing toys. I wish for empathy,compassion & a desire for physical activity for all children.

  20. tonja December 20th, 2013

    Hi Kerry,

    My son is just 16 months older that my daughter. So my daughter grew up surrounded with the toys that he loved such as lego, trains and playmobile. From an early age, she longed for the girly stuff! I tried to avoid it but there was something inate that attracted her to this stuff. Now she is a teenager who is an athlete, who prefers math and science. She dresses mostly in jeans and hoodies but loves to do her nails. I think it is important to offer our kids choices and not to assume that they will want the gender specific toys–but don’t be surprised by their instinctual type of play. I remember my daughter, sorting all the toy cars in family groups with mothers and baby car!

  21. Merlin December 20th, 2013

    Some comments about Walmart.

    When Walmart came to our town, the effective “minimum wage” went up by about $2 because of competition for labour. Is that not good?

    By boycotting Walmart, you may be boycotting your neighbor who works there.

    Walmart offers prices that low income families can more easily afford.

    Yes there are alternatives, some which are good. And some “locally owned independent” stores offer poor quality goods at higher prices.

    Sorry this is kinda off topic, and you can delete it if you wish. We can be thankful that in Canada we have plenty of choices!

  22. Pursuit99 December 20th, 2013

    Funny you should mention Richard Scarry; it’s been a long time since I’ve looked at these books but when my kids were little I actually packed those books away because they were insultingly gender-restricted. The occupation-themed book portrayed the girl characters as kangaroo nurses in a nursery and a pie baking mama bear who set her house on fire and had to be rescued by, you guessed it, a nice guy character fireman. The girl characters rode the back of the motorcycles and on and on. Things have probably changed but back in the day R.S. was too scary for me. My kids thought I was cranked.

    Of course, now my daughter has her own trucking business and, in my heart, I confess I’d rather she was doing something a little safer and more conventional. Be careful what you aske for. Merry Christmas.

  23. Brenda December 20th, 2013

    It is not impossible to find ordinary toys, but I do encourage it.

    This gender toy stuff is just crap, and again, I encourage you to avoid it. Like the study said, it only encourages undesirable traits.

    Don’t let your daughter grow up to be one of the current crop of self-important princesses / jerks.

  24. Jennifer M December 20th, 2013

    Hello, you made some good points. I believe Princesses teach a girls to have a sense of entitlement. Boo. On the other hand, at least Barbie has a career. =) I loved my Barbies growing up! I had no ambitions to be Blonde, blue eyed, obtain an impossible figure or be afashionista. I learned to use my imagination, socialize with other chilren and play independently. =)

  25. anexactinglife December 20th, 2013

    I steered my child’s interests before they were able to state a preference, and tried to follow their lead after that. But I’m sure I exerted quite a bit of pressure towards educational toys and art activities. My kid is now a well-rounded adult. Are they a gender warrior? Yes! But that worked out fine for us.

  26. Seth December 20th, 2013

    Wait until you want to find a gender-neutral bike!

  27. Barbara December 20th, 2013

    @Merlin – I must disagree with your disagreement (if you’ll excuse the Monty Python like structure of that sentence!). I have twin girlw. From the time they could roll over, they were on the move. They LOVED trucks, trains, planes, balls and anything that moved. In kindergarten they used to run around the playground, trying to play with the boys — that’s because the rest of the girls were usually doing something quieter and/or stationary. My girls didn’t play with toys and neither was particularly fond of pink until they were older — even now, one prefers greens and blues :) Frankly I find the gender stereotyping very limiting.
    Oh, and my girls had boys’ underwear for years because they loved Toy Story, and there weren’t any girls undies, just boys’. Ditto some shirts and socks…

  28. Curly-T December 20th, 2013

    It is annoying sometimes. But as others have said, my 6 year old daughter builds, my 4 year old son plays stay-at-home-dad, and my 2 year old son cooks. Despite their rooms being pink and blue and filled with “gender specific” toys.
    Because despite being exposed to both sides, when my daughter turned 3 she refused to wear anything but pink, despite the rainbow of colors of clothes available to her. And my cooking 2 year old? Will only play with cars despite the dolls and animals available to him.
    I make sure it is all available, but they will like what they like and wear what they want, and do what they want, despite our best parenting attempts.

  29. Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas December 20th, 2013

    Excellent post. My family doesn’t exchange gifts for Christmas to keep the focus on togetherness and enjoying simple things like baking, good food, music and relaxation. But I did buy a few things for my two little ones (boys) – a toy shopping cart (because they like shopping for groceries at the real market and using the mini carts there plus they love our home pantry and helping to cook) and some Duploo (big Legos for little ones). And we have a few Scandinavian holiday story books, too., for all of us to read together. I think it is a nice mix and not really gender specific or too expensive or elaborate either.

  30. TwoYellowDogs.Terri December 20th, 2013

    Can not agree more. What about other “girly” favorite colors like blue, green, orange, etc. I had all brothers… grew up with their hand-me downs (clothes and toys). I grew up to go to college to enter industry (tool designer in aerospace–loved it), transitioned to computer support (because aerospace moved out of So.Cal), I liked the way I turned out without all those pink toys. :) I hope my family does too!

  31. Merlin December 20th, 2013

    @ Barbara, Maybe I’m wrong, but I think in a way your experience is showing the same as I am saying. If allowed, kids will eventually do what interests them, whether girls are playing with stuff “that moves” (trucks, trains etc/dirt bikes?) or “something quieter and/or more stationary”. And their interests change as they change and mature.

    I know that if you lead kids, boys or girls, down an isle of toys, ‘Barbies or monster trucks’, they will clearly indicate what they are attracted to. The toys don’t have to be gender neutral.

    I really don’t want to get into an argument. If ppl want to buy gender neutral toys for their kids, so be it. I knew what my kids liked, and it was very gender specific, so that’s what I got for them – within limits of course.

    What about the times when you get a kid a nice present, and they ignore the present and have a great time with the cardboard box? :)

  32. TwoYellowDogs.Terri December 20th, 2013

    I already commented… pushed the “submit” too soon.

    Actually, having girls pay with “tools” and boys play “in the kitchen” teaches LIFE SKILLS! I’m all for that. SO, maybe toy manufacture’s should re-think the packaging… show little girls and boys on the package of the “toy drills and tools”; and skip the pink on “traditional girly toys” and show little boys and girls on the packaging of baking/cooking/kitchen things. skip the PINK… it is overwhelming too too too much. There are some great PINK TOYS that, repackaged, re-colored would be great for boys too.

    P.S. I’m a grandma to two little boys… I don’t look at my toy purchases as gender specific (yes, I buy them “toy tools”), but educational and LIFE SKILLS specific. Girls and boys need to be able to use tools. Girls and boys need to be able to cook and clean. :)

  33. Marsha Draper December 20th, 2013

    As the grandmother of a 4-1/2 year old girl, I am appalled at many of the so-called toys pushed on girls. She is, as my daughter says, “Such a girl”, and so I will go along with the mermaid stuff and princess stuff, but I think the housewifey and make yourself beautiful are awful things to get a little girl. I want her to be an engineer when she grows up, not a model.

  34. Denise December 20th, 2013

    Great article, Kerry–and an important message. I’ve noticed this trend myself, so when I buy for grandkids, nieces and nephews, I choose toys that move away from these stereotypes about living the dream in a union, or winning the local pageant. I go for toys that foster their curiosity, or teach them to use computers (God knows they’re everywhere), or something that gets their imagination in gear. Even craft kits, interactive books, or something to go with a hobby they have, like my martial-arts grandson, or my niece who likes to design clothes. It’s out there…you just need to look a little harder-and be prepared to spend a little more.

  35. Linda December 20th, 2013

    here’s the cure:
    http://www.amightygirl.com/

  36. Unawicca December 20th, 2013

    I had this problem from the other side- the Grandparents kept trying to give my son guns and tanks. NO WAY. (I was in the military. I knew better.) When he visited them on the way home from a Living History event set in the middle ages, they almost had a heart attack over his “dress” (tunic). I told them that “If Charlemagne could wear one while conquering half of Europe, I don’t think it’s _that_ girly”. I taught him to sew, weave, repair cars, and do woodworking. He thinks I’m a great Mom. (The knitting never worked. I still have hopes for the blacksmithing, though…)

  37. Nancy December 20th, 2013

    I would go with the creative/art supply gifts. (I realize she’s only 2) She will make her own choices if you give her the opportunity as she gets older. When my daughter was about 5 we found her a black “I don’t do pink” shirt which she wore for years. She is now 12 with a wide variety of interests, including art, horses, music and yes, she still collects dolls – but to make stop-motion movies with them. If you must buy her toys, get her a doll and a truck, and see which one she prefers.

    And yes, you’re worrying too much ;)

  38. Ruth Cooke December 20th, 2013

    First of all, I think your gift choices for Chloe are awesome. They’re exactly what I might choose when I (finally!) have a two-year-old grandchild to buy for.

    Having raised two boys and a girl into adulthood, and having observed the children of friends and acquaintances, I find that the fewer commercial television programmes the children watch, the less likely they are to want that gendered crap. And most of it is crap–cheaply made, and of limited play value.

    The worst things to buy kids, IMO, are those electronic “learning aids” that usually break after a session or two, and don’t teach the child anything useful.

    Some good choices: Musical instruments (preferrably NOT toy quality, especially for a child older than four), lessons to go with the instrument (can you tell we have a music teacher in the family? :) ) Brio or other wooden train sets, Tinkertoy and Lego for the older children, wooden block for the toddlers, and yes, clothes and other practical things.

    And books. Lots and lots and lots of books. And more books.

    Oh, and did I mention books? :D

  39. Pigpen December 20th, 2013

    As 1 of 7 children (5 boys, 2 girls) and being the 3rd oldest behind 2 brothers, I got their hand-me-downs, whether is was clothes or toys. I remember BEGGING my parents for a pair of “girl jeans” just like my friends had (they zipped on the side in those days) one Christmas. I got them, wore them once or twice, declared them uncomfortable and went back to wearing what was comfortable, not fashionable. I buy kids books, for the most part, or other educational toys. They get enough gender-fied stuff thrown their way from all directions. When I have to buy baby gifts, every child gets a piggy bank to encourage them to save. ALL the girls get big honkin’ metal Tonka trucks because I always got the hand-me-down trucks with broken mirrors, missing tires, etc., and I think every girl child should have her very own nice truck. They love them and not a one of them has given them away. I buy my 6-year old niece the Captain Underpants books that were originally written for boys (think potty humor) to get them interested in reading. She and her daddy (1 of my brothers) share lots of laughs over them. Seeing her in her pink (yes, pink) pajamas or her princess gown and giggling with Daddy over Dr. Diaper is the most precious thing I’ve seen in a long time. A family with 5 boys can’t help but be influenced by potty humor and the books have certainly gotten boys interested in reading (girls, too). As a result, our huge extended family members all read voraciously, can all cook and use power tools, stretch our imaginations with blocks or Legos or Lincoln Logs, and we all save our money in one of those piggy banks. I think there is definitely a difference in the way males/females are wired from birth, so the best we can do is to expose them to a variety of toys. They’ll sort it out themselves.

  40. Pigpen December 20th, 2013

    PS: And those of us who drive were also taught by our parents and/or brothers/sisters to drive BOTH manual and standard transmission cars. ;-) My sister’s manual transmission sports car happens to be a rather girly color I can’t even think of a name for.

  41. Big Cajun Man December 20th, 2013

    I am the proud Dad of three wonderful women, who wore pink, played with Groovy Girls, but also all of them took Shop (wood working) at school, two played competitive basketball, one is now playing Rugby at Trent University (and is studying Sciences for in Combined Ed).

    Whatever your child plays with is fine, but as long as they have positive parenting and good role models, they will always surprise you.

  42. Kerry December 20th, 2013

    @BigCajunMan You are hearted.

  43. sue December 20th, 2013

    My 14 year old daughter’s favourite toys when she was little were her little plastic dinosaur figures and her my little ponies, the ones from the 90′s. She loved The Land Before Time videos and would act out the adventures with her little dinosaurs. As she grew older, she and her girlfriends would play with their Barbies and my old Best Of The West horses. Now that she is 14, she spends her time playing in the school band, playing on her computer, horseback riding lessons, doing her homework, and hanging out with her girlfriends. Her best subjects in school are math and science. Kids like what they like, it depends on their personality. Pink is not necessarily a bad thing.

  44. wetcoast weather December 20th, 2013

    I think the gender split in toys, clothes, etc. boils down to marketers creating a toy for each gender, versus one gender-neutral toy or item of clothing that could be used by both. It encourages parents to buy for each gender rather than just one. I buy tickets to the Aquarium, Science World, or movies as gifts. Keeps stuff out of the landfill. My tykes have too many toys from over-indulgent grandparents, so many that they get rotated periodically.

  45. Stephanie December 21st, 2013

    I have two boys; and yes it is SO HARD to get away from the destruction/violence aspect! I didn’t give my eldest a play sword or gun until he was 2, but he found sticks to use for both of those options anyway! Now that my eldest is 4.5 years old, this year for his birthday when we exchanged some repeat gifts for a gift card, he chose out what he wanted. And he got a Ballet-dressed, pink baby with bottle and headband, and a pink stroller. Because he loves to play dress-up, tea-party and house! When he notices the difference between something being girl or boy, I just remind him that if he wanted to use the girl things, he can – and I think this really makes him think because then he tells me all the things he’d like to do: cook, clean, give babies ‘bubbas’ (breastmilk) and have tea-parties with cookies. Haha! Navigating the scene of gendered toys can be tough, but it is NOT impossible. Start explaining now that blue does not mean boy, and just because it’s pink doesn’t mean a boy can’t play with it. When they are older, they will see those colours as ‘theirs,’ not in relation to a gender. (My 4.5 year old used to wear sparkly rainbow shoes, too, and if anyone ever said anything, I would remind them that he loves them, and he picked them out. And a smile after that statement usually stops any gender-biasing, too.)

  46. Angela December 21st, 2013

    I just wrote about this a few days ago for the launch of Grounded Parents: http://groundedparents.com/2013/12/17/wheels/

    I worked SO hard to provide my son with gender neutral toys, and ‘boy’ toys and ‘girl’ toys. And then it was like a switch went in his brain, and all he would play with were vehicles.

    That said, I think the pressures and stereotyping on girls are far worse, and the whole princess culture terrifies me.

  47. carolyn December 21st, 2013

    Books are always appropriate, (we have thousands) many libraries have donated books for sale rooms, can often find treasures for low prices, esp kid books… And legos are also neutral & wonderful as long as the child is old enough not to swallow them..

    Both son & daughter played with trucks (son liked taking off the wheels)and they both liked the plastic tool sets, so they could repair the, One favorite photo has 20 month old son, laying on his back under the Bigwheels, w/ screwdriver in hand, intense concentration look in his eye as he repaired an imaginary problem.

    And both liked to cook (patting out the pizza crust a favorite activity, from as soon as they could stand on a chair to reach the counter (I stood behind them to ensure they did not fall.

    My son was a hat specialist, had one for every occasion/ profession (even if half looked like baseball hats, we all knew that the yellow one was a fishing hat, etc)… I sewed a baker’s toque from an old sheet…. wondering if that is still around somewhere in a box…

    My daughter used her dollhouse for a car museum.

    And of course, large cardboard boxes are always ready for days or months of play, if your kids have less roughhousing… We would stop at the appliance store and get a discarded refrigerator, etc box, perfect for hours of spaceship, fort, log cabin, boat, store, school, hospital, museum, whatever in the backyard in the summer. Once it wore out, just throw away and get a new one (& an oppty to have a new design). Parents can help cut out the window, door, etc. Crayons or markers can fill in the details of whatever the structure will be… If you have soggy weather, use indoors, or bring in before the snow.

    And another favorite art oppty is to go by the local newspaper and ask if they can save you the end of the newsprint rolls… Large wnough for the child to lay down, and have a crayoned body outline for them to color, dress, etc…. Or just to roll out a stretch for large landscapes, sea or space scenes, etc. And the very sturdy cardboard rolls in the center were super sturdy, great for many activities, including a chimney for the box house…

  48. Christine Weadick December 21st, 2013

    I raised three kids, 2 boys and a girl. The two older ones were of the age for things like Cabbage Patch dolls and Care Bears. Both of my boys had stuffys like Care Bears. The older boy and his sister both had Cabbage Patch dolls. All three kids had their own Lego/Mega Blocks to have fun with. The younger boy still has his out in the open in his room. All are adults by the way. As they got older all three were given tool boxes and the real tools to go in them. I still remember the look on one of my daughter’s friends face while we were helping her move. The friend said that she could attach the mirror to the dresser if she had a screwdriver. My daughter handed her the tool box and told her “to look in here, there are some in there. Here’s the cordless drill if you need that” ……the friend was amazed that she had her own tools…

  49. Ramie December 23rd, 2013

    I think I have a bigger issue with the gender specific baby gear than the toys……WHY do we need all pink high chairs, walkers, bath tubs, etc? We never found out the gender of our kids before they were born, and even if I had, there would not have been a pink car seat for the girl or a blue one for the boy. They both used a gray & green infant seat, a black toddler seat and black booster seats…..our high chair was white with a white seat cover, and our bathtub was a very generic pool blue color. We used them for the girl and the boy…and we only bought gender neutral colored infant clothing, too (so we could reuse it).

    I didn’t buy gender specific toys until they asked for them……the girl asked for a princess doll at age 3, and the boy asked for toy tools at age 3, tho there was already a few around that his older sister played with! They each had a toy baby doll and toy cars from the time they were about a year old…
    I do think that gender stereotypes exist, but if you, as a parent, don’t accentuate them, your kids will never pick up on it.

  50. K December 23rd, 2013

    I’m not a parent, only an aunt, but I’ve always been appalled by toy choices – even as a young girl(“Why is the girl ranger always Pink and super feminine?”).

    I simply don’t buy my nephews gifts unless its something I approve of. They have a toy kitchen that they all play with but mostly everything else is boy centered.

    When they were younger, around 4 or 5 the youngest, at the time, would makes statements like “she can’t do x! That’s for boys!” while watching movies or tv shows. Everything he picked up was a gun and so on.

    Gender bias, and reinforcing them, makes me sad.

    The princess culture can be terrifying but you can spin it in a positive way: Princesses have to work hard and do well in school, too.

  51. Karen December 24th, 2013

    Parents, Please stop worrying so much. I have had 3 children of my own but helped raise 7 in total. My oldest daughter was very interested in anything to do with animals as was my son (3rd child). My second daughter was a glam princess.In high school she built me the best curio shelves and swing bench for my garden. The only one of my children to go to college to date. My daughters often played dress up and would put wigs and dresses on their little brother. He is one of the best back yard mechanics and autobody men ever. He dropped out of highschool (hyper active).I refused to medicate him. Ticketed trades people he has worked for have told me they wished they had half his talent or drive. He bought his first house at 22 and was foreman of the plant he worked at ,at age 23. My oldest has been assistant manager at two small food establishments and is very good cook. All have never been unemployed more than a day or two. They shared lego (regular and girl coloured). Loved books -lots . All time favourites “Messy Mable” and “Peanutbutter and Jelly is My Favourite Thing to Eat”. Later anything Anne of Greengables and Goosebumps.The favourite toy in our home was the real porcelain tea set bought at a local disabled workshop made by the workers there. I spent many hours playing “tea” with my daughters and son as well as baking cookies and bisquits with them. They all had some kind of pet or another including cats,stray dogs that followed them home fish,rabbits and rodents and paper routes to help pay for their pets expenses.All loved and properly cared for by them. None think only men or women should do certain jobs or tasks as I encouraged them all to handle anything they wanted to try. I did draw the line at the large container of garter snakes my son brought home for my garden ( 50 or more) I had him release them in the woods(okay laugh ,I’ll admit snakes freak me out). My kids still laugh about that one. They all turned out to be fine, wonderful adults. Two have children of their own now. My oldest has 4 -great parent. My son has one little girl and he one of the most attentive fathers ever. She has pink mechanic tools,rides horses but loves her girly things(single dad) I just bought my 9yr old granddaughter’s xmas gift yesterday (another glam princess) I bought the smallest pair of zebra stripped stilettos I could find and put them in a giftbag that is an animal print purse and threw in some dollarstore bangles. Cost under $15.00 on sale. Her sister wanted an adult artist drawing kit. I found one in a pink case (her favourite colour). She calls herself a tomboy (not my words) Kids will define themselves.

  52. Tracy December 24th, 2013

    Saw this ad on the internet the other day, the company got into a little trouble with the beastie boys since the song is so similar.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmeuhPNojTA

  53. Telly December 27th, 2013

    My girls (3.5 & almost 2) have the Fisher Price tool set you posted a photo of. They also have wooden blocks, pink Legos, dinky cars & a Disney Princess castle. They got a train set & table from Santa this year (which they absolutely LOVE).

    I say you’re worried about nothing personally. I was incredibly opposed to the Disney Princess stuff but guess what? My 2 year olds two favourite toys are are the Disney Princess castle (she has to put Ariel & Snow White to bed each night *rolls eyes*) and dinky cars. While I felt much the same way you do, I now realize that my girls will love what they’ll love & how my husband & I spend our time with them is far more important than the toys that they play with. Most of their toys will last a year or two before they get bored of them. My husband & I will be around (hopefully) for many, many years & will have a FAR greater impact on who they become than whether or not they played with Barbies.

    P.S. I played with Barbies & race tracks. I’m an engineer that loves makeup. :p

  54. Fariah January 8th, 2014

    Try reading “Cinderalla Ate my Daughter” by Peggy Orenstein. She also struggles with gendered toys as well.

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