Different toys for girls and boys?

Just some random musings from me about this really. I read a few weeks ago that Marks and Spencer are removing all gender specific labelling and packaging from their toys, so there won’t necessarily be a ‘pink’ section or a ‘blue’ section in their toy departments. The comments I read about this news story were so varied and it got me thinking as it is also quite relevant to Monkey at the moment.

Does it matter if some toys are marketed to boys and others to girls? Does that reinforce gender stereotypes or does it just show that most boys prefer some types of toys, and most girls like other types? On the one hand boys and girls are different so what’s wrong with boys being boys and girls being girls? But then they are also all individuals and everyone is different regardless of gender. Therefore some boys and some girls may be interested in the same things sometimes.

Even though we knew we were having a baby boy we didn’t go and get everything blue. His room is yellow and multicoloured and his baby clothes were similar, a real mixed bag. We try to have the attitude that there are no boy colours and there are no girl colours, there are just colours. Not everyone feels this way though, my mum and step-dad have semi-jokingly moaned in the past that Monkey has ‘girly’ stickers because there are some pink ones in the sticker book that say princess, as well as ones of digger trucks and dinosaurs. My response is that they are the cheapest stickers I have found (£1 for 2000) and neither Monkey or I care what colour they are. Besides, Pink wasn’t even thought of as a ‘girly’ colour until about the 1940’s!

Then a few days ago I was out with Monkey at a local shopping centre with our cheap basic buggy (which happens to be a bright purple colour). He was playing by a ride on bus and another little boy was hanging around and talking to him. As we were about to leave he says ‘is that a boy or a girl?’ pointing at Monkey. I just smiled and told him he is a boy and then he says ‘well I just wondered because that (pointing to the buggy) is purple.’ He looked so serious as if a BOY in a PURPLE buggy was the most stupid thing he’s ever heard. Made me chuckle but also shake my head slightly.

It’s not just the colours of toys/clothes etc. but the toys themselves. Why should some toys be designated as for boys while others for girls. Can a woman not work on construction? Or a man not work in a kitchen? Of course they can. We are now much more equal as adults but seem to reinforce the stereotypes when it comes to children for some reason. Why shouldn’t they be free to play with whatever toy interests them at that time without them being labelled as for girls or for boys. When hubby was little he had a ‘home corner’ and loved his toy kitchen and iron etc. and what is wrong with that?

Monkey does love a lot of his ‘boy’ toys, cars and trains are two of his favourites. Then on a play-date last week he was obsessed with my friend’s little girl’s dolls house. He played with it for ages! It reminded me of the news story about Marks and Spencer. It also reminded me that I had a doll’s house stored at my brother’s  that our uncle made me when I was a little girl. I asked my brother to bring it round and Monkey loves it! It’s quite well worn and the door and a couple of windows are missing but Monkey has been finding it hilarious posting people through the windows and putting his Postman Pat and Mrs Goggins dolls in the beds and on the chairs. I guess you would categorise a doll’s house in the girl toys section but I don’t see any reason why boys can’t enjoy it too.



We’ve also been finding recently that rather than sit in his buggy, Monkey sometimes like to push it along (being a 3 wheeler one it then tends to bash into fences, bushes, people, etc. great fun…). So I decided to buy him a doll’s pushchair. Another traditionally ‘girly’ toy but again he loves it and is pushing his teddy round the house with glee. We also bought him a little tea set ages ago and he loves toy tea parties and pretending to pour the tea, stir the tea and drink the tea. It’s learning about life so why is that more for girls than for both?



It goes both ways and a lot of my friend’s little girls love cars and trains etc. so maybe I agree with toy packaging being less gender specific… though I’m not sure if that will suddenly stop people considering some toys as boys’ toys and others as girls’, but maybe it would be a step in the right direction?

What do you think? Should boys not play with girls toys and girls not play with boys toys? Or should they be free to play with whatever they enjoy most at that time?


7 thoughts on “Different toys for girls and boys?

  1. I think it’s all gone a bit mad, personally. I can’t see that the packaging will make a difference to people’s attitudes about it. If you want to buy your son a pushchair, you’ll buy him a pushchair, whatever the packaging. Boys often do veer towards construction and cars, and girls do often like dolls – nothing wrong with that! But, as you say, they can also enjoyed exploring other toys. My son can often be found pushing his sister’s pushchair about (though it should be noted he often discards the doll!) and she’s obsessed with the train set we bought him for Christmas. As long as they’re having fun and learning, who cares who the toy is ‘aimed’ at?

    • I disagree, and think packaging does make a difference. Our children are absorbing the message that ‘pink is for girls’ and ‘blue is for boys’ and they are influenced by the idea they should only like things for their own gender, even if they are actually interested in other things. I recommend reading Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender which discusses the neuroscience behind perceived gender differences. Boys have cars on their clothes, their blankets, and are given toy cars from birth, therefore they show a ‘preference’ for vehicles. Girls have princesses on all the items they see from birth, and are given dolls. They have the choices removed from them. It is impossible to raise a child in a gender neutral way, the outside world will influence no matter how parents try. Imagine if you swapped gender for race, it would be absolutely unacceptable to market a toy to a particular race, so why is it acceptable to segregate by gender? Just food for thought, it’s something I feel strongly about! 🙂

      • Interesting views, I have to say that initially I had the same views as you Reading Residence, it was only when I thought more about it that I thought maybe there is something in this.

        I can tell you feel strongly Anne-Marie and it is definitely interesting, I will look that up as I do find the whole topic fascinating!

        Thank you both for commenting and adding your views!

        • Thank-you for an interesting post for discussion. I hope I don’t seem too militant, it’s very hard to see how the world is changing my daughters and not feel angry about it all. As an ‘untraditional’ female I don’t fit in where I’m supposed to 😉

          • No problem, I’m glad it sparked some strong comments. I know I have only touched the surface of a much wider issue and I do understand where you are coming from. We regularly talk about the things we want to tell our monkey about when he’s older so that he respects women and what is real and what isn’t. It’s a scary world they are growing up in in some ways!

  2. I could write volumes on this subject, and sometimes do 😉 I recommend you follow @lettoysbetoys and read their blog if you don’t already, they were the force behind the changes in M&S and other retailers. Good for you to ignore the messages from others and give your son every opportunity. As an adult he’ll need to feed and clean himself, and he may be a father. Why should boys be denied learning these essential lifeskills?

  3. Pingback: Pink is for Girls – #ThePrompt | Becoming a Stay at Home Mum

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