4C’s Kim Ginn explored an issue that’s crucial for parents and teachers both at 4C’s blog for child care providers, “Growing Children,” and we’re sharing it here with you. Are toy aisles defining gender? What can parents do to cater to their children’s interests?
My husband and I were coming home from a weekend trip and stopped in a well known superstore. As we were walking through the store, I was stunned by what I saw in the toy section. There, hanging above the toys, bigger than life, was a sign that said “Girls” over one aisle of toys and a sign that said “Boys” over another aisle of toys. I couldn’t believe what I saw! I quickly went to see what this store deemed as “girls” toys and “boys” toys, and I can’t say that I was surprised by what I found.
The “girls” section was predominantly pink with dress-up clothes, pretend kitchen items and baby dolls. The “boys” section was dark colors, mainly blue, with action figures, train sets, and cars and trucks. This store was promoting to parents (and the public) that girls should play with dolls and boys should play with trucks! What century was this? Had I stepped into some type of time warp?
Knowing that my colleagues would be as shocked as I was, I pulled out my cell phone and started taking pictures. As I was documenting this atrocity and loudly complaining to my husband about the store having the nerve to suggest what toys girls and boys should play with, he nonchalantly stated, “They mark the clothing with boys and girls and you don’t get upset.”
This stopped me in my tracks. He was right. I hadn’t thought twice about the clothing sections being labeled “girls” and “boys,” so why was I so upset about the toys being labeled? Was it really OK to label some items, but not others? Should stores not label anything? What if a girl wanted to wear “boys” clothes, would that be OK? And if it is OK to label clothes, why not label the toys, too?
These questions made me start thinking about my own children (now teenagers) and the toys that they preferred when they were younger. Both of my daughters did prefer the traditional “girls” toys even though I purposefully bought trucks and trains for them. And I know my young nephews always preferred cars and action figures over baby dolls. So, is it so wrong for this store to encourage what seems to come naturally to children? Yes, I think it is.
Even though some research shows that genetics play a strong role in toy preferences among different sex children, I still feel that children should be exposed to all types of toys during their childhood. And since most children aren’t the ones shopping for their own toys, stores should not be labeling toys as “girls” or “boys,” because it discourages some parents from purchasing the opposite for their child. Leaving the section just labeled “Toys” suggests that all toys are appropriate for either girls or boys. The choice of which toys to buy then is based on the individual child’s interests, which should be the most important factor!
So, what about the clothing section? Well, I have always liked men’s jeans better anyway, and labels can’t stop me, either!