Toy companies: Please please please stop ignoring what girls really want. (Hint: it’s not always pink.)

Toy Fair costumes for boys and girls | Mom101

This week at the NY International Toy Fair, there were two words I found coming out of my mouth more than any other:

“Or girls.”

I was floored by the number of manufacturers telling me, over and over and over, “we have these awesome craft kits for kids including knitting, embroidery, tie-dyeing…or science kits for boys!”

Or girls. 

“We have this line of costumes here, like brides, princesses, fairies, and nurses. Then there’s this line of firefighters, soldiers, superheroes and astronauts for boys. ”

Or girls. 

“And here, we have the ferret plush in pink for girls, and then in brown for boys.”

Or girls.

It blew me away.

The company with the costumes featured above did have one superhero outfit for girls that I saw: Robin, of Batman and Robin fame, complete with a tutu.

A crimefighting tutu, surely.

Since the moment a few years back that I was completely confused as to why a McDonald’s Drive-Thru attendant asked me if I wanted a boy or girl Happy Meal (unrelated to the gender of the animal from whence the food came, I subsequently learned) I have had a heightened awareness of how the toy industry is increasingly dividing boys and girls in ways I really thought we got past in the 70’s . That was when the first toy I remember really desperately wanting was an Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. It was also the first toy that made me realize all toy ads lied about how good their crappy toys were. But that’s another story.

Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle

The thing is, despite all my frustration and disappointment with the boy/girl toy separation, despite all my awareness, I am 100% totally guilty of it too.

We walk into a toy store to get Thalia’s friend a birthday gift and while I tend to gravitate toward crafty gifts, I automatically look at the jewelry box-painting sets or friendship bracelet kits. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. My girls would make Rainbow Loom bracelets until dawn if I let them (and so would plenty of boys by the way). But I don’t necessarily peruse the science experiment kits, the microscopes, or the Lord of the Rings LEGOs for her 9-year-old girlfriends, despite my own girls being card-carrying graduates of the school LEGO Builders Club and Science Experiment Club.

The times I do consider these gifts, I have to ask, “would Emily like something like a microscope or a geode kit?”

I realize I don’t ask that question quite so often if we’re buying gifts for boys. Nor do I ask whether Caleb would enjoy a Rainbow Loom.

So what the heck is going on when I have to mentally push myself out of the pink tutu mindset to shop for girls who aren’t my own?  It’s kind of disheartening when even parents like me, who should know better, get stuck in this stereotypical rut.

I even see evidence of it on Cool Mom Picks–we can feature a gender-neutral red and blue felt crown from an Etsy artist which will get a ton of love on Pinterest. But show the same one in pink with little bunnies on it–the shop sells out its stock.

Liz Gumbinner of Cool Mom Picks with Alma Loveland of Attatoy

I was thrilled that there were actually a few smart toys for girls that defy the pink aisle which I wrote about, including Alma Loveland‘s awesome Attatoys Mixmates blocks. (I didn’t once have to say “or girls” when we talked, or anything!) I’ve met her a few times at conferences, and I’m so thrilled that she’s got a potential home run on her hands for all kinds of kids. However her kind of thinking was exceedingly rare at a show with more than 1000 exhibitors, some of which should know better.

There’s one moment at the show which stands out most to me as emblematic of the entire issue. A young PR rep for a brand was kindly introducing me to four new girl dolls: a ballerina, a baker, a fashionista (whatever that is) and I am blanking on the other one. Hooters girl? I forget. I asked the woman why there couldn’t be one–just one–who was an astronaut or a veterinarian or something a little less stereotypical. It was clear I completely caught her off guard, because her jaw actually dropped and she stood silent for a bit before stammering something about how “well, ballerinas…that’s what all five-year-old-girls want to be.”

Which is not the right answer. I was shocked. And so was Christina who is my witness to this all, and fellow concerned mom-of-girls.

So I asked my friends and followers on Twitter what their daughters want to be when they grow up. I think the answers are wonderful, diverse, and fascinating.

@craftforesty: She wants to be a “disco truck driver” or a snowboarder. – Lola, age 6

@kathyinalaska: My 6yo wants to be a ballerina or an FBI agent.

@JLBarnes9: Mia: “independent”, Kyra: “A veterinarian”

@TheJulieMarsh: Tacy: “An author or a marine biologist or a politician.” CJ: “I have no idea, but something important though.”

@ballantynetanya: My five year old wants to be a construction worker

@wandsci: A teacher and a doctor (this week). The one who wants to be a teacher says she’ll also write books.

@stefaniya: One wants to be a scientist, the other wants to own a tea shop and sing in a band in her free time.

@monabenach: first woman to play professional baseball.

@WellVersedMom: My daughters’ choices have been marine biologist, pilot, singer, architect & graphic designer.

@overflowinbrain: Archaeologist, volcanologist, scientist.

@JennaStern: Architect.

@FabiSaba: an astronaut veterinarian.

@Enza0305: Celya, 9: either a babysitter, or a baker, or work at a shelter for dogs 🙂 and she doesn’t want to go to ballet classes anymore…

@redshutters: Mine wants to be veterinarian, ballerina & doctor–sky’s the limit for her!

@jenrenpody: a dancer & an artist. I blew her mind when I talked to her about dance itself being art. She loves to create, and she’s 6.

@Nosepicked0811: happy #1. She wants to be an astronaut on Monday, scientist Tues, fashionista/boutique owner Wed, & world traveler the rest. 🙂

@TheInsideLife: Ella, 5yrs: “A doctor, a writer, and a church worker.”

@jadetert: Builder, teacher, mom, or veterinarian (5 yr old)

@mheschmeyer: Broadway actor, broadway actor, and pediatrician. 

@JKonfrst: U.S. Senator

@michelledwood: professional volleyball player.

@ChaosRu: One of the first people to go to Mars. Also an engineer.

@ttsiegel: A singer/artist/astronomer (C, age 4 1/2); a teacher/mommy (E, age 4 1/2).

@kristins4kids: 1-music teacher or author; 1-lamb farmer or music teacher; 1-figure skater.

@alexaflotsam: Spy, writer, teacher, actress. Mostly writer, which I am (cannot tell you if I am also spy, obviously.)

@cuizoo: Just asked. She is unsure at this point, but is completely sure she doesn’t want to be a model or a ballerina.
Now granted, this is not scientific research in the least. If I passed it off that way, every strategic planner I’d ever worked with would unfriend me instantly. My readers may be more progressive than most–and it’s possible that the parents with girls who want to be models and fashionistas didn’t respond.

(Also, where the heck were the men in this conversation? Dads are just as responsible for raising enthusiastic, curious daughters too.)

Still, if you look at the answers, there are definitely a few ballerinas and mommies in the bunch. There are singers and actresses and (adorably) a babysitter. And hey, I’m all for girls wanting to be princesses. Or pop stars. But the aspirations for girls don’t end there.

So why do girls’ toys?

The problem with the ballerina-fashionista dolls I saw isn’t that such a thing exists; it was creative, technologically speaking, and will probably be very successful. The challenge as I see it is the company so takes for granted that this is what a girl toy is, that they wouldn’t even think to prep a PR person for any potential questions about why.

(I’m sorry PR rep, for catching you off-guard; you are really sweet and I didn’t mean to throw you. I just assumed it was a standard question with a standard answer about market research or something that would have been interesting.)

LEGO City female police officer | Cool Mom Picks

Now I also spent a lot of time in the LEGO booth at Toy Fair too. (I have never done business with them; I just like LEGOs.) And while they have gotten a lot of flack for LEGO Friends over the past year, I stand in defense of them. Whether the bricks are pink or red or black, they all interlock, they all work together, and they get girls building even when they are all but ignored by other companies.

I realize that girls do play with toys differently than boys do. And I know that are girls who would rather play with a hair stylist than a LEGO City police officer or Tauriel the Elf. So I appreciate that they’re all made available–and should your kid wants to stick a sword in the hairdresser’s hands (battle with evil competitive alien hair salon?) she can.

LEGO girl minifigs

The bigger issue, as far as I can tell are the toy retailers. Big and small. Several product developers and PR folks spoke off the record to me, explaining that some retailers mandate toys that neatly fit the way they merchandise their toys at shelves: One aisle for boys, and one for girls. They ask for custom pink versions of everything from dolls to bookshelves. They ask for distinct packaging featuring either boys or girls on the boxes. They justify that this is “giving parents a choice.”

And yet, our only choice as parents isn’t boy or girl at all. It’s blocks or cars? Expensive or cheap? Big or small? Building or crafts? Science or poetry? Animals or robots? The list goes on.

As one smart parent suggested, “why don’t they just display the toys by age? I have no idea what to get a four-year-old at all.”


toy fair boy and girl gender roles | mom101

Interestingly, the company with the gihugic costume display at Toy Fair that you couldn’t miss to save your life, featured the tagline, Dream. Believe Achieve.

I would love them–along with any marketer, salesperson or distributor who has ever employed the sentence And for boys we have…. in a pitch–to stop a moment and consider exactly what they think they are encouraging children to dream and achieve.  And I’d love us as parents to consider the same thing. Especially when we automatically drop a Make-Your-Own Sparkle Lipgloss Kit in our carts instead of a telescope.

Or whatever plaything it is that they make for wannabe U.S. Senators, spies, and disco truck drivers


52 thoughts on “Toy companies: Please please please stop ignoring what girls really want. (Hint: it’s not always pink.)”

  1. It seems like there’s a lot of finger pointing, from retailers, to manufacturers, to consumers being at fault.

    But the thing that bothers me with the rigid gender stereotyping in toys, is that it creates a whole underlying theme of “Look How Different We All Are” and an Us vs Them. A deeper division of the sexes. Do you think this leads to more segregation of the sexes in friendship and socialization?

    Also, why does it seem that school age children only have same sex birthday parties? I am always hearing things like, “We had 20 girls at Chuck E Cheese today!” Is this a new trend?

  2. My 3 yo and 5 yo daughters LOVE the pink, girlie toys. I was reluctant to buy baby dolls and princess dresses, at first. I categorized the big pink toy aisle negatively. Then it struck me that dolls are just as cool as trains. But, why the hell are the toy choices so narrowly categories by gender? It’s not that the toys in either the pink or blue isles are bad (Mostly. I could live without the lip gloss kits), it’s just that we limit our kids directly and indirectly to one aisle or the other. Then the kids start self-limiting and identifying the “other” toys as not for them. More socially-acceptable choices for both genders would best scenario.

  3. I don’t know if this is relevant at all, but my 7-year-old SON got a 2DS for his birthday and while creating his Mii, it asks for his goals. There are several options like become a doctor, go to outer space, be married, travel…wait…what? Be married? Yeah, I read right past that and he made me go back. That’s his goal in life: to be married. Meanwhile, I fight against the boy/girl separation all the time and my daughter fights back. Everything she wants, she wants in pink and sparkles.

    1. At the risk of offering advice where none is wanted… I say let her have the pink and sparkly versions and just make sure she has toys that build skills. LEGO builds spatial reasoning whether it is the princess set or the ninja set. Mosaic toys build understanding of patterns. The best cooking sets teach concepts that are useful for fractions. Etc, etc. If you are interested, I have an old series of posts with toys to promote skills across the gender stereotype divide (for both boys and girls), and I can dig them up tonight.

      1. Thanks! I definitely do that. She does have LEGO Friends and she builds castles and counts with her brother’s math blocks. She also Hulk smashes and is the princess version of Donatello or Leonardo when she wants to be 🙂 It’s just funny to me that I wasn’t expecting to be taught to be less rigid about my pink-and-frilly stereotype by the person whom I was trying to teach 🙂

      2. I’m with you, Cloud. I am totally fine with pink things, pink LEGO bricks, pink tiaras. As long as there’s a choice. As long as girls don’t think that they are limited to pink things–or that boys are limited to anything but. That’s why even though I had a negative knee-jerk reaction to LEGO Friends at first, I’m totally down with them now. Sage loooooooves them. I mean, it is partly why she joined a LEGO Building club in school. So how bad can that be?

  4. Interesting post, and excellent list. Gender segregated things for kids is one of my real pet peeves. The default for boys tends to be sports/construction/violence, and the default for girls tends to be pink/pretty.

    My own experience with having two girls and a boy, however, is that the limits are tighter on boys. Girls may cross the aisle toward cars and tools because it increases their status if they aspire to “boy things.” They become cool girls. Boys? Well, my son likes the pink hand-me-down shirts from his sisters and nobody seems to care in first grade so far if he wears them, but I hate that I have to worry. I’m frustrated that playing with “girl things” is discouraged for boys, as if they are contaminated.

    Currently none of my children see any limits to what they can play with, but they are certainly aware of the norms. Thanks for your insights on the current market and your own perspective.

    1. I second and third this. It makes me so sad that my son can’t paint his nails or play with pink toys and dolls because his FATHER will yell at him. My husband knows I hate gender segregation so he won’t say anything to me and he will shut down when I confront him about it, but he will reprimand my son in front of me, so I can feel it, too.

      Educating my children is the easy part. Educating my Mexican-from-the-rancho husband is proving to be much, much more difficult 🙁

      1. Well, in Brooklyn, the coolest boys in the school all wear dark blue nailpolish. Tell him to come here and hang out any time.

    2. I totally agree, the gender roles are narrower and stricter for boys. A small part of me was relived to have a girl, because girls can get away with being a tomboy and doing boys’ things. But boys, heaven forbid. They can only wear very specific clothes and like specific things. How very stressful for them. I often wonder how I would navigate these waters if/when I had a boy. The Boy aisles are so hyper masculine and aggressive, it’s as if they are only allowed to behave one way. But then I hear some groups shouting about the emasculation of boys and raising a bunch of sissies. It just doesn’t make sense.

      1. I have a friend whose son decided to wear nothing but skirts for a few months—they were his beloved, much-older sister’s hand-me-downs he found in the attic, and he just loved the sparkle and color that he saw (plus, he loves his big sister.) He also has two very sporty older brothers who kept an eye on him when they were out in public. But, it bothered me that anyone should worry about a boy who wants to wear skirts or paint his nails (“Does your father know?” was a question my own son heard from a neighbor after my daughters did his nails.) –in fact, my friend had someone ask her not to let her son come in contact with her children while he was in this “stage”, as if skirt-wearing is a contagious disease.

    3. All fantastic points Korinthia. I have girls so I definitely write from that point of view. Though judging from the comments here, it seems like an increasing number of boys have parents willing to let them be. Maybe you can all get together?

      Man, haven’t we progressed from “William Wants a Doll?” I hope so.

      1. I find the whole topic fascinating, and not the least because of my own changing perspectives over time.

        Before I had kids I disliked pink. Then I had girls and came to tolerate it, but still silently rejoiced when they picked anything other. Then I had a boy and came to champion pink. I’ve come to see my own early resentment of pink as somewhat misogynist on my part. I’m working toward pink having no power at all.

  5. This is a great post.

    My 4 year old who wants to be a doctor (for those who don’t know, I’m @wandsci in the above twitter list) clarified last night that she is going to be a pediatrician, but her office won’t be open at night.

    I’ve ranted before about how I think that the problem isn’t so much that there are princess and ballerina toys/costumes- it is that we as a culture make huge assumptions about what other things a girl who is into princesses might also like and be good at, and steer them away from some interests because we don’t think they “match” the other interests.

    My almost 7 year old (who wants to be a teacher who also writes books) went through a HUGE princess phase, and still loves dance and cheer. She is also truly great with LEGO, loves a good science experiment, and thinks fart jokes are the funniest thing ever.

    My 4 year old loves Cinderella, trains, and trucks.

    I will vehemently shut down anyone who tries to disparage any of their interests- and I’ve had people say things about both the princesses and the trucks.

    The thing that makes this even sadder for me personally is the recognition of how these assumptions about what interests “go together” persist into adulthood. I work at the interface of science and technology, and have a PhD in a STEM field. But I almost dropped my science major in college because I was so discouraged by feeling like I could not be a scientist AND have a feminine side. Even now, the guys I work with are surprised to learn I have favorite xkcd cartoons just like they do and love to read Sci-Fi (and also Jane Austen) because they don’t see me dressing like “that kind” of female geek (whatever “that” means).

    We love to put people in boxes, I guess. I can deal with it now, but it kills me to see people do it to my kids.

    1. My sister is a ballet dancer and a mechanical engineer, though currently only makes money with the engineering part. (Me, I’m just lazy.)

  6. Oh so much yes to everything your wrote, including the guilty susceptibility.

    FTR, my oldest wants to be Jane Goodall but for Big Cats and my youngest wants to be an Actress Artist NICU doctor teacher.

  7. My 22 year-old daughter – the one who alternated between a princess dress and a Sailor Moon outfit for most of her early childhood – is an Electrician! I never thought she’d be the one to wield a wrench, but boy does she love it.

  8. I’m always a little thrown off about the whole boy/girl geared toy topic because it’s never been something we as a family have thought about. I have one of each who are pretty close in age and they both share toys and enjoy the same games and books. He loves My Little Pony and she likes Marvel superheros. They both dance and do gymnastics. He is one of the few boys that do ballet at their studio (as well as tap and jazz). Of the few boys that dance there, most of them stick to the “cooler” tap or hip hop. Neither of them have seemed to view any of these things as “boy” or “girl” centric. When we shop for toys, we travel down all of the aisles, even if the decor suggests they are for a boy or girl. For the record, he wants to grow up to be either an artist, a firefighter or “a Dad” and she wants to be either a Marine Biologist or a dancer.

    1. I didn’t start to notice a lot of boy/girl talk until maybe second or third grade when suddenly Thalia told me she was the only girl in her class who wanted to play Lord of the Rings, and the other girls weren’t interested in seeing it with her. It totally bummed me out, because they don’t know what they’re missing.

      I hope your kids hang onto that as long as they can.

      1. My daughter is in the second grade and I know more than once she’s told me about how she’s spoken out on her own behalf about “liking what she wants to like” to her friends, which makes me a little hopeful. She told me the other day about playing Star Wars at recess with a group of boys and girls and how she wanted to be Amidala because she was “stronger than Princess Leia”.

        I worry most about my son. Living in Texas where football and baseball are king, I hope he won’t get grief about being a Pony loving dancer/gymnast. He has some pretty awesome role models at dance. There are three young (under 25) adult dancers…two of whom are teachers, who are stunning performers and very comfortable with being dancers but still “hang” with ordinary dudes their own age. I just don’t want anyone making him feel bad about the things he likes.

  9. I missed the twitter conversation. My 4.5yo twins both want to be “circus girls” (we went to the circus last week). Maddy adds that she would like to be shot out of a “canyon.” Usually they want to be doctor/ballerinas.

    1. Thalia went through her circus girl thing to–take them to see Circus Smirkus in New England this summer which entirely features kids. They’ll runaway to join for sure!

  10. I have twin boys – age 3. Even they don’t want the same things. This past Christmas one of my boys spent the months completely obsessed with obtaining a pink dollhouse. (Not just any dollhouse, a PINK one. Why pink? Well because that’s his favorite color, obviously Mom…)

    His eyes lit up on Christmas morning when Santa delivered. He immediately pulled out his toy hammer and chainsaw and began “fixing” the house. (Don’t worry, he put his toy safety goggles on first.) This led to a knock-down mom-confiscated-the-hockey-sticks fight over whether his beloved Cinderella or his brothers equally adored Tinkerbell doll would get to live in the house.

    I asked them what they wanted to be when they grow up: Super Mickey and Mike Wazowski. When I was a little girl of their age – I wanted to be a cement truck. (Not a typo.)

  11. Great post, Liz! It so needs to be said.

    Last year at Christmas, my seven year old, Edie, wanted a spy kit. Easy right? Some espionage things, ways to spy on people, some fun devices, invisible ink. I was pretty sure this was going to be an easy get. It wasn’t.

    There are two kinds of spy kits available – pink, and I don’t even mind the color, but pink always means dumbed down. The pink, “girly” ones pretty and useless. As if girls didn’t really use technology or real devices in their games.

    The rest were red and black, but again not specifically about the color, the red and/or black ones were focused on hurting people – laser guns, taking down spies, etc.

    I kept thinking, store after store hunting for this gift, so what toy companies are saying is “girls are stupid” and “boys are violent”.

    I ended up not getting her a spy kit. The whole thing was gross.

    1. Can’t spies just….you know, spy? Binoculars and stuff? Or have we gotten all Homeland now.

  12. I have the situation of having one girl and one boy. As my older daughter starts nearing adolescence, I’m truly seeing the grooming that has gone on previously. That’s exactly what it feels like: grooming. She went through a big princess phase, but now I’m pretty sure I’d have to pay her to wear pink. But, the hyper-girlie marketing of toys and activities that went on in prior years have left their mark: she hates it. So do her friends and classmates. She’s even asked, “why do they try to tell me I HAVE to be this way and like this stuff?”

    So, maybe there’s hope. These kids who have had gender-by-color shoved down their throats will help us swing the pendulum in the other direction. And when that happens, maybe our sons will be freed from the hyper-masculine machine as well.

  13. Every December, I go to my neighbor’s toy store, The Teaching Room in Morristown, NJ, and beg, “Help! Three girls, ages 11, 9, and 6.” Then she piles up craft kits for my cousins’ kids and I leave relieved and ready for Christmas.

    Boys, I get. I have two and therefore, I have bought many birthday presents for boys over the years. This means soccer balls, Pokémon cards, science kits, and toy trucks galore. It seems so much easier to buy toys for boys. For girls, my eyes hurt from all that pink, and I cringe at the makeup kits.

    Luckily, my neighbor knows what girls want, and I never have to touch a Barbie or sparkly lip gloss because of her. Who set this up for our girls?

    1. So honest question: Why not the soccer balls, science kits and Pokemon cards for the girls? Mine love all three (as well as the craft kits, which are always my favorite gifts to get.)

  14. I stick with books. Gender neutral and easy. I buy one book I think the child will like, then put a gift card to the bookstore inside as a bookmark. They can pick out more books and if they need to return the one I chose, do it at the same time. They get something to rip open and something to go pick. They have no pink and blue aisles at the bookstore!

    1. Agree! I am all about the books! My kids (10 yo daughter, 7 yo son) have varied in their interests through the years, so I don’t mind getting them whatever they’re into at the moment since I think it’ll change anyway. I completely cringe, however, when I realize how I automatically gravitate to craft kits for girls and legos for boys. So – books it is. Besides, EVERY kid needs a couple of volumes of Shell Silverstein’s poetry.

  15. I asked E what she wants to be. She said Elmo. She’s almost 2 – and quite frankly – whenever you ask her what she dreamed about she replies “Elmo.” I love that she wants to be a muppet 🙂

  16. The girl aisle definitely seems more off limits to boys than vice versa. Organizing toys by age would make so much more sense. My son is interested in loads of things marketed for girls so he just talks his sister into picking out the things he wants to play with – then they do them together. It works for them.

    Maybe if the retailers or toy companies realized they are missing out on sales they would be motivated to change the way they do business. At least someone got a clue on the Easy Bake Oven. When we bought one the purple/pink was the only option. Now they have a black/blue version.

    BTW, all the boys as well as girls are crazy about Rainbow Loom in his second grade class. I love that my son and his friends are making bracelets for each other.

  17. I have two girls, 9 and 7. Since I can remember, we walk up and down EVERY isle in Target when making our Christmas lists or purchasing gifts. It started out as my suggestion, but now my 9 yr old just does it automatically. I’m always surprised we are the only girls on the “boy” isles. But I love that they are equally fascinated by Imanginext toys and Harry Potter Lego…as the American Girl knock offs and Frozen toys.

    Thankfully, my girls have evolved a bit. When they were 3-5, we had lots of My Little Pony and Princesses. Now, in our playroom, we have some of that, but their favorites are the air hockey table, Lego (castles and Friends), remote controlled helicopter, and engineering toys from my FIL (make your own catapult, Snap Circuits, a demolition set). Sadly though, when friends come over, they most often play Barbie.

    Of course, the great toy unifiers of the current generation may just be Rainbow Loom and Minecraft. Both of my girls (and their same age boy cousins) are addicted to both. As I type this, I have one child who is watching a Minecraft video on her Kindle while my other child actually plays the game on our Xbox. As much as I don’t want to hear about every move they make on the game (poke my eyes out now), I love that it’s creative and very open-ended. I could do without the spawning and the killing…even if the animal can be used for food. I do look forward to a day when we don’t segregate our toys.

    Recently though, Toys R Us even fooled me! I wanted a plush minion (Despicable Me) for my neice, so I headed to what I thought was THE plush isle of the store. Turns out, it was the “girl” plush section…unicorns, puppies and dolls. I had to cross the isles to the “boy” plush section to find Toy Story and Despciable Me and Phineas & Ferb. And I realized that for years I had been missing this isle (by the bikes…I never go back there) and I was shocked that they would need two plush sections at all. I thought it was actually a missed opportunity for the retailer. Not only would boys probably enjoy the puppies, dolls and unicorns, but plenty of girls would love Buzz, minions, and Perry! Sadly, they probably rarely find them.

  18. I also cringed at the number of times I heard “for boys” and “for girls” at Toy Fair, as well as every time I heard “and our licensed version” commercializing every already perfectly good toy.

    1. I’m so glad it wasn’t just me Anna. Licensed version…yeahhhhh, that’s a whole other topic isn’t it.

  19. I love this. My 3-year-old son is constantly having his nails painted and then running out to play kickball. And you’re right, when I purchase a gift for girls, I always stick to the so-called “girls gifts.” I need to start thinking outside the box.

  20. I coudn’t agree more! We have exactly the same thoughts on this. :DD
    My daughter wants to be a cowboy. She just loves horses and toy guns.

  21. I’m almost 70, my kids are 43 and 40, my grandkids are 21, 14, 7 and 5. This discussion has been going on since child #1 was a kid. I think I’m depressed. By the way, Toys R Us is moving towards gender neutral displays-in Europe! Sad.

  22. I was just at the park with my son and my mother and there was a cute little boy with green sparkly toe nail polish. My mothers first reaction was that it was weird and what parent would set their son up for the teasing that the polish will lead to. When I asked her why sparkly toe nail polish was only cool for girls and what little kid wouldn’t think sparkles were cool, she didn’t have an answer. After parenting 3 kids I think that was one of the first times she really thought about the sterotypes of sparkles. Now no matter what the parents feeling is I do feel that most parents today are more aware of gender issues… it is the first step right??

    1. That’s exactly it Emwin! Change is progressive, and incremental. Slowly but surely, barriers are being broken, or at the very least, being reexamined – and to me, that’s a promising sign!

  23. It’s almost worse what all that pink does to a boy who wants the lego veterinarian set or the ballet dress-up outfit.

    And I’m much more likely to buy a geode set for a girl than a jewelry box craft for a boy, even though I know a handful of preschool boys who love sparky things right alongside their female peers. Girls get to shop the whole store. Boys have to avoid the pink aisle.

    1. It’s really an excellent point. Although girls get to shop the whole store when they’re with a caregiver who doesn’t steer them right down the princess aisle. Similarly, those sparkle-loving boys’ parents can walk anywhere they want in that store. If the parents avoid it because of what other people think, then they’re the boneheads.

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