by Amy Gabriel
As we strive to create an inclusive society, it is essential to challenge traditional gender norms, especially when it comes to gift-giving for children. This Christmas, why not consider gender-neutral gifts that encourage creativity, imagination, and promote equal opportunities for all kids?
Before we delve deeper, we’ve got you covered with our Christmas gift guide in our previous blog post. We encourage you to take a look and let’s make this holiday season a time of empowerment and fun for every child!
Early Days: The Rise of Gendered Toys
Toys play an essential role in children’s development, fostering imagination, social skills and creativity. The late 19th century saw the emergence of mass-produced toys, leading to the commercialisation of childhood. Toy companies began creating toys specifically targeted at boys and girls, emphasising gendered characteristics and activities. Furthermore, these toy companies created separate toy aisles based on gender, with boys being encouraged to play with action figures, building sets, and vehicles. On the other hand, girls were directed towards dolls, kitchen sets, and beauty-related toys. These marketing strategies aimed to maximise profits by capitalising on societal norms and expectations. Unfortunately, these gendered stereotypes still persist in today’s society.
It is important to note there has been great improvement in children being able to explore their interests more widely, however, many toy aisles and advertisements continue to perpetuate the idea that certain toys are meant for boys and others for girls. By discussing the history of gendered marketing and highlighting the ongoing presence of these stereotypes, we can raise awareness and encourage a more inclusive approach to toy choices!
With Christmas looming and this festive period being an exciting time for children to receive gifts, it is very fitting to emphasise the importance of allowing children to explore toys based on their individual interests and preferences, rather than limiting them based on societal expectations.
Christmas and gender neutral gifts
When it comes to gift-giving during the holiday season, promoting gender neutrality can have a positive impact on children. By opting for gender-neutral gifts, we can encourage inclusivity, creativity, and the freedom for children to explore their interests without limitations. It is common that we don’t analyse every aspect of our childhood and upbringing, and how things that seem minor actually have a great impact.
Growing up I didn’t think kitchen sets were promoting anything harmful (we were just kids!). Reflecting back on my childhood, I can see how my brother and I have varied interests and personalities that the toys and activities we engaged with definitely played a part in. It’s not always a negative thing, but I cannot deny that my interests were limited and I felt I was put into a box.
Our environment can shape our characters as well as our skill sets, and girls playing with toys that are associated with domestic activities can reinforce the idea that their primary role is to be caregivers and homemakers. This can result in girls having limiting beliefs and aspirations, discouraging them from exploring other interests. In contrast, gendered toys for boys often have a focus on the idea that boys should be aggressive, strong and they must be interested in physical activities through action figures, video games and vehicles. This can create pressure on boys to conform to a narrow definition of masculinity and discourage them from exploring their emotions or pursuing creative endeavours. It’s crucial to provide all children with a diverse range of toys that encourage empathy, creativity and emotional intelligence.
A fantastic initiative within the UK who we work with challenges gender stereotypes in the toy industry is an organisation called Let Toys Be Toys. They advocate for removing gender labels as well as promoting toys and play that are inclusive and accessible to all children, regardless of their gender.
Let Toys Be Toys found that 50% of selected high street toy stores had separate aisles for boys and girls in 2012. Following their campaigning by 2016 found that this statistic had drastically fallen which highlights progress they are making.
However, a Fawcett Society report suggests that the impact of gendered toys are still visible in today’s society. For example, the authors state that “the home corner, which includes kitchens and cookery toys, aid in developing the PSED elements while construction and building play can hone physical development and fine motor skills, in addition to mathematical skills such as problem-solving”. The effect of gendered toys can be long term, perhaps impacting how children navigate their future choices, such as hobbies and career paths.
Defaulting to stereotypes
In all honesty, it is easy to fall into the trap of gender stereotyping children, especially if we don’t have much information to go on. So we end up relying on the default stereotypes and can unintentionally reinforce gender stereotypes.
When buying a gift for your friend’s newborn, what comes to mind when looking for a gift for a baby girl? It doesn’t make you ignorant if you perhaps thought of a pink bunny (guilty) or any pink item, it is what society markets to us and what is normalised.
When we don’t have enough information about a child, we may rely on societal norms and preconceived notions, including gender stereotypes. It is important to be aware of this tendency and make a conscious effort to challenge and break free from these default stereotypes. By doing so, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for children to thrive in.
Removing the limits from children’s play
Gender-neutral gifts this Christmas will provide opportunities for all children to engage in play and activities that cater to their individual preferences and talents. Whether it’s building blocks, art supplies, puzzles, or science kits, these gifts can ignite curiosity, stimulate imagination, and develop crucial skills regardless of gender. By offering a wide range of options, we can support children in exploring varied interests without feeling confined by societal norms. Every child’s unique talents and passions should be celebrated and Christmas feels like a special time to do just that.
This Christmas, let’s consider the importance of gender-neutral gifts when planning to put presents under the tree for the little ones. By embracing a more inclusive approach to gift-giving, we can create a joyful and empowering experience for children, encouraging them to be their authentic selves without limitations. Plus, it’s just more fun when everyone can enjoy the same gifts and experiences, regardless of gender!
Take a look at our gift guide with a fabulous selection of options, and if you don’t find anything there then take a look at our directory for fantastic independent brands. Most of them have an exclusive not only pink and blue discount code too.
Merry Christmas everyone 🙂
Did you know that we offer talks about shattering gender stereotypes for companies and businesses? Well, now you do! Check out our talks and workshops page to find out more, or get in touch with us via our contact page.
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Fawcett society report: Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood- A Literature Review by Dr Leah Culhane and Andrew Bazeley
Stockings by Donna Spearman on Unsplash
Truck by Michael Fousert on Unsplash