While fluffy pink tiaras for girls and miniature cars, trucks, and tractors for boys may seem innocent enough, the toys we buy for our kids actually reinforce the gender stereotypes we have for males and females. The harmful effects of these categories can be seen later on in life in the way that men treat women and vice versa. Purchasing toys for your child that don’t fall into categories but are instead based on what your child likes playing with is one way to combat gender stereotypes. Read on to find out how changing the toys you buy for your child can actually change our society.

Gender Stereotypes and Toys

Children are not born with expectations for themselves based on their gender. Without exposure to North American culture, they have no awareness of gender inequalities. Boys aren’t born with the notion that they should be strong instead of sensitive, while girls aren’t born with the idea that being sexy is better than being smart. However, as early as primary school, kids understand what roles are expected and appropriate for them based on their gender. Girls toys place an emphasis on beauty and outward appearances, while boys toys are targeted towards action, getting dirty, and playing rough. What kinds of messages are these toys sending to our kids? Girls with ambition, confidence, and smarts may feel like they are somehow different or odd. Similarly, boys who are sensitive, thoughtful, and creative may believe that they don’t fit in.

Changing Society

Getting rid of gender stereotypes and allowing kids to play with the toys that they believe are fun is an important step to creating a society that empowers both women and men to live up to their true potential. In the twenty-first century, gender roles are an outdated concept but they still play a large role in how we live our lives. Men still dominate traditional “masculine” professions and women are still less likely to hold positions of power in businesses and government. Gender stereotypes also reinforce how people of opposite sexes interact. Men who are sensitive or emotional may suffer from the feeling that they aren’t manly enough. Women who are confident and intelligent are often described as too pushy or aggressive.

Gender-Neutral Toys for Kids

When you start thinking about how stereotyped toys affect kids, it’s impossible not to notice how much marketing goes into helping boys and girls decide what they want. Taking a trip to any big box toy store, you’re bound to notice that there are gender-specific sections of the store. Toys for girls come in pink packaging and toys for boys in red, blue, or green. Even if you try not to reinforce what girls and boys should play with in your home, it’s likely that they’ll be exposed to outside influences. Unfortunately, finding toys that break the mold isn’t as easy as taking a trip to the nearest toy store. You may have to order toys online or go to specialized stores.

Toys are an important way to help children realize their full potential. Limiting your child to playing with either “girl” toys or “boy” toys will limit them later on in life as well. If you want to encourage your children to play with toys that empower them, do some research online before you go shopping. Help your child decide what he or she wants to play with as opposed to what he or she should want to play with.