Why Girls Need "Boy Toys"(and Boys Need "Girl Toys")

For as long as we can remember, it’s been the norm to see young girls playing with baby dolls and toy kitchens while their brothers run around with toy trucks and building blocks. 

 

Gender-neutral toys have somehow become all too rare, but research shows that boys need “girl toys” and girls need “boy toys.” Non-gender-neutral toys can even be harmful to a child’s self-esteem and early learning experience. 

For as long as we can remember, it’s been the norm to see young girls playing with baby dolls and toy kitchens while their brothers run around with toy trucks and building blocks. 

 

Gender-neutral toys have somehow become all too rare, but research shows that boys need “girl toys” and girls need “boy toys.” Non-gender-neutral toys can even be harmful to a child’s self-esteem and early learning experience. 


 

What Happened to Gender-Neutral Toys?

Marketing is one of the main reasons why toys are labelled for boys or girls specifically.

 

Manufacturers have been creating “boy toys” and “girl toys” since the 1940’s, when they released gender-specific toys as a way to sell more products to wealthy families around the world.

 

Shortly after this phenomenon began, it became the norm. Before the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1960’s, you’d never see a little boy playing with a doll. Gendered toys were “just the way things were.”

 

Even after the Women’s Rights Movement, not many companies (or families, for that matter) created or demanded toys to be created for all kids alike.

 

It’s not just manufacturing that gives toys their gender, however. Research shows that these gender-biases are still standing within most adults as well.

 

This short video from BBC Stories does a great job of showing the toy stereotypes we carry (and the dangers that come along with them).

 

Below, we’ll share the details on why we should stop labeling toys by gender and why all toys are gender neutral.

Why Girls Need “Boy Toys”

When it comes to toys targeted towards young girls, a significant piece of early childhood development is often left out. Girls have all the necessities for playing house: They have dolls, they have ponies, they have stuffed animals, tea parties, and story books. What they’re missing is toys that teach spatial awareness.

 

If you aren’t yet familiar with the term “spatial awareness,” it relates to the ability to see where something is, the amount of space it takes up, and how it relates to your body and other objects. Spatial awareness teaches terms like “in,” “out,” “over,” “under,” and “beside.” It is the skill that paves the way toward future math abilities and performance.

 

Men have a significant lead in careers that involve math and spatial awareness. Could young girls’ lack of access to spatial awareness play a key role in workforce gender gaps? 

 

When we’re giving them only household toys instead of a combination with motor skill, and math and science toys in their most formative years, the connection is fairly easy to see. That connection makes the statement “Girls need ‘boy toys’” almost impossible to deny.

Why Boys Need “Girl Toys”

Empathy, family dynamics, self-care, creativity, and imagination are the reasons why we need to be normalizing the fact that boys need to participate in pretend play as well. 

 

For example, when little boys play with baby dolls, they learn about being good brothers, good fathers, good uncles, and good teachers. When little boys play with toy kitchens, they gain interest in cooking healthy, home-baked meals. When they play with household items, they learn to care for their belongings and the space they live in.

 

Art and music also tend to be tailored towards girls in marketing campaigns, but those skills are just as important for boys.

 

Every child deserves a space to be creative, use their imagination, and learn that they are capable of creating beautiful things. 

Why Kids Need to Play With the Items They Enjoy Most

Outside of the missing qualities in gender specific toys, children should be able to play with the items they love best.

 

When a boy is steered toward sports and cars when their passion is related to animals or art, they’re losing a piece of the person they’re meant to be. When kids are pushed away from their personal preferences, they can be more likely to experience bullying in their school years.

 

Children also tend to find preference in toys that help them build a skill they’re wanting to master. Because of this, a variety of toys can lead to appropriate development.

 

Isn’t happiness a main goal when we give our child a toy? We can make sure that happiness is genuine when we give them the toy that they truly love best.

 

How to Find Gender-Neutral Toys 

Luckily, gender-neutral toys are not difficult to find. Simply head to a toy store (or toy section) and let your little one pick out the item they love best, no matter what color it is or what function it has.

 

If you’re in the Chicago area, Timeless Toys has a wonderful selection of toys grouped by purpose, not by gender.

 

Try to ensure your child has access to a variety of toys, some of which help with spatial awareness and early math skills, and others that help create empathy.

 

Remember that all toys can be gender neutral if you treat them as such. 

 

When you follow your child’s interest with the concept of gender-neutral toys, you’re giving them the tools they need to succeed in all areas of life (with no gender gaps or stereotypes attached).