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Hey Toy Companies, Stop Forcing Gender-Specific Toys on Our Kids

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That’s Maggie. Let’s just say she isn’t thrilled with the ridiculous gender-defining phrase “fun gifts for boys” on the label of some toys on the shelves of a Tesco in the United Kingdom. Maggie’s mom, Karen Cole, snapped a photo of her daughter’s displeasure and the photo immediately went viral with 11,000 retweets and 12,000 favorites. Maggie was featured on BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post and several other notable sites.

In a blog post about the sign, Karen writes that she and Maggie had discussed gendered toys before:

Last year she started coming home from school saying some of her friends were suggesting some toys were for girls and some for boys. I explained that they were wrong, if the toy looks fun to play with then anybody should be able to play with it. She could play with knights and dragons (her thing at the time) and boys could play with dolls and kitchens if they wanted to. We agreed that “everybody can like what they want to like.”

I’ve got a similar situation underway at home with my 3-year-old son Henry. I don’t know where he’s getting his info as he barely spends any time in daycare, but he’s constantly telling his big sister that certain toys are for boys and others are for girls. I do my best to explain that toys don’t belong to boys or girls but to anyone that is interested in playing with them. (Though McDonalds certainly doesn’t help when they screech “BOY TOYS OR GIRL TOYS?” into the intercom when we’re ordering Happy Meals.) Part of it is natural, a way kids differentiate between themselves and the opposite gender, but we, as parents, need to work hard to disabuse children of the notion that something is girly or is only for boys. We need to constantly encourage our children to try all kinds of toys so they can experiment and learn what appeals to them. Boys should play house with dolls and girls should get toy cars and robots. We need to learn our kid’s natural proclivities and then pick toys that align with their natural interests.
Karen Cole agrees, telling The Huffington Post in an email that classifying toys by gender is damaging. “I wish toys weren’t gendered,” she said. “I realize most children will choose the toys aimed at them but I firmly believe all children should have the freedom to choose what they’d like and to be free from ridicule or bullying if they don’t conform to the gender norms.”

In her blog post she adds that children “believe what they’re told and if they’re constantly seeing signs telling them something is ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’ they may start to believe it, particularly when their peers are also seeing these labels and parroting them at school.”

Amazingly, Karen says Tesco replied to her tweet, announcing plans to remove the sign from all of their stores — and they kept their promise. 

Talk about a superhero! Way to go, Maggie!

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