Gender Specific Toys – Does it Really Matter?

How do gender specific toys effect my children?

At Imagine Toys®, we believe in the incredible power of well-crafted toys. When designed correctly toys can be educational, informative, inspire little ones to use their imaginations, and even encourage kids to get up and live a healthy and active lifestyle. Overall, we strive to offer toys that help your children grow and develop each and every day.

There are occasional controversies about toys and they end up in the news. Recently more and more stores have stopped labeling toys by gender. There are many strong and differing opinions on the effectiveness of this. This has brought the issue to the forefront of the minds of parents. This blog discusses the current research to help parents form informed opinions on the matter.

Gender-Specific Toys: Not Necessarily What You Want

Psychology professor Judith Blakemore recently sat down for an interview with the National Association for the Education of Young People. Blakemore is a professor of psychology and associate dean of Arts and Sciences for Faculty Development at Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Blakemore completed a study on gendered toys that labeled over 100 different toys that they labeled from strongly masculine to strongly feminine. The study found that traditionally boy’s toys are associated with violence or aggression. Traditionally girl’s toys were found to be associated with physical attractiveness, nurturing, and domesticity.

The really interesting finding was that more neutral toys were more educational and likely to develop skills such as creativity, physical fitness, and cognition. Therefore, while strongly gendered toys may have a place in play, more neutral toys have more of an impact in development and learning. Neutral toys are also less likely to develop more undesirable traits and ideas.

But my kid wants gendered toys…

Other studies have shown how toy labels have impacted how children choose toys. A study from The Journal of Developmental Psychology shows that children prefer toys that are labeled with their gender. Even if a pink monster truck is labelled boy, boys prefer it and if it is labelled girl, girls prefer it. New York Mag talks about how there is no clear distinction in surveys of unlabeled toys between what girls and boys like. The article goes on to say that if a gender neutral game is labelled as a boys’ game, girls perform worse than if is labelled as a girls’ game.

So What Types of Toys Should You Bring Home?

Take the Astronaut Dress-up Set for example. At our online store, you will find that this dress up set falls into the girls’ and boys’ category. This is not ultimately a gender-specific toy; either your son or daughter can play astronaut and use the suit and their imaginations to have fun during playtime. In fact, this cute toy may inspire either a girl or a boy to one day grow up and become an astronaut; it is not a toy that is strictly associated with one gender or the other.

Gender neutral toys

On the other hand, consider another toy, the Design My Own Bow & Arrow toy. This is an arts and crafts toy, which many consider to be a girls’ activity. While your daughter may love to play with this arts and crafts toy that allows her to craft her own hunting bow, your son may love it as well. Boys can be very creative in crafting and may truly enjoy this artistic toy.

In general, it is not necessary for parents to avoid strongly gendered toys altogether. For example, your son may love playing with guns or wrestling toys, or your daughter may want to wear a pink princess dress she sees at the store. However you may want to focus on more neutral toys that will further your child’s development.


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