Neutral toys: First step towards empowerment

Neutral toys: First step towards empowerment
Parents have become more mindful about toys that foster the early mental and education development of their children.

Dubai - The UK-based Let Toys Be Toys has become one of the first parent-led campaigns to actively demand changes to this theme.



By Rabiya Shabeeh

Published: Fri 18 Mar 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 19 Mar 2016, 10:01 AM

Anyone who has ever had to purchase a present for a child seldom put a lot of thought into the decision. This is because toy stores tend to, through marketing and labelling, tell you what you should buy.
If it is for a girl, just head towards the aisle in the toy store where everything is in a shade of pink and focused on some variant of a 'home making' role. If it is for a boy, in the best-case scenario, it is all the toys that focus on analytical thinking and construction skills, and in the worst-case scenario, it is all the toys that replicate guns, weapons and means of violence.
Science now says that this highly limiting approach to assign skills-building toys based on genders has more long-term drawbacks then one would initially note. Dr Elizabeth Sweet, a sociologist and lecturer at the University of California, whose research focuses on gender and toys, explains: "Studies have found that gendered toys do limit the range of skills, interests and talents that both boys and girls can explore and develop through play."
The end of 2015 globally noted parents became more mindful about purchasing toys and games that foster the early mental and education development of their children to prepare them for the increasingly highly competitive academic sphere, according to Euromonitor.
With this growing awareness, there has also been an increase in criticism towards the limiting and often counter productive marketing strategies most toy retailers practiced.
The UK-based Let Toys Be Toys has become one of the first parent-led campaigns to actively demand changes to this theme.
"We're asking retailers and manufacturers to sort and label toys by theme or function, rather than by gender, and let the children decide which toys they enjoy best," said campaigner, Megan Perryman.
After pressure from similar campaign groups, Toys R Us has become one of the first multinational toy retailers to have begun catering to this demand in some parts of the world.
"We have not categorised girls' and boys' toys in stores in the UK and Sweden for some time," said Richard Barry, the retailer's global chief merchandising officer.
Even though the change has not been implemented in the UAE as of now, sales of traditional toys and games has shown continuous growth in the past few years, primarily due to the growing population and the boost of tourism.
While international toy manufacturers lead, local companies are continuing to increase their presence.
Manufacturers should be encouraged to invest more in innovative products and more progressive advertising and labels.
Dr Sweet said a more general approach to their marketing doesn't only benefit children but the society at large.
"When we offer kids equal choices from an early age, it logically follows that they will continue to expect and demand equality in their personal, social and professional lives," she added.
Rabiya Shabeeh is a freelance writer based in Dubai


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