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Gender-specific toys- good or bad? What are the pros and cons?

The other day I had to buy a present for my nephew's birthday, and while strolling down the long aisles of toys of the toy store, I couldn't help but notice the clear gender segregation of the toy things- an entire floor was dedicated to the 'girlie' pink cleaning sets, cooking utensils and hairstyling kit toys. The Barbie display featured construction sets for a ballet studio, a fashion boutique, an ice-cream cart and a luxury mansion. A floor up was the 'boys' floor with Scalextric sets stacked next to Hornby toys, Airfix models and a host of remote-controlled cars.

It was then that it dawned upon me that even such small inconspicuous things (for us adults) as kids' toys are gendered, the implications of which could be very determining. Also this is something which is so naturally embedded in our collective psyche that we don't even bother to question its validity anymore. The justification given for this kind of gender segregation is usually that it's natural and traditional – that it's always existed.

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It might even be called a marketing gimmick- where there is universal triumph of pink and blue since segmenting the toy market this way brings in greater profits by making it harder for parents to pass down items between siblings of a different sex. But what about the question of gender stereotyping setting in at such an early age when children are just learning to form their identities? The other problem with gendered toys, of course, is the way they limit children's interests. These little things may seem innocuous but Toys are indeed important and formative, for children. We really need to have a healthy dialogue in society centering around the issue.

What is important I think is to let children see, form and choose their own interests rather than parents' thrusting their own stereotypes on the young ones. Many girls may not be the 'pinkie barbie' types and many guys may not identify with the hot wheels' cars. Children even for their young age need to respected with their choices.

We need to encourage experimentation, urging children to play with whatever excites them. After all Girls may also be interested in toys that build spatial-reasoning skills (like Legos) and boys with toys that encourage verbal skills and creativity (like Barbies).

The world of young ones is shaped everyday, based on what they do and what they play with and every stereotype does harm by definition. If we don’t have awards for Best Computer for Men and Best Computer for Women, why in the world do we have these awards for toys?, rightly asked Dan Nessel, who founded the toy and gadget site DadDoes.

So Who's to define what works and what doesn't for the young ones? The toy companies? The parents'? or children themselves?! The answer, I think is clear enough for all of us to acknowledge.
Would be delighted to know your views too on this very important subject. Please do contribute them in the comments below😀
Okay before we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the system of gender specific toys let’s take a journey through the pages of history. We think that gender-specific division of boys are blue and girls are pink have been going on for centuries but it is not true. The gender specific things for kids like colours, toys and video games became a sort of unwritten rule in the 1980s starting with the US. Before the World War II both boys and girls wore dresses. In the 1950s gender specific clothing came into being where adults were dressing up kids in smaller versions of adult clothes. In 1970s unisex fashion caught up. Until mid-1980s some sort magic happened and blue for boys and pink for girls became the norm. Same thing happened with the toy aisles, they also got divided.

Now when it comes to things to play with, one of the things that have been marked as the territory for boys is video games. Previously games were gender neutral. Early games like Pong were marketed to the entire family. Games like Mr Pacman had to release a female variant called Miss Pacman to please the massive female gaming audience. Things changed suddenly after the video game crash of 1982. This crash crippled the digital gaming market and when Nintendo wanted to market its new gaming system it hatched a plan. Instead of placing the Nintendo Entertainment System in the electronics aisle they placed them in the toys aisle where already gender specific division had taken place. So whom did they decide to market, they went with boys. Soon other brands started to follow suit and games became ubiquitous for boys.

So you might think that the fairer sex does not like games. It is not true at all. Today in the US more adult women play games as compared to teenage boys. Sure they play mobile games but still count as games. Since big console makers like Microsoft and Sony decided to make boys their primary target they are missing out on half of the population who are interested in playing video games.

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