In most cultures and societies, there tends to be a separation of the sexes, from the roles they play to the careers they hold. From the very moment they are born there seems to be a divide between the two genders, with boys receiving blue caps and girls wearing pink bonnets. Even many of the toys children play with seem to have gender-specific objectives and marketing campaigns. Some of today’s parents are concerned with the societal pressure on their daughters to adhere to traditional gender roles, while others encourage their little girls to embrace intense femininity. Regardless of which side of the white-picket fence you sit on, there’s no denying that some toys that are marketed specifically to girls that will spark their imagination for fairytale balls, pretend dress-up and happily ever after play time.
- Play Kitchens and Cooking Sets – Generally, play kitchenettes are offered in pastel pinks and purples or the occasional baby-chick yellow. They can appeal to little girls with colorful cupcakes and pastel cookies as the main dishes, but rarely are they ever offered in gender-neutral colors.
2. Baby Dolls – Baby dolls are designed to instill maternal qualities in little girls, but aren’t marketed to little boys. There are dolls that simply open and shut their eyes with a tilt of the head, dolls that can be nursed with a bottle and dolls that need to be fully soothed in order to help them stop crying, but they’re almost always wearing pink.
3. Fashion Dolls – There are all sorts of fashion dolls on the market that are geared to strike the fancy of little girls, including the ubiquitous, iconic fashion doll that started the entire craze. With waist length hair and every accessory you can think of, these kinds of dolls may encourage a feminine approach to play time and life-like scenarios, but their marketing campaigns tend to exclusively target little girls.
4. Doll Houses – Doll houses usually come equipped with a handful of dolls that reflect the picture perfect family unit, pet pooch included, along with all of the linens and dishes to make a proper house and home. You can find them in an array of colors, but most seem to be in the classically girly pink and purple shades.
5. Tea Party – Matching cups and saucers, a teapot and little plastic pastries make for proper tea time with all of a little girl’s dollies and stuffed animals. These dainty sets are definitively feminine, featuring flowers or princesses rather than gender-neutral primary colors or symbols.
6. Costumes – Little girls love to play dress-up, a bit of knowledge fully exploited by toy designers and their marketing departments. There are tons of costumes on the shelves, but they almost always tend to be feminine. Some are generic princesses with fancy dresses, tiaras and sparkly shoes and some are recreations of iconic outfits from the animated movie screen. On the other hand, the clothing worn by princes and knights never seems to be available.
7. Jewelry – You can purchase sets of bracelets, clip-on earrings, a “diamond” ring and a string of “pearls” in just about any color a little girl desires; perfect for accessorizing for any pretend date with prince charming.
8. Fairytale Character Dolls – Most female characters in fairytales play some sort of princess or damsel in distress role. Generally, they are quite beautiful and have long flowing locks that can signify traditional femininity. These dolls are not, however, designed to be appealing to the young male set.
9. Cosmetic Sets – There are an endless array of kid-centric cosmetic sets you can buy for your little girl that come with pink blushes, shiny lip glosses and a palette of pastel eye shadows. These kinds of toys will teach her how to perfectly powder her little button nose, a skill society doesn’t expect young boys to master.
10. Vanity Sets – The iconic image of a young girl sitting at an ornate vanity, giving her flowing hair the requisite hundred strokes with a hairbrush, is one that’s ingrained in the collective consciousness. There are even busts with long hair aimed at budding hair stylists; these toys are almost always cast in traditionally feminine colors to attract the eye of little girls.
The strategic marketing behind toys is culture based and consumer driven. There is a growing trend of toys marketed with more educational appeal to girls. Building blocks and construction sets now come in girl-suitable colors. These types of toys can help improve spatial thinking, which can also improve math and science skills. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your little girl to be made of sugar and spice and everything nice, but if you’re struck with a sense of frustration as to where to turn for gender-neutral toys to foster your little girl’s imagination, let the Internet be your guide. Large corporate toy stores have aisles drenched in pink, clearly targeting girls, with few toys that appeal to both genders. If you still find yourself battling the marketing giant’s appeal and gender-biased approach to lure your daughter into role-specific play-time, you may find the toys your child wants without the added gender bias from online merchants.
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