Toys Are Toys, No Matter Which Gender

As seen on The Baby Spot

Dear Toys R Us,

I have been a customer of yours for some time now and while I don’t have intentions to discontinue doing so, I will say that I often dread bringing my son and daughter in your store with me. And it’s not about the fear of them wanting to buy every toy they see! What concerns me is the message I worry they might be getting from your store set up. Why is your store divided into separate sections for girls (indicated with pink banners) and boys (indicated with blue banners)? Toys are toys, no matter which gender.

Here are some of my observations from walking the aisles of your store during my shopping experience.

As I perused the girls’ section of the store it was like pink and purple threw up everywhere. Why are the majority of girls’ toys pink and purple? Also, the sad part about walking through the girls’ section was the lack of variety. Seriously, aisle after aisle was dolls. Barbie, Lalaloopsy, Disney Princesses, Bratz, Ever After High, Monster High, American Girl, Journey Girls, and babies. ALL. DOLLS. With the exception of Shopkins, Easy Bake Ovens, Lego, and dress up clothes.

The dress up shelf for girls was all pretty, frilly, princess dresses. Oh, and some crowns and tiaras. Nothing else. So I guess if a girl wants to play dress up that is all she imagines she can be, right? Never mind the possibility of maybe a girl wanting to dress up and pretend she’s a doctor, firefighter, police officer or scientist. And while I am on the topic, there were no dress up clothes for boys. NONE. Apparently, boys don’t play dress up.

The boys’ section of the store was a little bit better than the girls in terms of colour scheme and variety but not by much. The aisles are filled with superheroes, action figures (the closest thing to a doll for boys you can find), many, many types of cars and trucks, planes, tractors, tools and tool sets.

A thought came to me after walking through both sections. Why are the baking toys only found in the girl section? And why is the toy tools only found in the boy section? What kind of message is being sent here?

The kitchen toy sets were in a small section of their own, however, even that seemed to be catered to girls only, with the majority of the packaging having pictures of girls on them playing with the products. As well, guess what colours many of the kitchen toys were? That’s right, pink and purple. Although I was happy to see that there was a small variety of kitchen toys in gender-neutral colours.

You also have the educational toys, train sets, colouring and art supplies, Lego sets and board games in sections of their own. Why not continue the rest of the store in that manner, with products grouped by category rather than gender?

I am baffled as to why there need to be separate sections for girls and boys at all. When it comes to the section of infants and toddlers toys there is no separation by gender and all the toys are very neutral in colours and themes. It’s like once a child reaches a certain age and is no longer a toddler the choices are girly or boyish toys. It seems strange to me.

After having these observations in your store, I decided to pay a visit to another toy store, Mastermind Toys, to observe and compare how their store set up is and the variety of toy choices. The first thing that stood out to me was that there were no girls or boys sections. In fact, sections were marked by categories, such as outdoor toys, science, and discovery, construction/building, dress up (and yes, they had dress up clothes for both boys and girls!), arts and crafts, amongst others. Sure, they also sell toys considered to be gender specific, however, it was not as blatant as at Toys R Us.

As I browsed the different sections at Mastermind Toys, another thing that grabbed my attention was the variety of items to choose from and how the majority of them were more neutral in colour and theme compared to at Toys R Us. Not one section seemed to scream boy or girl at me.

For as long as I can remember Toys R Us has had their store set up with the divided sections. But I just don’t understand why there has been no adaptation to changing times. In fact, in 2015 Target in the U.S. made a change to their toy displays, grouping them together rather than having boys and girls sections separated, acknowledging their awareness of changing shopping preferences and needs.

In my honest opinion toys should not be assigned a gender, whether it is through marketing, packaging, colour scheme or store set up. It’s not about being a boy or a girl rather it’s about being playful, imaginative and creative. It’s about learning, developing and growing. Whatever toy a child selects to play with should be about what brings them joy, no matter what the choice, and not about what society and industry expectations have been pushed forward for much too long.

I know for the most part the purchasing of toys comes down to the parents or other adults in a child’s life. And I hope that more and more parents are focusing less on whether a toy is considered gender specific, and more on encouraging a play environment that gives kids the freedom to express themselves in their own unique, creative way.

And so Toys R Us, I leave you with this final request. Will you consider changing your store set up, and also add a little more variety in the inventory offered? Will you recognize that having gender categorization is a thing of the past (or at least should be) and perhaps consider another approach? I know it would make this mama more comfortable bringing her kids in your store to shop.

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