Let Toys Be Toys, a UK-based campaign that is “asking the toy and publishing industries to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting some toys and books as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys” is precisely the type of movement we need in the world. Here is why.
Originated in a parenting thread at Mumsnet, this campaign has a mission to challenge traditional gender stereotypes. Particularly, on the way toys are marketed and the limitations on the emotional expression of all children (regardless of their biological sex).
How are stereotypes counterproductive?
According to Let Toys Be Toys, “children don’t pop out of the womb with expectations about their future careers, or beliefs about what their work is worth, but the stereotypes we see in toy marketing connect with the inequalities we see in adult life.” And, while some of these stereotypes (about jobs, professions, and housework, even), have changed throughout time, children are being bombarded too early with limitations about what they can and can’t do.
Play, as we have established before in this blog and will continue to advocate, is children’s most natural of expressing their inner world. Their desires, fears, anxieties, hopes, dreams, anger, frustrations, and so on. Toys, in this case, are but a vehicle to maximize this type of expression.
Why does it matter so much what our children play with when what should matter, is how our children playing?
What should we pay attention to?
Rather than focusing on the type of toys: let’s look at their playing patterns.
- Are they engaging in play?
- Are they fostering creativity?
- Are they communicating and collaborating with other children?
- Are they letting themselves go into fantasy?
- Are they owning their playing process?
If the answer to one (or more) of these questions was yes, then the vehicle through which they choose to do this – is not important. The goal is that your child has the freedom to choose and, more importantly, have your support and love – as their parent – that their voice and their choices are important
So, next time you see yourself worried about what toy your child picks up, I invite you to ask yourself two questions: Is the toy truly important? What am I so worried about? The answer to these questions will reveal so much more about you than it will about your child. And, hopefully, will help us live in a more equal world where we are constantly challenging gender stereotype and allowing ourselves the possibility of choice.