I think that having a Master of Education gives me the right to have an opinion on gender specific toys and stereotypes that they tend to create. In fact, I was recently reminded of a lecture that a great professor gave during a child psychology and development course that I took in college. So, naturally I wanted to share some of that with you.
Disclosure: I am writing this post as part of my Fat Brain Toys Partners in Play partnership. I will be receiving toys and a gift card for participating.
Gender Specific Toys and Stereotypes
I am proud to say that the college that I graduated from with my Master of Education and Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Social Studies is a small liberal arts college and it’s known for its great education program. It’s because of that great institution that I have been successful in education to this point. I was privileged to be taught by some of the best professors. As such, I greatly value their opinions on things.
One professor in particular has had a lasting impact on me and my opinions. This man over-saw my 2 semesters long graduate action research project and I took 3 other courses under him. Needless to say, I got to hear him give many a lectures. Thankfully, he was entertaining and informative. One particular memorable lesson was on gender specific toys and stereotypes. I remember it because he actually brought a bucket of sand and a small children’s shovel to class.
He told us that whenever his grandchildren had a birthday, he tried to get them gender neutral gifts. He impressed upon us the fact that gender specific toys can often lead to children stereotyping themselves (and others) before they are even old enough to see it. I hadn’t really considered this until that lecture and I found it to be very interesting.
I guess this goes back to the age-old debate of nature versus nurture. Are we born to behave and believe certain things or do we learn them from the people around us? I believe it’s a mixture of the two. As in, we are born with a certain set of genes and we can inherit some things. However, I’m a firm believer that a person can also be impacted by their surroundings.
It seems to me that children could just naturally like certain toys or characters. However, if we tell children from the beginning that they can’t play with a doll because they are for girls or that cars are for boys, then we are directly impacting them for the rest of their lives. I’m not saying not to buy that much sought-after new pink thing when a child asks. However, I am saying that I think we need to make more of a conscious effort to support children to develop interests in whatever field they may enjoy, regardless of its stereotypes.
In case you were wondering, my professor did give us at least one suggestion for a non gender specific toy. I’m sure by now you’ve figured out that it was sand. He believed that allowing children to make or build something by using their imagination was a brilliant way to let them explore the world around them. I have to say, I agree.
To that end, I’m very happy to be a Fat Brain Toys Partner in Play for the next couple of months as they offer a wide selection of toys, perfect for boys and girls.
So, do you think that gender specific toys further perpetuate stereotypes?