"I'm looking for a stacker toy for babies."
The employee in the toy store didn't miss a beat, asking, "Is it for a girl or a boy?" I was stunned. It is not often that I am rendered speechless, but in this case I just stared at her. How can a stacker toy be gender-specific? It has coloured plastic donuts that kids can chew, toss, carry around or stack back on the post. Well, I soon learned when she showed me the two choices. The girl's toy was pastel pinks and purples and the boy's toy was multicoloured.
Give me a break. I was simply floored and chose the multi-coloured one. And that's when I took a look around the store and realized that many of the aisles and toys were labelled by gender. In my view, toys are toys, kids are kids and different kids have different preferences by temperament, not by gender.
So you can imagine how pleased I was to see a story out of the U.K. stating that Toys R Us will stop labelling toys for "boys" and "girls." New standards will be set for in-store signage and images will show children of both genders playing with the same toys.
The change comes in response to a campaign from the group Let Toys Be Toys asking retailers "to stop limiting children's imaginations and interests by promoting some toys as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys."
Megan Perryman, who is a Let Toys Be Toys campaigner said they are delighted to be working with a major toy retailer.
It seems unbelievable to me that even in 2013, boys and girls are still growing up being told that certain toys are "for" them, while others are not. I believe that giving kids a message that they can only play with certain toys limits their scope of imagination and ideas.
Later that week I was pleased to note that a representative from a local children's bookstore was going to be talking about wonderful new books for kids on the local TV noon hour news.
She showed us books for kids of all ages and they looked wonderful.
But, she also indicated which books were for boys and which for girls. The TV host actually said at one point after a book description of a great sounding story for boys that girls would like it as well.
But the book rep was undeterred and pointed out that she had another choice for girls. My take was that both sounded fabulous for all kids.
I am not suggesting that we foist "boy toys" on girls or vice versa. I am instead suggesting that we group toys and books by genre, not by gender.
There are action toys, toys to cuddle, puzzles and riding toys. It goes on and on. All kids will benefit from a variety of toys and if offered choices will decide depending on their mood and possibly personality what excites them in a given moment.
Another area of interest in the toy department is the "educational toys." This is another unfortunate style of labelling.
The term "educational toys" is an oxymoron because every single thing your child touches, manipulates, chews, considers and listens to is educational. He is learning from playing in the dirt, from mushing his food, rolling cars and trucks around the room or cuddling a teddy bear.
If we need to label these toys I would suggest calling them "academic toys." But to say some toys teach more or teach better is just not accurate.
Let's allow our kids to simply play with whatever is available in their environment and let them learn about the world.
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