Here is Why you should have a gender-neutral approach when your children select toys for themselves

Allow your children to explore their choices, start by allowing them to pick the toy they want

Your child and you have sat down to select some toys for them through an online toystore. So, how are you going to select the right toy for them? How will you start with the selection? Are you going to hit the filters and check for the “For Girls” and “For Boys” options? If yes, then sorry, this might not be the right approach to selecting the toys for them. But why are we saying so and what can be the right way to actually make them choose what toy do they want? Well, to begin with, maybe you have been thinking that your girl child should have a so-called girly toy like that of a barbie doll or a kitchen set. But what if your boy child also wants the same. Then, by selecting the gender-specific filter-
a) you have shortened that option for your child to explore for themself,

b) and you have somehow enforced your gender-stereotypical ideas upon your child. Toys are one of the things that subconsciously affect the learning process of children. And, your selection can really affect the choices of your child with respect to the identification of their gender and choices, and the imposition of certain gender roles. Let us take examples of both cases.

Case 1: How the gender-specific filters impose gender identities

Let’s take an example that you have two children, a male child, and a female child. For your female child, you hit the “For Girls” filter, you will expose her with all the so-called girly things that the store finds to be girly and they ended up choosing a doll set, which includes lipstick, nail paints, hairbrushes, etc. And for your male child, you happen to choose a power ranger set.

Firstly, by this, you tried to tell them and enforced what type of toys are meant for which of them. And, secondly, say both the packages have been delivered at your home and you see the following observations –

1. Your children are happy with whatever toys they have received
2. Your male child is happy with their toy but the female child is not, or vice versa and wants to play with the toy of their opposite sibling
3. Both of them are not happy with the toys they have received and want to interchange the toys with each other

So, what would be your reaction to the 2nd and 3rd observation? Will you find it right for your child to have been wanting to play with the toy of the other sibling? If yes, then we have nailed the point that you should not have chosen the gender-specific filters while searching. By doing so, you limited the choices for them and imposed your stereotype. So, next time you choose a toy for them, just allow them to scroll down among all the options irrespective of the toy being called feminine or masculine.

Read more: Where There Is Pride, There Is A Feeling of Insult! – BK Shivani

Case 2: How gender-specific toys impose gender roles

Suppose you have always exposed your girl child to toys that include kitchen sets and doll sets, then her abject to it will that girls are the one who is to work in the kitchen, who should look beautiful as their doll, etc. And suppose your boy child sees you choosing a kitchen set for your girl, he will also start to develop the stereotype that girls are meant to work in the kitchen. So, here, if you don’t want your children to have your child think this way, just forget the gender-specific filters.

Understanding gender dynamics is difficult but the increasing conversations around the same are definitely helping. There is a great deal of difference between what you have grown up learning and what your child should be learning. And, even when you would want to teach all the right things to your child, your tussle between what is right for you and what is actually right will always be a subconscious debate. For you, parenting will not just be a process of caring about the needs of your child, but a process of learning, unlearning, and relearning and you will have to start from somewhere. So, start it will allowing your child to choose the toy they want without imposing and filtering options on the basis of the gender you think that they belong to.

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Ishika Aggarwal

Can write, shoot, listen, talk and procrastinate. A feminist at heart, Ishika is an avid writer and multimedia person who loves talking about women, realism, and society. When not working she is either seen watching films or making one.

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