‘Acknowledging the world of children’s toys as an insight into understanding deep routed gender bias is a key aspect of researching gender inequality.’

Over the last 6 months, the Policy and Research team have had the pleasure of supporting Cardiff University student Alice McNeill to carry out a piece of research into the gendered nature of toys.

Research suggests that children’s toys have a large role to play in creating social stereotypes of what is acceptable for boys and girls, with certain toys being targeted more towards one sex than the other.

These stereotypes go on to affect the behaviour and career choices of children from a very young age.

More often than not it’s the marketing of toys which is most obviously gendered, notably the ‘pink-ification’ of girls toys, and the use of blue for boys.

As part of her research therefore, Alice explored the way toys are presented and laid out in both high street and online toyshops. As well as gaining first-hand experience of toy shopping from parents of young children.

Research Findings

Although the toyshops observed did not distinctly categorise girls and boys toys, it’s very clear that toys themselves, use of colours and marketing strongly guide children to choose toys that reflect their gender.

Some toys that were naturally neutral in colour such as a guitar, were offered as a gender neutral model, and then also as a pink model, seemingly to appeal to girls specifically. In contrast, the imagery and colours used in a section of the shop dedicated to toolkits and construction style toys were targeted at boys.

As part of the focus groups, most parents highlighted value for money, safety and education as the main factors to consider when buying toys. However, some did agree that they would be more inclined to buy certain toys, such as babies or prams, for girls, or toolkits, for boys.

All of the parents who attended recognised the role of society in marking pink as a girl’s colour and blue as a boy’s. Although some said they would be happy to buy a pink toy for their son if he wanted it, they also said it was hard to stray away from the stereotypical norms.

Alice argues that an awareness of the impact that gendering toys can have on children needs to be recognised and addressed in society. This in turn will help address the ingrained gender inequality that exists within our society.

A huge thank you to Alice for carrying out this research.

A copy of the full report is available here – Girls, Boys and their Gendered Toys.