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Can Gender-Neutral Toys Promote Children’s Self-worth And Ambitions?

11 August 2016

Cape Talk presenter Pippa Hudson recently hosted a panel discussion on her early afternoon talk show discussing the role of toys in gender stereotyping. Guests were invited to join the conversation via receiving re-imagined non-gender-specific toys, conceptualised by Y&R South Africa’s Cape Town office.

The toys included a Diva Turtle, complete with a sparkly dress and handbag, My Little Avenger, Ninja Fairy and Darth Daddy, who proudly states: ‘Luke, I am your stay-at-home father’ to his accessory baby and stroller. The re-mashed toys were sent to representatives in the toy industry and also shared with a sample group of children who were participating in a social experiment.

An objective of the discussion for Cape Talk was to stimulate an honest conversation on the topic and to encourage parents and retailers to ask themselves: are we doing enough to broaden children’s horizons when it comes to toys? Studio guests included Angelique Thompson, Senior Buyer at Toy Kingdom and Peter Crock, Divisional Director of Just Fun Toys.

According to family psychologist Talya Ressel one-side exposure to gender- specific toys may leave a lasting impression on children of both genders. “Boys might shy away from what is traditionally seen as girl’s toys out of fear of judgement, but that could lead to them not boldly exploring their nurturing and gentle side,” she explains. “For girls, gender-specific toys can cement certain thoughts about potential careers and that there are limited options available to them. It may instil a belief in them that it’s not as important for them to build, climb, to fight, or to ask for what they want.”

Graham Lang, Chief Creative Officer of Y&R South Africa and Africa adds that, “The parents were a little perplexed when they saw the toys, but the kids had no qualms. They just wanted to play.” He commented further by saying, “we were glad to be a part of this important conversation and kudos must go to Cape Talk for their continuous great work in sparking important and meaningful conversations.”

Megan Hall, Client Service Director at Y&R South Africa’s Cape Town office, adds that online reaction was quite positive towards the re-mashed toys and inputs from studio guests and even parents during the show were constructive and worthwhile. “We didn’t want the discussion to be about vilifying toy companies or society, so we are encouraged that so many partners and influencers are on a mission to consider the role of toys in gender stereotypes constructively,” she concludes