If, like us, you believe that children should be able to enjoy imaginative play without limitations, and that cool kids gifts are ones that are universally loved; then you'll be interested in the latest research from City University London.
The report outlines that “From an early age, most children choose to play with toys typed to their own gender” with some interesting findings below. However, it’s worth noting that the study was based on evidence collected from various sources around the world over a number of decades, some spanning back to as far as the 1930s when things were very different.
The report did however acknowledge that gender differences in toy choice is the product of both “innate and social forces”
Boys will be…
The City of University study revealed that boys tend to stick to toys that are traditionally considered ‘boys toys’ these include lorries and toy soldiers. The results also discovered that when boys were given toys considered to be aimed at girls, they would play with them more aggressively.
The study said: "Despite methodological variation in the choice and number of toys offered, context of testing, and age of child, the consistency in finding sex differences in children’s preferences for toys typed to their own gender indicates the strength of this phenomenon and the likelihood that it has a biological origin."
It also found that boys playing with male-typed children’s toys only increased with age, although the same cannot be said for girls.
Girls will be…
Refreshingly, the report did suggest that girls are getting away from stereotypes, as they are less keen on make-up, dolls and kitchen based toys.
Their findings also found that girls are more likely to be influenced by their parents and adults growing up and television is included.
Moving with the times
Nonetheless, there are many notable benefits for inviting kids to play with children’s toys of all types. This include a greater range of experiences and opportunities for different play. It also allows children to explore different themes without being stereotyped, allowing them to make choices for themselves. Finally, it can break down barriers, by not associating a toy with a specific gender.
It's refereshing to see positive strides in the right direction too. Recently, the Church of England distributed new guidelines to schools advising a more open minded approach. The report was sent to prevent pupils from having their “self-worth diminished” because of their perceived or actual orientation or gender identity.
The report added: “In the early years context and throughout primary school, play should be a hallmark of creative exploration.”
It also added: “Pupils need to be able to play with the many cloaks of identity (sometimes quite literally with the dressing up box). Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision.”
“For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess's tiara and heels and/or the fireman's helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak, without expectation or comment.”
The guidelines were sent to 4,700 schools throughout the U.K, as a step towards supporting children in their development.