Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

So, should boys just play with tractors and girls with dollies?

As shops come under pressure to change their gender labelling of toys, Linda Stewart reveals how her little daughter Neve loves playing with a tool kit and asks other parents do they choose pink or blue?

Play date: Linda Stewart with her daughter Neve (2)

Once upon a time when I was little, Santa arrived at our door, handing out presents. I was thrilled when I unwrapped mine to find a red truck – and then infuriated when I was forced to swap with my brother who had received a doll made of wooden clothes pegs.

Nowadays, despite the advances made by women in the workplace, the divisions between children in the toy shop go deeper than ever. Everything is colour-coded pink or blue – and in separate aisles.

Take a glance along the shelves and you'd be forgiven for thinking little girls are being groomed for careers of domestic drudgery, with the plethora of pink vacuum cleaners and ironing boards.

But parents have been fighting back, naming and shaming the stores that have been labelling the likes of chemistry sets and construction toys as 'boys toys'. A new campaign called Let Toys Be Toys (LTBT) is battling to persuade retailers to stop labelling some toys as only suitable for girls and others only for boys. The group says children should be free to play with whatever toys interest them most and is calling on the likes of Boots and Tesco to follow in the footsteps of Harrods offshoot Toy Kingdom and display merchandise by theme or function, instead of gender.

An LTBT survey carried out by undercover shoppers revealed that toolkits were 10 times more likely to be promoted to boys than girls and construction toys three times more likely. It's no wonder that only 8.7% of professional engineers in the UK are women.

Meanwhile, chemistry sets are twice as likely to be marketed to boys. Personal grooming sets are six times as likely to be promoted to girls and cleaning sets four times as likely.

Does it matter, though? Surely don't you carve out a path in life based on your character and regardless of what you played with as a child?

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