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By Shannon Bussnick, LSW
You can find Shannon’s blog at Viennalane.com.
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Gazing down the jam-packed aisles of your child’s favorite toy store, you’ve probably noticed quite the divide between pink shimmering tea sets and remote-control dinosaur cars—the former marketed to girls, and the latter, typically for young boys.
Though society has made great strides in steering away from the ‘pink is for girls’ and ‘blue is for boys’ mindset, there’s a long way to go before gender norms and stereotypes are merely a thing of the past.
Whether you’re in need of a toy store vacation, or looking to purchase an awesome gift for that birthday partly quickly approaching, we’ve rounded up our top 10 favorite gender-neutral toys for children that we know you and your family will love.
Benefits of Gender-Neutral Toys for Children
Introducing children to gender-neutral toys and gender-inclusive forms of play is not only beneficial for a child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development—as well as creative expression—but can also contribute to their future identity and life perspective as adults.
According to Psychology Today, “In many ways, children’s play is like conscious or unconscious “rehearsals” of preparing for adulthood.
In this regard, the diversity of playing methods (as opposed to gender stereotype conformance) can have a significant impact on the overall well-roundedness of children’s identities going forward” (Ni, 2020).
While gender-specific toys tend to limit what a young child is exposed to or becomes skilled at, gender-neutral toys and gender-inclusive forms of play allow children to explore the world intuitively—without someone else’s expectations weighing them down.
For instance, if you grow up eating only a handful of foods, you may be less inclined to try something new, which could ultimately mean missing out on your favorite food of all time.
The same holds true when it comes to the toys our children play with.
If a child is taught to only engage with toys or activities suited to their gender stereotype, than they may feel less inclined to step outside their comfort zone.
Consequently, they may not discover their passion, or they may not feel worthy of pursuing it.
Our Top 10 Favorite Gender-Neutral Toys
If you’re looking to introduce your children to some new and exciting (yet still educational) gender-neutral toys, you’ve come to the right place!
Let’s take a look at our top 10 favorites.
It’s pretty magical when a child picks up their very first instrument. A love for music can begin to develop as early as the days in the womb—which is why incorporating music during play can be quite beneficial and enjoyable for all little ones.
Check out this wooden music set and don’t be afraid to utilize everyday household items to create your very own orchestra.
(An empty coffee tin makes a great drum and a cardboard guitar is definitely doable with a side of yarn and some glue!)
Who said playing with tools is only for the boys? Both boys and girls will benefit from learning the ins and outs of screwdrivers, drills, wrenches, and tape-measures.
Though they may be too young to use the real ones just yet, using their imagination and practicing with this hands-on educational tool set from KIDWILL will definitely work to their advantage when they’re ready to play with the real stuff.
Art Supply Kits
Calling all artists! Grab your smocks and get ready to open your minds to all the creative possibilities.
Creative activities allow children to express themselves freely while exploring a variety of colors, shapes, textures, and materials.
Art supply kits like the one listed here provide children with the tools to make their thoughts, feelings, and experiences come alive.
A soft animal can be a best friend who listens to all stories. This lamb is one of the cutest around!
Our kids may not be first to volunteer for chores just yet, but teaching them about household tasks and what to do when they spill their milk at the table, can definitely increase confidence and autonomy while improving their motor skills.
This simple 7-piece cleaning set encourages children to explore various housekeeping tools and will broaden their imaginations through pretend play.
Playing house has never been more fun (and relatable) for children. With gender-neutral color schemes and portable designs, playing house is a great way for all children to explore at home or on the go!
Check out this unique dollhouse from Melissa & Doug here.
Looking to upgrade your child’s current dollhouse?
These peg people will make a great addition!
If you ask a child what their favorite animal is, you’ll typically see their eyes quickly light up and their energy amplify.
Children love learning about animals and including them in pretend play.
Animal figures, like this safari set, make for simple and fun educational toys that will help children explore the animal kingdom and their impact on our ecosystem.
You can encourage children to sort their figurines into different groups (e.g., land animals vs. water animals or meat eaters vs. plant eaters).
Spending time in the kitchen with your children can be a great way to introduce nutrition, meal preparation, and clean-up.
Why not show your little some of the fundamentals with their very own kitchen play set?
Children will enjoy learning about an assortment of utensils and recipes as they create their perfect dish.
They can also take turns playing different roles—while one child is the chef, another child can be the customer.
Magnetic Tiles and Puzzles
Whether working to create an architectural masterpiece or playing around with different shapes and sizes, it’s all made possible with these Picasso Magnetic Tiles.
These 3D magnetic building blocks help children build the creation they desire while also delivering a sense of achievement throughout the process.
Sure, getting outside can prove challenging some days, but once you feel the fresh air upon you, the benefits will be hard to ignore.
Being outdoors can ease stress and improve creativity, imagination, and mindfulness.
Bringing along an explorer kit, like this one here, will help guide your child while they learn about nature and explore their surroundings.
Pop-up Tunnels and Ball Pits
When the weekend approaches, and the weather seems to take a gloomy turn, there’s no better time than now to whip out those pop-up tunnels and ball pits.
Many of these action toys come in compact designs which can be easily stored away when not in use.
Children will love the thrill of crawling through to the other side, rolling around the ball pit for an awesome sensory experience, and releasing any pent up energy from the day.
Interested in learning more about pretend play?
Make sure to check out the article: When Does Pretend Play Start?
Creating a Bright Future
The goal is to arrive at a place where anyone on the gender spectrum can dress up like their favorite Disney hero or heroine—whether their gender is of the same or different—and no one bats an eye. Because why should they?
NPR elaborates further on the topic of gender-inclusivity, stating, “…When kids anywhere on the gender spectrum spend time with characters who are more complex, it can change the way they see themselves” (Kamenetz & Turner, 2019).
As parents, we must encourage our children to explore different activities, navigate new life experiences, and develop a wide range of lifelong skills.
Utilizing gender-neutral toys and encouraging gender-inclusive forms of play might very well be a bigger predictor of our children’s happiness and success than we originally thought.