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Certain toys, such as Barbie dolls and toy soldiers, are often perceived as being more acceptable for one gender than the other. The turning point for the addition of gender to toys came about in the 1960s and 1970s. Before 1975, only about two percent of toys were labeled by gender, whereas today on the Disney store's website, considered a dominating global force for toys by researcher Claire Miller, all toys are labeled by gender. The journal Sex Roles began publishing research on this topic in 1975, focusing on the effects of gender in youth. Too, many psychological textbooks began to address this new issue. Along with these publications, researchers also started to challenge the ideas of male and female as being opposites, even going as far as to claim toys which have characteristics of both gender are preferable.
One of the simplest toys, a set of simple wooden blocks is also one of the best toys for developing minds. Andrew Witkin, director of marketing for Mega Brands told Investor's Business Daily that, "They help develop hand-eye coordination, math and science skills and also let kids be creative." Other toys like marbles, jackstones, and balls serve similar functions in child development, allowing children to use their minds and bodies to learn about spatial relationships, cause and effect, and a wide range of other skills.
This stereotypical attribution of sex-typical toys for girls and boys is gradually changing, with toys companies creating more gender neutral toys, as the benefits associated with allowing children to play with toys that appeal to them far outweighs controlling their individual preferences. For example, many stores are beginning to change their gender labels on children's play items. Target removed all identification related to gender from their toy aisles and Disney did the same for their costumes. The Disney store is an especially prevalent example of gender in play because they are a global identity in the toy world. A study done regarding their website found that though they have removed gender labels from their costumes, the toys online reflect more stereotypical gender identities. For example, males were associated with physicality and females were associated with beauty, housing, and caring. Too, though they promote their toys as being for both genders, there is no section for boys and girls combined on their website. Those which are generally deemed for both genders more closely resemble what many would label "boy toys," as they relate closer to the stereotype of masculinity within play.
Research on the repercussions of gender in toys suggests that play should be encouraged to be more gender neutral in order to work towards a desegregation of the genders. Too, researcher Carol Auster and Claire Mansbach promote that allowing children to play with toys which more closely fit their talents would help them to better develop their skills. In terms of parental influence, a study found that parents who demonstrated some androgynous behavior have higher scores in support, warmth, and self-worth in regards to the treatment of their children. Even as this debate is evolving and children are becoming more inclined to cross barriers in terms of gender with their toys, girls are typically more encouraged to do so than boys because of the societal value of masculinity.
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