Thursday, January 26, 2012

January '12 Educational Tip

The decorations are back in the boxes and thoughts are now focused on resolutions for the New Year. You may not be thinking about the 2012 holiday buying season, but toy manufacturers are, and what stores and companies are focused on is how they can get you and your family in the grips of the “must-have-toy” frenzy of the next toy buying season.
A store in London, which is similar to New York’s F.A.O. Schwartz, the store that is the setting of a child’s dream come true storyline in many movies, is taking a different approach to appealing to young girls and boys. They are visually removing the “I’m-A-Girl-Toy” cotton candy pink colors and “I’m-A-Boy-Toy” shades of blue from the display shelves. Signs will be in neutral colors so each child can feel free to gravitate toward whatever catches his or her interest. The choices will be divided into categories that are gender neutral; soft toys, indoor/outdoor toys.
Baby clothes, pajamas, sweaters and blankets are available in predominantly pinks and blues; two distinct and separate categories. Yet, studies have shown that when children reach the age where they are able to manipulate and engage in playtime, children pretty much play with the same toys. It is when they reach preschool age that boys and girls tend to move toward playing what is considered to be the “traditional” trucks for boys and dolls for girls. What if children were encouraged to stay more neutral in their toy choices and how they see themselves as individual people?
Psychologists who study the behavior of boys and girls say children who have solid friendships with the opposite sex at a young age, and don’t see the world as dramatically different with girls’ toys on one side and boys’ on the other, have healthier romantic relationships as teenagers and more productive work relationships with co-workers of the opposite sex as adults. As parents and caregivers, it is hard to imagine our children working in an office or performing on a concert stage one day, but it would seem anything that encourages children to have a “we-are-all-in-this-together” outlook on life certainly is going to help them in relating to one another.
Then again, when we, the adults, think we know what is best for children, they have a way of staying one step ahead and foiling all our good intentions. The neutral color strategy in a toy store may prove that the girls will always find the dolls and the boys will reach for the box with the giant dump truck anyway.
All the best to you in 2012!
Alice Knisley Matthias
Educational Writer

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