Toys Will Be Toys

This weekend Target announced that their toy and bedding departments would no longer be separated into “boys” and “girls.” Different color paper on the back of walls will no longer be used to suggest gender relevance. Progressive parents and gender equality advocates are hailing the move as the beginning of the end for stereotyping and forced toy conformity.

As a frequent Target shopper with a bit of an “organization” problem, I found this news alarming. Currently the superhero and spaceship toys are found in one aisle together. The princesses and fairies in another. This makes sense. I’ve been assured that this will continue. Dinosaurs and ponies will not occupy the same shelf space. Monster trucks won’t be mixed in with stuffed dogs. Order shall be maintained. Only the signs will be removed.

I’m the father of what a more unenlightened generation might have called a “tomboy.” Her current favorite toys are her Twilight Sparkle pony and her Paw Patrol bulldozer. On any given day she may be a teacher to a classroom of Barbies or a pirate captain searching for treasure. When given the choice she picked out a Sophia the First backpack, but would not be dissuaded from an Incredible Hulk bicycle helmet.



None of which should be overly surprising. Disney spent a ton of money acquiring Marvel and Lucasfilm as “boy” alternatives to their “girl” princess and fairy franchises, but anybody whose paid attention to their last few princess movies knows that these aren’t the Cinderellas and Sleeping Beauties of old. Alaina’s favorites are Brave and Frozen, both of which feature princesses that aren’t sitting around waiting for knights to rescue them. Princess Leia has her own comic book series and when Marvel relaunches all their titles next month, nine of twenty-nine “single hero” titles will feature a female title character. The line between “boy” and “girl” stuff has been blurring for a while.

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All of this, of course, is easy to say when it is a daughter playing demolition derby with her matchbox cars. How would I feel if I had a son that enjoyed his sister’s hand-me-down dolls? I’ll say that I’m fairly confident that my feelings would remain the same. Especially at this age.

Here’s what I’ve learned from watching a four year old play: the toys involved don’t really dictate the action. Her Stormtrooper and Optimus Prime have long arms and are used primarily for carrying sick patients to the doctor. That doctor could be played by anybody from Shrek to an Octonaut to a Lego race car driver. The Batmobile gets most of it’s mileage making “special deliveries” and Spider Man spends more time slinging pizzas than he does webs.

Everybody had stories about their kids setting aside expensive toys and playing instead with the box they came in. As she gets older her toys may hold more relevance towards whatever she’s playing, but for now they are the vessel for her imagination, not its instigator.



32 thoughts on “Toys Will Be Toys”

  1. I love this post! I’ve seen a lot of negative comments about Target changing their toy department. Either way, to me, it really doesn’t change anything. I don’t know why but I really don’t care either way. I shop at Target because they offer betters deals and more variety than Walmart (not to mention, at least in my area, Target employees are a lot friendlier). I have two boys, both spend more time in the boy section than the girl but when my 8 year old was younger he went through a My Little Pony faze and I felt the same as you: At that age, who cares what he plays with? I have seen comments from people who have committed to not even driving in the Target parking lot just because of the change. That’s just a bit excessive and idiotic. Target offers so much more that toys and bedding. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I feel like too many of my posts lately have been about how I can’t understand what people keep making a big deal out of. Trying not to become repetitive, but I just don’t get it.

  2. Great post Jeremy. At first, I struggled slightly when my girls took to dolls and barbie. I thought maybe I’d have a little tomboy who might like super heros and comics like I do but to be honest, I stopped caring a while ago. Boy toys or girl toys: I could care less. As long as they like them and they are age appropriate.

    1. My daughter had plenty of toys from her older sister, so I just buy the stuff that I want to play with. The plan seems to be working.

      1. You work the same evil plan as Rev T. Which may explain why the Tubblet loves Lego and Star Wars! I am bemused that this is a big deal. The biggest issue is that we got Walmart not Target. I like Target way better!

        1. Kids are more interested in having someone to play with than they care about what they are playing. So I get the stuff that I want to play with!

  3. Wonderful, thought-provoking post!

    A toy is a tool for play. I really don’t care how Target organizes their toys… as long as I can find stuff, I’m happy. If my girls want monster trucks instead of dolls… who cares.

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely day.

  4. I have two boys and a girl, who is the youngest. She plays with all her brothers toys, but also has a current obsession with horses and unicorns. I choose the toys the kids want to play with, not the ones a shop tells me I should. I’m pleased to see Target doing this, and I have been amused (and a little depressed, if I’m honest) by the negative comments they’ve received. #shinebloghop

    1. I just saw something about some expert on Fox News talking about how this is going to confuse children about gender issues. So stupid

  5. I had not heard that Target would be getting rid of the gendered signs and after they did I hardly think I would have noticed! I have a girl and a boy and while my son loves his trucks and diggers and my daughter loves her dolls and little pet shop figures they both play with each other’s gender’s toys – a lot. So, it seems less like Target is being innovative and more that they are simply doing away with some unnecessary decoration (and probably saving money on signage in the process!) Great post!

    Visiting from the Shine Blog Hop.

    1. I wouldn’t have even know there were signs until all this came up. I think it would be pretty obvious which way a certain aisle was tailored

  6. Being someone who played with his older brother’s Star Wars toys and older sister’s barbies (usually throwing them in the tree so their hair would get stuck and I could climb up and rescue them) I couldn’t agree more with your post. Thanks for sharing! #effitfriday

    1. I didn’t have any older sisters, but my mom did buy me a cabbage patch doll for some reason. I was a GI Joe and Star Wars kid.

  7. I also can’t understand why this is such a pearl-clutching big deal. When I was a kid, I played with my brother’s GI Joe’s just as much as I played with Barbies. Then again, instead of playing war with those GI Joe’s, I made up Christmas Miracle stories involving trips around the house in a decoration Santa sleigh, ending at the Nativity scene where the Joe’s joined the Wise Men in reverence. It had nothing to do with boys toys vs. girls toys… the action figures just fit in the sleigh better…

  8. Good on Target! Why can’t children just play with what they want. I get the danger – a boy playing with a doll, he might grow up to be a father (shock horror!). Seriously though, I agree with you that half the time the toys are irrelevant they are just props 🙂
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

  9. This is a really great post! My 2 year old son is often drawn to some of the “girl” toys because they are cute puppies or kitties and he likes those things. It doesn’t bother me at all. I just wish toy companies would start making things a little more gender neutral especially with the girl stuff. Why does ever baby need to be pink or purple? Why not yellow, green or blue too??

    1. That’s a good point. If a unicorn is blue, is it now a boy toy? Is Ken a boy toy, or only when he’s in a policemen’s uniform? Its all very silly

  10. We just lost our Target (up here in Canada) so this is new to me. It all sounds kind of ridiculous that this even made huge news. These are kids toys! I’m not sure this is the best use of Target’s power to provoke social change but I suppose it now allows customers to spend even longer in their store… looking for stuff! Thanks for linking -#famjamlinky

  11. Loved reading this post. I have two girls and I have a mix of boys and girls toys in this house. There are many trains and cars and also boy toy figures! I never buy expensive toys! Most are from charity shops as they are just like new!

    Thanks so much for linking up with #justanotherlinky

  12. I have two boys, two girls and they all play with eachothers toys regardless of gender. My girls are obsessed with cars and dinosaurs and my youngest son loves nothing more than the dolls and the pram. I don’t understand the big deal either, toys are toys!!! #abitofeverything

  13. Im not sure we have Target toy shops over here in the UK, but I am all for removing gender labels for toys. Yes obviously makes sense to group robots together and the dolls together, but children will make up their own minds what they want to play with.
    My mates 4 year old boy is as happy prancing around wearinf angel wings and a tiara as he is wearing his pirate costume because he wants to be an actor when he grows up.
    Thanks for linking up, Tracey xx #abitofeverything

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