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American Studies Professor Jo B. Paoletti's "Pink and Blue" informs Parent's Choice analysis of gendered toys.

By Ashley Mannetta, Parent's Choice

This week, The New York Times published a reporter’s reaction to a conversation she heard in the Hamleys toy store in London. Last year, Hamleys got rid of their “Girls” and “Boys” sections and reorganized their store by type of toy rather than gender. The change has confused some customers, including a mother quoted in the Times.


How can we make toy shopping a less gender-specific experience? If almost all toys are either pink or blue, it can be difficult to make children feel that it is fine to play with toys that are “for boys” if they are a girl or “for girls” if they are a boy. It might be best to start with a history lesson. Teach your children that pink hasn’t always meant girl, and that blue hasn’t always meant boy. In fact, as Jo B. Paoletti explains in her book "Pink and Blue," for years pink and blue were considered nursery colors fit for both genders. Before that, both boys and girls wore gowns and skirts through the age of six. Though these dresses were usually white, they came in many colors and styles. Young ones were seen as “babies” or “children,” not boys and girls. It was considered inappropriate to dress young children according to their gender, and boys did not begin wearing pants until age six or seven. Dolls were recommended as gifts for both boys and girls.


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