If you’re heading out Black Friday to buy children’s gifts, will you be looking for “gender neutral” toys, or contentedly browsing the superheroes aisle or the pink one? Whether you’re the kind of parent who gets annoyed at the grandmother who gave a Buxom Barbie to your daughter or you couldn’t care less, we’ll get advice and insight into navigating the often-fraught toy buying season.

Children’s Toys and Gender 29 November,2013forum

Jeremy Adam Smith, UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center; author of "The Daddy Shift;" and co-editor of "Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood"
Elaine Blakemore, professor of psychology and associate dean of arts and sciences at Indiana University
Peggy Orenstein, contributing writer for New York Times Magazine and author of "Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture"
Sean McGowan, toy industry analyst at Needham and Company

  • mandy kenoyer

    Thankfully, I have one of each gender, so I buy according to each child’s interests, and both play with all the toys. That being said, I think ALL children should have access to imagination toys- the less the toys do, the more the children play and focus on gross and fine motor skills, language, and social skills.

  • Robert Thomas

    The Forum program indulges in holiday self-parody.

  • Jon Gold

    Doesn’t this all come down to fundamental differences in the sexes? Women are nurturing-mothers-to-be-home-makers, men, competitive-hunters-providers-protectors. And, yes, this may sound sexist, but these differences are seemingly natural to me. I have two sisters and a brother and I spent more time with my sisters cooking, thumbing through fashion magazines, and listening to Carly Simon. Also, I feel I’m very physical and could play rough with male cousins. I think kids will gravitate to what they enjoy and perhaps a balanced exposure to toys is best. I don’t have any kids.

  • trite

    This is the same conversation we have been having for the last 40 years, it seems to me–just rehashed to include electronic toys. My daughter was born in the late 70s and i remember earnest Berkeley parents trying to stuff their day-care aged girls into jeans and boots–the girls wanted to wear dresses with frills. Ultimately the sexes separate in in the ways they want to and all the academic pontificating does not really matter. And each individual finds his or her level. The best thing is not to push too hard and to let children feel OK with their choices.

  • Nancy Crabbe

    I am a 68 year old woman. When I was growing up in the 50s, I liked to make things, including models. Since the models available were for boys, I bought ship kits. The cheapest onces were military ships, so that’s what I made. I think Lego can do fun things for girls if they provide more opportunity to do the design and creation of their sets. The sets I have seen have been mostly premade sets, with not much creativity required. The boys’ sets require more design and construction and creativity.

  • boomer49

    Hi guys,

    I got through to the show (on telephone) today, but was a bit too late. Anyways, I still managed to tell the call-screener that the October 21st issue of the New Yorker had a wonderfully appropriate Barbara Smaller cartoon on Page 50 … a cute little girl (maybe about seven) standing on the sidewalk outside a “Party Shoppe” store, looking at a display of Hallowe’en costumes in the display window … and the little girl is saying, “I want to be whichever Disney princess is the most bad-assed.”


    Can you say “bad-assed” on NPR?


  • Sarah Lee

    Thanks for including Sarah’s Silks in your discussion of fun, open ended toys Peggy Orestein! I am so glad your daughter has enjoyed our silks all these years. ~Sarah http://www.sarahssilks.com

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