Date
July 13, 2021
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More and more designers are thinking outside of those pink and blue boxes, opting for gender-neutral designs that spark your child’s imagination instead of imposing harmful stereotypes.

We’re not virtue-signalling when we say that pink versus blue makes us see red. Can’t we all just accept that “Toys for boys” is not a thing? Non-gendered toys actually support optimal development because they let a child imagine infinite possibilities rather than impose limitations based on their supposed “gender”.

LEGO knew what it was doing when it exploded onto the scene in 1932. Back then, the Danish toy company promoted equality over a double-marketing strategy that targeted boys and girls separately. It even sent out letters to parents encouraging them to practice gender equality when choosing which toys to buy.

Genderless toy- Rigamajig finished
The Rigamajig building blocks come with no instructions to let children explore their own designs – © Cas Holman

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long though. Like most toy manufacturers today, “pinkification” set in during the late-1970s and it began gendering its products with jewellery sets and homemaking kits aimed at young girls, whilst more complex designs and “Expert Builder” sets were targeted at young boys.

Segregation within the toy industry like this has created decades of socialization which has led us to believe that boys wear blue and play with trucks; whereas girls like pink and play with dolls. After all, toys mould our minds. If you don’t believe us, go and stream Netflix’s “The Toys That Made Us”. During a nostalgic trip down memory lane, you’ll understand the power of plastic guns and flowery kitchens can have on a child’s view of the world. The title says it all.

Genderless toy- Legandgo different ages
Leg&Go Bicycle has a minimal design that grows with a child from ages 6 months to 6 years – © Leg&Go

The truth is, whilst children might enjoy playing the part of princess or superhero, these roles are adult ideas of what kids want. Gender-neutral toys, on the other hand, help children to discover their own innate interests, whether that’s music, construction, aerospace or who-knows-what.

Luckily, many retailers have made progress by dropping gender labels even if the toys themselves are still gender-centric. In a bid to change that, “Let Toys be Toys” is a social campaign that targets retailers and challenges them to stop enforcing gender. So far, it has been successful in persuading most major UK toy retailers to drop ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ signs in-store and in their website navigation.

For the progressive parents out there that want to raise their children in a gender-nonconforming way, there are also a variety of toys that don’t push pink or blue too. Brands have risen to the challenge by reframing their copywriting, rethinking their marketing strategies and introducing gender-neutral product lines. In this article, we’re giving a platform to some of those designs… 

Curious about product designs addressing inclusivity? Head to “Has Barbie become an icon of diversity?”

Genderless-toy- Circus PomPom
PomPom avoids the idea of ‘blue for boys’ or ‘pink for girls’ by never marketing their collections by gender – ©PomPom

Unisex by Sy Wang

Industrial designer Sy Wang has created a modular toy collection that encourages children to experiment with gender constructs. It is inspired by the idea of building blocks and uses a series of magnets to connect gendered elements together based on stereotypical jobs such as a construction worker, a nurse and an astronaut. 

The subtle difference is that Wang has designed these elements with features that challenge gender norms. The figurine of a construction worker wears a hat that is painted pink, the legs of a fireperson are wearing a skirt, and the astronaut has been given a pair of high heels. Wang has also designed the various pieces so they can never be built into a character that is purely masculine or feminine by traditional standards.

Genderless toy - Unisex
The building blocks in Unisex by Sy Wang can be mixed and matched in a way that challenges gender norms – © Sy Wang

Potato Head by Hasbro

Earlier this year Mr. Potato Head lost the “Mr” title in a gender-neutral rebrand that saw one of Toy Story’s most beloved calendars updated for the twenty-first century. The brand name change was accompanied by a whimsical color palette and more inclusive messaging encouraging children to project their own notions of gender onto the plastic potato

Genderless toy- Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head lost the “Mr” title in a gender-neutral rebrand – © Hasbro

Rigamajig by Cas Holman

American toy designer Cas Holman only designs gender-neutral toys based on the notion that children learn best when they are the architects of their own play. Rigamajig is a 265-piece open-ended building kit intended to inspire constructive play amongst children regardless of their gender. 

Rather than challenging notions of pink and blue, Rigamajig focuses on children being creative thinkers as well as skilled enough to bring their ideas to life using a set of building blocks without instructions. Featuring predominantly natural materials, wooden planks, wheels, pulleys, nuts, bolts, and rope, can be put together in any way the user sees fit.

Genderless toy- Rigamajig parts

Creatable World by Mattel

After years of criticism for projecting unattainable beauty ideals, Mattel introduced what it billed as the world’s first ‘gender-neutral doll’ in 2019 called Creatable World. In a similar way to the new and improved Potato Head, the draw was a customizable doll line offering endless combinations. 

The encouraging notion behind the Creatable World collection is its invitation to create characters that are unique by experimenting with gender. Extensive wardrobe options, accessories and wigs allow children to style the doll with short or long hair, or in a skirt, pants, or both.

Genderless toy- Creatable World
Mattel introduced what it billed as the world’s first ‘gender neutral doll’ in 2019 called Creatable World – © Mattel

Pom Pom & Good Things

There are various design methods when it comes to breaking down gender stereotypes. PomPom and Good Things are two online retailers that take a subtle approach by never marketing their collection’s by gender. 

Also committed to 100% plastic-free design, PomPom sells imaginative toys and gifts alongside traditional options such as tea sets and building blocks. Still, there is no ‘blue for boys’ or ‘pink for girls’ on their site anywhere. 

Good Things uses a similar framework and separates its collection by age. Organic cotton crinkle toys for babies, fairtrade dolls for toddlers and a wide variety of build-and-play sets for older children bypass gender entirely. 

Leg&Go Bike

The Leg&Go 8in1 Balance Bike is a transformable wooden bicycle that grows with a child from ages 6 months to 6 years. According to scientists, this is a crucial time when children become aware of the differences between “boys” and “girls”. 

Toys that opt for a neutral aesthetic are a sure fire way of avoiding those stereotypes. The Leg&Go Bike has a wooden frame and a minimal appearance that promotes neither a typically male or female. Instead, the focus is given to the fluidity and flexibility that define its ergonomic aesthetic. 

Are you looking for playful design solutions? Head to “Magnus is a magnetic play couch that becomes anything kids want it to be

Genderless toy- leg and go bicycle
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