The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Let Toys Be Toys for Girls and Boys

By Olivia Dickinson
Children's Media Professional
and CMF Executive Group Member


The Let Toys Be Toys campaign has been going for 6 years - it started on a thread on Mumsnet in late 2012 in the run up to Christmas shopping - and in that first year had huge success with shops taking down signs saying 'boys toys' and 'girls toys'. 15 retailers have now pledged to remove the signs, and most of them have, including Tesco, Sainsbury's, John Lewis, Debenhams and The Entertainer. The Let Books Be Books campaign launched on World Book Day 2014 and since then 11 publishers have agreed to no longer publish books like the 'Gorgeous Girls Cookery book'. Thank goodness that boys and girls can now bake and eat the same food!

But the campaign still exists to challenge gender stereotypes in childhood. Labels, signs, packaging and marketing all give girls and boys messages about what they ought to like and how they ought to behave. This has an effect on subject choices at school, career choices and emotional wellbeing: girls' self-esteem often goes down from the age of 6 with the message that appearance is so important; boys' emotional articulacy is never given a chance to develop and suicide is still the biggest killer of men under 40. One area that readers of CMF newsletters may have an interest and influence over, and our followers often tweet us about, are the missing female characters in licensed merchandise - #wheresskye from ‘Paw Patrol’ has been joined by #wheresowlette from ‘PJ Masks’, why is all ‘Hey Duggee’ merchandise labelled for boys and only girls can like Peppa Pig and only boys can like George Pig? For older kids, #wheresrey from ‘Star Wars’.

If you'd like to shop outside the gendered box this Christmas, Let Toys Be Toys offers a list of Toymark awarded shops that offer inclusive toys.

The new ASA rule on gender stereotypes in adverts will have an effect from July 2019, so it will also be interesting to watch TV adverts for toys and see how advertisers and sponsors have risen to the creative challenge of no longer relying on lazy stereotypes to sell their products. Please follow @lettoysbetoys, and the campaign is always keen to hear from people who know and understand the kids' media and toy industries.

For more information on Toys Be Toys email

or follow us on Facebook.

Industry Policy Research

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)