- Written by Peace Loise Mbae for KenyaKidz
Did you know the type of toys you buy for your children affects their future? Research has shown that getting gender-specific toys as an effect on children's' development influencing their career choices, perception and behavior.
A 2013 study by retail group Argos found that over 60 percent of adults who worked in design led jobs such as designers and architectures enjoyed building blocks while they were children, while 66 percent who worked in mathematics related roles like accountants and bankers were fond of puzzles when young.
The toy specialists at Argos analyzed children's interaction with toys and as a result have identified a direct link between toys and fostering of vocational skills. The results demonstrated that there was a correlation the toys adults had with kids and their present careers.
Albert Ogeda, a Public Relations Officer and father of three says he does not think through the process of buying his kids toys but gets dolls for girls and dolls for boys.
"When I go to buy toys I find myself buying toys associated with boys like cars and dolls for my daughters. Mostly I think of dolls as training my daughter to be a good mother but I have never thought of it influencing their future careers," he said.
The tendency of parents to get children sex-specific toys such as barbies for girls and cars for boys b has been found to shape kids approach of the world as well as their choice of careers.
A 2008 research by the Washington and Lee University found that children with gender-stereotyped toys and decorations in their bedrooms held more stereotypical attitudes towards boys and girls.
"Sex-specific toy choice has implications for children's attitudes and learning far beyond the playground. Children may extend this perspective from toys and clothes into future roles, occupations, and characteristics," says Megan Fulcher, associate professor of psychology at Washington and Lee University.
In 2015 Target was applauded by many psychologists for removing the segmentations of toys by gender following many departments terming the labeling unnecessary.
"Organizing merchandise by gender also acts as a barrier that prevents children from exploring the wide array of toys and activities available. Target is on the right track since several studies show that children prefer toys they believe are intended for their gender," says Lisa Dinella, a psychologist at Monmouth University.
Dinella says stereotypical 'boys toys' are more educational with the toys containing information and technical instructions whereas 'girls toys' tend to be around creativity and imaginations which develop different skills.
The Washington and Lee University research dressed stereotypical girl toys in uniforms that are stereotypically for men related fields like firefighting and astronauts and found that it may influence whether girls view themselves as capable of working in these industries.
"Before seeing Barbie, most preschool girls in the study thought they couldn't do stereotypically masculine jobs. The girls then watched this transformation while we had conversations that did not center on careers at all. The girls were surprised by the transformation but then begun to see these are possible careers choices," study author Emily Coyle.
Parents are therefore encouraged to diversify the range of toys they get for their children without limiting them to gender or career choices to enable a broader perspective of the world.