Let Toys be Toys is a parent-led campaign which grew out of a thread on parenting site Mumsnet, which brought together parents frustrated by the increase in gender-based marketing and promotion to children.
The campaign is asking the toy and publishing industries to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting some toys and books as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys.
Let Toys be Toys believes that toys are for fun, for learning, for stoking imagination and encouraging creativity. Children should feel free to play with the toys that most interest them, and shops should stop limiting children’s imagination by telling them what they ought to play with.
The campaign is pushing for retailers, booksellers and manufacturers to sort and label toys and books by theme or function, rather than by gender, and let the children decide which toys they enjoy best.
Find out more in this short radio documentary: Why are we selling our children a gendered worldview?
What Let Toys be Toys has achieved so far – retailers
Through its petition asking retailers to Let Toys Be Toys, its letters to retailers and the help of some amazing supporters on Twitter and Facebook , 14 retailers have made changes, or promised to do so. The Entertainer, Boots and Debenhams have all taken down ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toys signage in their stores, and Marks and Spencer has pledged to make all their toy ranges inclusive.
Its 2013 survey of toyshops in the run up to Christmas showed a 60% reduction in the use of ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ signs in stores. For more detail on how retailers have responded, see the Who’s doing what? page, and take a look at the Before and after gallery.
In 2014, they surveyed toy retailer websites, and found a 46% reduction in the use of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ gender labelling in website navigation, compared with its initial survey in 2012.
2013 saw the launch of the Toymark good practice award scheme, as a way of recognising and promoting book and toy retailers that are marketing their products inclusively to all children. Let Toys be Toys has now awarded over 50 toy and bookshops in the UK.
What Let Toys be Toys has achieved – books
The Let Books Be Books petition asks publishers to stop labelling story and activity books as ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’. The launch of the petition for World Book Day 2014 gained widespread media coverage, and support from authors and media organisations. Usborne publishers announced they would no longer be publishing new titles labelled in this way, and nine other publishers have now followed suit. The Independent newspaper pledged not to review any titles which are explicitly labelled ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’.
Find out more about the Let Books Be Books campaign.
Resources for schools
In March 2016, Let Toys be Toys was honoured to win the BRIO prize from the Lennart Ivarsson Scholarship Foundation. In March 2015, they won Westbourne Comms Change Opinion award for Advocacy, and in May of that same year received the Care2 Impact prize. They were shortlisted for a National Diversity Award for Community Organisation in 2014, and in 2013, they won the Progressive Preschool Marketing Award.
If you agree that children should be free to decide for themselves how they want to play, here’s how you can help.