The Problem with “The Pretty Learning Purse” and Other Gendered Toys

Pretty Learning Purse Gendered Toys Feminism

Begin Rant:

I’d like to take a moment to talk about toys.  Children’s toys.  Namely, infant and toddler toys.

My daughter received a “Pretty Learning Purse” for her birthday.  It’s a pink purse with a face on it that comes with a phone, a mirror, a credit card and a bracelet.  It talks, sings and plays games with her.

Making this perhaps the most offensive toy I’ve come across in my career as a parent, the “Play” mode says cute things like “Let’s go shopping!” while the “Music Mode” sings a song that ends in “My favorite color, let me stop and think, yesterday it was purple and today it’s pink!”

I can’t confirm this 100%, but I am pretty sure Fisher Price makes nothing even similar to this toy for boys.  This is a problem because women and girls are so much more than flighty, pink loving (when they can remember their favorite color) shopping addicts.

I wish instead of saying, “Let’s go shopping!” it would elaborate.  Perhaps, “Let’s go shopping, even though you’ve already worked nine hours because if you send daddy to the grocery store he comes back with two frozen pizzas and an onion!” (True story).

Toys gendered for little girls seem to focus on being pretty, shopping, taking care of the house – while toys gendered for little boys focus on building and problem solving.

A recent article from NPR discusses a Standford University’s Bing Nursey School’s implementation of unstructured block play based upon research indicating that blocks are the best learning toys for toddlers.

According to the article, “Several studies have shown that children who play with blocks have better language and cognition than control groups.  Other have looked at the power of blocks to help teach math… math skills are the biggest predictor of academic success.”

One very vibrant memory of my first year of undergraduate took place in an alegra class.  The professor began the class stating that the class would be more difficult for girls than boys as boys are inherently smarter than girls.  His reasoning was that from a young age, boys are given toys that promote skills for problem solving and building while girls are given dolls.

At the time, this statement made me angry at the professor.  Eleven years later, this statement makes me angry with society, with toymakers, with the practice of pushing gendered toys on children that have the potential to foster essential skills or create large gaps in learning.

A simple Google search for “Top Toys for Toddlers” provides gendered results:  According to PotteryBarn Kids, the top 6 toys for girls are variations of Designer and Gotz dolls.  The top six toys for boys?  Buildable train tracks, a tool set, and tool box.

By not making these toys accessible through advertising, social expectations, imposition of gender stereotypes we are depriving our girls the opportunity to master complex skills early on.  Even though this problem is man-made and reinforced by our own culture,  girls and women are often mocked later in life for not knowing how to do these things.

As a parent, I plan to take a stand against gendered toys (and not just because I really dislike the color pink).  I plan to utilize the information from this study and other studies to allow my daughter to make choices that will not only enhance her learning but avoid her being placed into a narrow, short sighted gender role.  To do anything else is a disservice to her potential to be a great person and an amazing woman.


Lily is a social worker, a mom, a wife who likes to eat apples and bananas, play peekaboo and will occasionally make it to work on time.