Within American culture, the gender messages are often rooted in patriarchal thought. Boys are taught to be aggressive and girls are rewarded for behaving in a feminine, caring manner. There is no place that serves as greater evidence of this than a toy aisle.

Girls toys are typically pink, soft, and family-focused with dolls, dress up clothes and toys centered around cooking meals and caring for the home dominating the aisle. The toys typically found on an aisle catered to boys enable more aggressive play activities, like shooting, fighting, and other outdoor activities.

Fortunately, as we begin to make strides toward inclusivity, we begin to see “cross-over” toys that encourage traits like creativity, community mindedness, and problem-solving. Toys like Legos, building blocks and puzzles typically send a more gender-neutral message that focuses more on the skills being taught and less on the gender of the child engaging in the activity. Through the use of board games, we encourage children to negotiate, seek fairness, work cooperatively and stand up for themselves.

Working with these more inclusive messages, we begin to teach each child that their independence and individuality matter — two ideals┬áthat are clearly valued throughout American culture, regardless of gender.