Okay, girls love Dora the Explorer, and boys love action figures. But, there’s something to be said for toys that brothers can share with their sisters and vice versa. The way kids spend most of their free time is playing, and if you can give your children some toys based on a common interest, you can encourage sharing, and playing together, which can strengthen the sibling bond and make for a more harmonious household.
One of the real hurdles for brothers and sisters playing together is that most girls really don’t care about Batman, and most boys wouldn’t be caught dead playing with Barbie dolls. So, more often than not, you’ll need to provide your kids with some “gender neutral” toys if you’re hoping to see them getting along and learning to share.
In the 1980’s, we had He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. He-Man had initially been marketed to boys, but because of the generous number of strong female heroes and fantasy elements, as well as a female animation director taking on a lot of episodes, the show actually wound up having a lot of crossover appeal, hence the spin-off series and toy line, She-Ra Princess of Power, starring He-Man’s sister. The whole He-Man/She-Ra family of toys was nothing if not an excellent way to get brothers and sisters playing together and enjoying the same shows. Unfortunately, children’s entertainment today has very little in the way of popular franchises with equal appeal for boys and girls.
But then we do have Dora and Diego… while Dora the Explorer may have limited appeal for boys, the spin-off series, Go Diego Go, is definitely a boy’s show. Each show shares a number of characters with the other, and the overlap can help bring brothers and sisters together, meaning less fighting over the remote when one show or the other comes on TV, and playing together to create adventures for both Dora and Diego to conquer.
Then there are completely gender neutral toys, like Legos. Legos usually tries to cater more towards boys, licensing properties like Batman and Indiana Jones, but the basic premise of this toy has a lot of appeal for boys and girls: Build whatever you want to build. Challenging your daughter and son to build a castle together may yield interesting results, like a palace with a ballroom and an armada of cannons and archers along the outer wall.
While space adventure is primarily a boy-focused genre, Star Wars actually tends to appeal to both boys and girls as well. By providing the audience with a strong male lead in Luke Skywalker, and a strong female lead in Princess Leia, every kid watching the movie has someone to root for.
Most recently, we’ve seen electronic toys for both boys and girls drop considerably in price thanks to the very nature of technology getting cheaper every day. You can actually buy a kid a digital camera, toy laptop, or even a camcorder for the price of dinner for one at the Olive Garden. By their nature, these are non-gender specific toys, but bear in mind that most boys wouldn’t dare touch a pink and purple camera, whereas girls rarely have a problem with blue.
That’s something to remember, by the way. A lot of gender-neutral toys are coloured blue for boys and pink for girls. Boys oftentimes hate pink, but girls don’t have to worry about being called a sissy at school if they show up with a blue backpack.