Let Toys be Toys believes that there’s no such thing as a ‘girls’ toy’ or a ‘boys’ toy’. Children should be free to decide for themselves what to play with and how to play. Why put needless  boundaries on fun?

There are  lots of issues with the way that toys are developed, packaged and marketed to children to create an artificial distinction between boys’ and girls’ play. But we felt that how toys are organised and presented was a good place to start, and we’ve already scored quite a few successes. See our Before and After gallery and our list of the retailers we’ve contacted.

What do retailers do?

It might seem odd to place signs around your store saying to half your customers ‘This stuff is  not for you, go away!’ But that’s exactly what toyshops do when they categorise toys as ‘Girls’ Toys’  or ‘Boys’ Toys’.

They claim it makes it easier for the shopper, but placing magic sets and board games under ‘Boys’ is hardly going to help anyone. And would a doll be any harder to find labelled ‘Dolls’ instead of  ‘Girls’? At the extreme, in Next at Christmas 2012, every single toy, from torches to jungle animals, was labelled ‘Boys’ stuff’. (Girls got toiletries instead…)

Good and bad signage

Our December 2013 survey showed a 60% reduction in the use of ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ signs in shops compared with the same time in 2012, dropping from 50% of shops to just 20%. We hope the rest will follow suit soon.

Hobbycraft topped the list of stores marketing toys without relying on gender stereotypes, followed by Toymaster and Fenwick.

The results showed Fenwick, Debenhams and TK Maxx to be the most improved, all having recently decided to stop using ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ signs and display toys by category.

The worst culprit for using gender to sell products was supermarket chain Morrisons. Despite promising in July 2013 to take down ‘Boys Toys’ and ‘Girls Toys’ signs many were still to be seen in November. Where they have been replaced, toys are still grouped by gender, with prominent pink and blue ‘Toys’ signs. Read more about our survey results and see who’s doing what.

We’re doing our best to monitor changes and look out for good and bad examples. Please do contact us if you’ve got pictures or stories to share.

Who’s listening?

We’ve been in touch with most major UK and Ireland toy retailers – see our Who’s doing what? page to see our letters, and to find out what toy stores have had to say in response.  We encourage you to get in touch with retailers to let them know what you think of how they market and display toys. Retailer contact details and letter-writing tips.

Who’s doing it right?

We’re keen to recognise and celebrate the many retailers who are doing a great job of organising and selling toys in an inclusive way through our Toymark good practice award.

Browse our directory of Recommended Toymark retailers and nominees or find out more about the Let Toys Be Toys Toymark.


  1. emma

    We have put our toys in catergories and ages and no way by gender. Children should play with what they want to.

  2. Catherine Stothart

    I wrote to two directors of Staples Messrs Maia and Metcalfe on 10th November via their website, about their catalogue, and had the letter below published in the Guardian on 11th November. There has been no response from the Staples, not even an acknowledgement – very disappointing.

    The Staples Christmas catalogue that came with Saturday’s Guardian (8th November) offered “Gifts for Girls” including a colouring pack, stickers, hot water bottle, perfume factory and 3D puzzle butterfly; among the “Gifts for Boys” were a microscope, telescope, plasma ball, geometric shapes and 3D puzzle skeleton. Shocking that a major company still promotes the message that science is for boys, not girls.

    I wrote to two Staples directors (Maia and Metcalfe) about this, but neither bothered to reply.

    Catherine Stothart

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