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Advent calendar: 24 “Toy Stories” from across Europe

Christmas is approaching and, as every year in the pre-Christmas period, COFACE Families triggers a social media campaign wave to promote equal opportunities and to highlight gender, disability and ethnic stereotypes in toy production, marketing and shops.

Last year, we launched the successful “Toy stories”, the first Europe-wide survey on #ToysandDiversity, where the voice was given to consumers to explore what determines and influences their choices when they buy toys.

This year, we are giving voice to a selection of the 2000+ toy stories collected last year from all EU Member States and beyond. COFACE has therefore decided to select some 24 toy stories from our Toys and Diversity survey, covering different dimensions, pertaining to the world of toys such as: how consumers/buyers are confronted when purchasing toys, the way toy shops are organised and how this is perceived by consumers, the role of media and marketing on toys, that some stereotypes still prevail regarding the gender of the child, the need of more inclusive toys, etc.

The toy stories will be packaged in an advent calendar to be launched next 1st December, and every day, a new toy story will be revealed in our different social media, until the 24th December. The profile of the consumers we decided to gather is diverse in terms of gender, age and nationality.

This year’s campaign aims to raise awareness of the responsibility each of us has to drive change. COFACE Families Europe encourages every stakeholder involved in the world of toys (parents and families, different professionals, public administrations, industry, NGOs, etc.), to take stock of these toy stories, building bridges of collaboration and mutual learning, and help promoting equal opportunities for boys and girls.

Door 1: “The boy loves cars but likes to take care of dolls and loves glittery things and sometimes even dresses as princess. Our children are allowed to be what they want, including so-called stereotypical girls or boys, if that happens.” – Finland, woman 36-45

Door 2: “There are diverse toys available if you know where to look from. Young and emerging designers are making inclusive toys. It is now up to parents and adults in general to look for those.” – Estonia, man, aged 36-45

Door 3: “I am the mother of a blind child, and he needs expressive toys that are very difficult to find now: cars with eyes, boats with wheels, dolls with strange proportions, plenty of lights and colours, very visual. The toy sounds are of a terrible quality. We often have to adapt the toys or make them ourselves.” – Spain, woman, aged 36-45

Door 4: “When we were kids my parents, who never gave us any preferences about what kind of games we should play with, asked my sister and me not to tell people that my brother played with Barbie dolls with us, so as they wouldn’t make fun of him.” – Italy, woman, aged 26-35

Door 5: “Marketing can be very influencing! At present, my grandson is crazy about paw patrol – from toys to pyjamas! Every new model on the market becomes a must! I worry about this especially for families who can’t afford them.” – Malta, woman, above 65

Door 6: “I dislike pink sections for girls and blue sections for boys in toy stores. I prefer shopping at stores that do not have girls and boy’s sections.” – Czech Republic, woman, aged 36-45

Door 7: “There are neutral toys and they reflect the diversity in the society today. It is up to parents to explain, guide and encourage their children in their games. My children don’t play with girl-specific or boy-specific toys only – they play with what they like, and what they were taught how to use (i.e. my 3-year-old daughter is using a toy drill, my 7-year old nephew is sleeping with a pink elephant)” – Belgium, man, aged 26-35

Door 8: “My key concerns regarding toys are that the child is likely to use it for long, reducing senseless consumerism and for the environment (regardless of the material it’s made of)” – Ireland, man, aged 36-45

Door 9: “I think it is more acceptable for a girl to play with “boy” toys than vice versa. I also realised this from the way I responded to the survey.” – Greece, woman, aged 26-35

Door 10: “I have 2 sons, and I personally have no whatsoever problem if they played with a doll or other toys for girls. However, boys enter into panic if there is only a pink dot on the toy … This happens since their entry into kindergarten: is this the influence of the team, teachers, society?” – Czech Republic, woman, aged 36-45

Door 11: “What influences me most when buying a toy? That the toy is made of natural material that is not harmful to health, under which conditions it was produced and how useful it is for the age/the current development of the child.” – Germany, woman, aged 36-45

Door 12: “I have both male and female children; everyone has always been free to choose the games they prefer. I have noticed that a boy who plays with dolls is more criticized and teased than a girl who prefers little cars.” – Italy, woman, aged 46-55

Door 13: “My preferences for purchasing a toy are the potential impact on the child’s learning and development.” – Belgium, man, aged 26-35

Door 14: “There is a need to support inclusive toy companies in their production and marketing to make their prices more competitive.” – Belgium, woman, aged 36-45

Door 15:”Many toys symbolise ideals and fantasy in line with social stereotypes.” – Spain, woman, aged 56-65

Door 16: “I think advertisement is the beginning and then it has to be adults who change their mentality. My son was once told by someone during a lunch why was he playing with a doll as he was a boy. I told him my son can play with whatever he wants. We have to change society as a whole, step by step.” – Spain, woman, aged 36-45

Door #17: “My girl often just says that some toys are for boys. I often ask her how she knows that it is just a toy for a boy, and she remains confused. She started to divide colours into those for boys and those for girls. The influence of the media and society on the upbringing of children is enormous, we are not even aware of it.” – Croatia, woman, aged 26-35

Door #18: “I am looking for toys that gather quality, applicability, encourage imagination and are educational.” – Croatia, woman, aged 46-55

Door #19: “My little brother used to play with a doll with a different skin colour than we do. It is ridiculous that children are sometimes called to account for their toy preferences: ‘that is not for girls’ or ‘pink is a girl’s colour’. Toy shops and manufacturers can take the lead by making very subtle and gradual changes by blurring the line between so-called boys’/girls’ toys.” – Netherlands, women, aged 18 – 25

Door #20: “As a father I’m deeply annoyed by gender stereotyping, not only for children, but also for parents: shops where I often buy things for our children here in Ireland is called ‘Mothercare’, and changing facilities for babiesare somehow all too often in the female bathrooms, not in the male ones.” – Ireland, man, aged 36 – 45

Door #21: “I used to have ‘Action man’, my sister Barbie dolls. I had the blue toy, she had the pink toy. I had the castle, she had the princess castle. That didn’t stop us from swapping toys and playing with them by mixing them, and I had more ‘girlie’ toys myself, but the split was real and became more pronounced with age.”

Door #22: “I think that diversity is already being addressed more and more, but the older generation still needs especially conviction. And that is best to start introducing diversity from an early age. From my son of just one-year-old, the Sint Niklaas brought a playhouse of Playmobil 123 (with a white mummy, a black daddy and a mixed-race child, which was a nice surprise) and a fake desert car on remote control.” – Belgium, woman aged 36 – 45

Door #23: “Regarding toys, I like those which encourage education, respect and values.” – Spain, woman, aged 56- 65

Door #24: “We have a 30-year-old daughter with mild to moderate intellectual disability and it is very difficult to find board games adapted to her level of understanding. We play a lot as a family and we always have to adapt the rules for her. However, we know how much playing with the family has helped her to acquire certain intellectual skills.” – France, woman, aged 46 – 55

Background about the #ToysandDiversity campaign:

As every year in the pre-Christmas period, COFACE triggers a social media campaign wave on #ToysandDiversity. 2016 was about stereotype hunting,  2017 year was about stereotype boycotting, 2018 provided checklists to think critically when buying toys. Last year, on Universal Children’s Day, we have launched “Toy stories”, the first Europe-wide survey on #ToysandDiversity, highlighting the importance of letting children decide what to play with for their creativity, imagination, learning development and fun. This means not limiting children’s choices of which toys to play with by imposing on them predefined and stereotyped categories. This year, it is time to give visibility to the more than 2000+ Toy Stories which we have received.

More information here: https://www.coface-eu.org/campaigns-2/toysanddiversity/

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