In a world where the idea of dressing ‘like a boy’ or playing with toys that are made ‘only for girls’ is still very much the norm, it can be difficult to raise kids without the ever-present influence of gender stereotypes. After all, it seems that everything—from clothes and toys to shampoo and toothbrushes—is sex-specific these days. However, there are a handful of companies out there that believe that children should be allowed to freely express their identities, without the burden of gender-confining labels. These brands are making a statement—an important one—by encouraging kids to choose what they want to wear and play with based on preference rather than archaic social attitudes toward gender.
Frustrated by the virtual non-existence of toys on the market that encourage both technical skills and creativity, Yvonne Jin decided that she would simply make these products herself. The end result is Wondernik, a small company whose mission is to bridge the pink and blue divide in the toy section. The brand produces kits that allow children to dabble in clay modeling, sewing, drawing, building circuits, and more. Currently, craft and creativity toys are designed to appeal to girls while STEM toys are designed to appeal to boys—but it’s only by combining and encouraging both types of skills that kids can wonder, learn, explore, and create to their full potential.
The award winning unisex brand for children is meant to be worn by boys and girls alike. Instead of focusing on gender, the clothes in Tootsa’s collections are designed so that kids can run, jump, play, and feel comfortable all day long. When Kate Pietrasik set up the company in 2011, her goal was to create a stylish alternative to the traditional boy-girl clothing divide frequently seen in stores. As a result, the line's pieces feature whimsical prints and patterns in a wide range of fabrics, styles, and colors that allow kids to be as creative as they want when putting together outfits.
Rather than a clothing company itself, Let Clothes Be Clothes is a campaign that calls on retailers to support choice and end the use of gender stereotypes in the design and marketing of children’s clothes. One of their core convictions is that kids should decide their own interests, favorite colors, and wear the styles they find most comfortable and enjoyable to wear, rather than feel directed by retailers and pressure to conform. But the campaign is about much more than whether a tot wears blue or pink. Not only do gender stereotypes influence what society believes children can and cannot dress in, they deny children the chance to freely explore, learn, and make their own choices.