Every toy you hand your child delivers a message or value about how she should see the world and behave in it. As such, child development experts suggest eschewing stereotypically gendered toys, for neutral items -- many of which are free and found around the house -- to equalize a child's opportunity to develop skills and counter stereotypes about their options and potential.
Here are five favorite gender-neutral toys culled from parents as well as an early childhood development expert, Susan Linn, a Harvard psychologist and co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Puzzles. What better way to solve problems, see immediate rewards, and enhance cooperative play than putting together a puzzle with a friend.
Art Supplies. Stimulate creativity and learn colors with washable crayons, markers, and paints. Also encourages fine motor skills. Blocks. Sets always come in a rainbow of colors and encourage balance, hand-eye coordination, sequencing and spatial skills. Clay or dough. Encourage fine motor skills and creativity at the same time with a homemade recipe: Combine 2 cups white flour, 1/2 cup salt, 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons cooking oil, 2 tablespoons cream of tartar and a drop of food coloring in a saucepan over medium heat. When smooth, let it cool and play. Store in airtight container. Puppets or stuffed animals. Increase speaking and listening skills and encourage shy kids to interact and communicate with their favorite animals. Encourages empathy and care-taking, as many kids this age will try to diaper, feed, and rock their stuffed animals.
Blocks come in a rainbow of colors and encourage balance, hand-eye coordination, sequencing and spatial skills. (AP Photo/Anders Brohus, POLFOTO, file)