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.

    Blocks come in a rainbow of colors and encourage balance, hand-eye coordination, sequencing and spatial skills.
    Blocks come in a rainbow of colors and encourage balance, hand-eye coordination, sequencing and spatial skills. (AP Photo/Anders Brohus, POLFOTO, file)

  • 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.


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  • 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.