Can giving girls pink toys and boys blue ones REALLY affect what kind of job they'll get?

A brother and sister with presents

Giving kids gender-specific toys to play with could affect the kind of jobs they go into in the future.

That's according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), which says we should rethink choosing pink presents for girls.

It says 89% of girls' toys are pink but only a small number are focused on science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

The IET says that suggests toys are being chosen based on stereotypes.

'Your toys could affect the rest of your life'

A young boy cuddling a doll

Many girls' toys are still based around dolls and dressing up, while boys' toys are more likely to be related to building and cars.

The IET looked at online retailers and search engines and found that there were three times more Stem toys aimed at boys than there were for girls.

Alison Carr, a director at IET, has told Newsbeat that there is a link between the toys we play with as children and the jobs we have later on.

"What we play with as children can really help us expand our minds and feed our curiosity," she says.

A young girl playing with Lego

The IET says it's not that your old toys show exactly what you will do as a job, but reducing the things children can play with might limit their creativity and potential.

By steering young children away from certain toys, "we're cutting down the options for girls, and we're cutting down the options for parents," says Alison Carr.

'The toys aren't the problem - it's the packaging'

A young girl playing with a spaceship toy

Alison Carr says that given the chance to play with them, girls and boys enjoy the same sorts of toys - it's giving children the opportunity in the first place that's the problem.

"It's often how we present them rather than how we design them," she's told Newsbeat.

She says toy companies should help parents make the right decision by removing gender-specific packaging.

But she says parents need to "think outside the pink and blue boxes" and look at the availability of all toys, beyond what is in the "boys" and "girls" sections of the shop or website.

Is there a benefit to gender-specific packaging?

A young girl looking at pink doll packaging

Amazon and Google are among the worst culprits in advertising mostly pink toys for girls, says the IET.

But gendered packaging of science-related toys could help girls get into science, says Natasha Crookes from the British Toy & Hobby Association (BTHA).

"If the price of getting more girls into science and engineering is to make some of the toys more 'girly' and sold in a pink box, let's swallow our pride and do that," she's told Newsbeat.

"There are children that 'don't like' science, or haven't discovered their interest yet, but may have an interest if packaged in a more gender-biased play set."

What should I be buying this Christmas?

Old photo of Santa's grotto

If you have a younger relative you want to buy for this Christmas, there are a few options you could choose.

Natasha Crookes says that you don't have to give a child a lab kit for them to get into science.

"Other toys can contribute to 'science skills' as well as specific interest science kits.

"Playing with simple blocks and puzzles can contribute to the spatial skills needed to be good at maths, science and engineering."

Mini robots

Alison Carr's suggestion is mini robots - toys in the shape of people or animals that you can control with a remote or through simple programming.

"They can start from three years old and go through to early teens.

"They're great fun, and they will really spark the imagination."

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