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8 Toys That Smash Gender Stereotypes

Our almost-4-year-old daughter has pink and purple a truck. A friend of mine gave it to her, and it annoys me every time I see it. She loves playing with trucks, but why does it have to be in "girl" colors? The girl can handle some orange. Or some black.

Ironically, my friend actually ordered it in the blue-red version, but the pastel one showed up anyway. It's like the Amazon gods sensed that it was purchased with a girl in mind and autocorrected the order to what they thought she would prefer.

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It's not that I'm against stereotypically girly toys; stuffed animals and play kitchens are hot tickets in our nearly all-female household. But they can have their place with girls and boys, can't they? Just like crashing cars, basketballs and messy science kits can find happy homes with the XX crowd just as easily as with the XY. I'm not saying that boys have to play with E-Z Bake Ovens and girls need to wear camo, but let's mix it up a little bit. (Target agrees; in August, they announced they'd be phasing out gender-based signage in stores.)

So I was psyched when I learned about the Go! Go! Sports Girl line of dolls. Gracie the Tennis Player, Taye the Basketball Star and Sam the Softball Player are age- and size-appropriate soft dolls who come with books detailing their athletic endeavors. Our daughter has Ella the Runner Girl, who "loves to run fast! Before running, Ella always puts on sunscreen and stretches. She drinks plenty of water and between races will have a healthy snack, like a banana. When she is not running, Ella likes riding her bike and writing in her journal." If you peek under Ella's tee shirt, you'll see her secret tummy message, which reads "Dream Big Run Fast." (Geena Davis, Peggy Orenstein and Amy Poehler have all tweeted in support of the line's new "Athlete is the New Princess" campaign.)

Interested in some other cool toys that will help your kids smash gender stereotypes without even realizing it? (Kids of all genders can enjoy all of these, BTW.) Read on:

For any kid who loves building:

Magna-Tiles

We have these at our house, but I never thought of them as particularly feminist. But when you think about it, architecture, construction and real estate continue to be male-dominated professions, so it's cool to see girls playing with toys that allow them to create new structures and erect buildings. I will now watch with a newfound appreciation as our girls play with these. Age 3+, $51.50 for a 32-piece set. There's also a $59.99 toddler-specific line called People Blocks.

Photograph by: Magna Tiles

For anyone who's sick of hyper-sexualized dolls:

Lottie

Lottie the doll isn't into makeup or high heels; she favors comfortable play clothes over fancy jewelry, and she has real 9-year-old body proportions—meaning if she were a real person, she would actually be able to stand up without her 36DDs forcing her to topple over. There's Fossil Hunter Lottie, Stargazer Lottie, Kawaii Karate Lottie, Muddy Puddles Lottie …and all of them come with related activities pages. ("How to identify fossils"; "Turn a tea bag into a rocket"; "Grow your own sunflower"; etc.) Age 3-9, $19.95 and up.

Photograph by: Lottie

For the boy who is hesitant to play with dolls (but wants to):

Wonder Crew

Psychotherapist and mom Laurel Wider couldn't believe it when her son returned from preschool and declared, "Boys aren't supposed to cry." Wider was familiar with research showing that strong relationships and the ability to connect emotionally are critical to happy, healthy lives. But she also recognized that dolls—the toys that most effectively model friendship and empathy—are almost solely marketed to girls. So Wider created Wonder Crew. Crewmates blend "the adventure of an action figure with the emotional connection of the favorite stuffed animal." Each doll comes with a matching "adventure gear" outfit for his owner to wear. (Currently, there's a superhero and a construction builder.) Age 3-6, starting at $19.99.

Photograph by: Wonder Crew

For the kid who digs history or likes learning about inspiring women:

Girls Explore

Think of these as gateway toys into history. With the help of 3D imaging, these dolls are designed to resemble Amelia Earhart, Olympic medal winner and LGPA founder Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Bessie Coleman, Harriet Tubman and other historic female game-changers, right down to facial characteristics and attire. The figures come with related toys, activities and a bio, all of which allow girls to learn more about the life of these inspiring heroines, without it feeling like they're slogging though homework. Their tagline? "Kids, especially girls, can do or be anything they want." Which would you rather your daughter have: A Barbie doll, or Dr. Dot Richardson, the surgeon who also became an Olympic gold-medal shortstop during a time when everyone said, "Girls don't play baseball"? Age 8-12, $39.99.

Photograph by: Girls Explore

For the kid who can't get enough Nancy Drew:

Project MC2 Super Secret Spy Kit

Turn your kid into a crime-solver with this kit that has everything an aspiring detective might need to solve a mystery: Magnifying glass, rearview glasses, fingerprint kit (dusting brush, print powder, lifting tapes, ink pad), spy glasses, mini UV light and more. Ages 8+; $19.99

Photograph by: Project MC2

For your budding STEM star:

Roominate

You may have seen Roominate on "Shark Tank," when the two female creators (both engineers) fielded offers from all five sharks. It's a customizable line of modular pieces that allow kids to create townhouses, amusement parks, cars, etc, then hook them up using the included motors and other circuitry. Roominate's mission is "to inspire the next generation to have fun with STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and to help develop spatial and fine motor skills, engage hands-on problem solving skills, boost self-confidence and teach basic circuitry." What your little girls will think: COOL. Age 6 years+, $50.

Photograph by: Roominate

For the new mom who will be cooped up with her kids this winter:

Please and Carrots

Who doesn't love a monthly subscription box? This kid-friendly version comes with toys, games and books curated by a team of child psychologists, pediatricians, educators and more, intended to spur budding minds age birth to 3 years old. The packages are gender-neutral, and items are sourced from companies like Melissa & Doug, Macmillian Children's Publishing Group, Infantino and Lamaze. Age birth to 3; $99 for one box or $349 for four boxes annually.

Photograph by: Please and Carrots

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For kids who are into gears, cranks and tinkering:

GoldieBlox

GoldieBlox's goal is to get girls building. Their CEO says she never even knew what engineering was until her high school math teacher suggested it as a potential college major. Playing on girls' tendency toward strong verbal skills and our love of stories and characters, GoldieBlox uses fun-to-say characters (Katinka the Dolphin; Benjamin Cranklin, the angry cat) to draw kids in and get them building all sorts of machines. (I speak from experience; our house is littered with rubber Katinkas.) Ages 4 and up; prices vary.

Photograph by: GoldieBlox

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