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Girls' games and toys

Girls' games and toys are a large yet difficult market for the children's toy industry. Creating games and toys that can be mass-marketed to girls is challenging for today's toy companies. Nancy Zwiers, an industry consultant and former head of worldwide marketing for Mattel's Barbie doll line, has pointed out the male-centred bias that makes development of girls' toys difficult:

When I tour different company showrooms and look at what they're doing, many times it's a bunch of guys making decisions about what girls would like, and they miss the mark.

"Age compression" is a toy industry term that describes the modern trend of children moving through play stages faster than they did in the past. Children have a desire to progress to more complex toys at a faster pace, girls in particular. Barbie dolls, for example, were once marketed to girls around 8 years old but have been found to be more popular in recent years with girls around 3 years old. The packaging for the dolls labels them appropriate for ages 3 and up. Boys, in contrast, apparently enjoy games and toys over a longer timespan, gravitating towards toys that meet their interest in assembling and disassembling mechanical toys, and toys that "move fast and things that fight". An industry executive points out that girls have entered the "tween" phase by the time they are 8 years old and want non-traditional toys, whereas boys have been maintaining an interest in traditional toys until they are 12 years old, meaning the traditional toy industry holds onto their boy customers for 50% longer than their girl customers.

Girls gravitate towards "music, clothes, make-up, television talent shows and celebrities". Girls also demonstrate a longer loyalty to characters in games and toys marketed towards them. A variety of global toy companies have marketed themselves to this aspect of girls' development, for example, the Hello Kitty brand, and the Disney Princess franchise. Boys have shown an interest in computer games at an ever-younger age in recent years.

In Western countries in recent years, girls' games and toys have shifted towards a dominant use of the colour pink. Those shopping for girls' toys can easily spot the girls' toy section in a store because of the rows of aisles almost entirely stacked with bright pink products. There has been a backlash against the predominant use of pink in girls' toys. One British parent launched a campaign called Pinkstinks against retailers marketing educational toys to girls in pink. The almost exclusive use of pink for girls' toys has raised concern that it is polarizing gender identity from an early age, to the detriment of girls, by over-emphasizing beauty and passivity over fun and creativity.



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