With Santa’s yearly visit just a week away, toys are on the mind of many children. Sociologists often talk about the gendered nature of toys, and I recently discussed one Swedish company’s efforts to advertise toys in a gender-neutral way, but a recent New York Times article* looks at a divide that we are less likely to focus on: social class.
In the article, Gina Bellafante argues that the types of toys sold at Walmart and Toys R Us differ greatly from those from more upscale stores focused on learning and creativity. In her most quotable paragraph, Bellafante writes:
In the way that we have considered food deserts — those parts of the city in which stores seem to stock primarily the food groups Doritos and Pepsi — we might begin to think, in essence, about toy deserts and the implications of a commercial system in which the least-privileged children are choked off from the recreations most explicitly geared toward creativity and achievement.
She concludes with the counterpoint that puzzles and other upscale toys have not been proven to bolster children’s cognitive abilities, but I think it would be interesting to study whether children in wealthier homes do, in fact, play with different types of toys. I also think it would be interesting to see whether they actively ask for these toys or whether their Christmas lists look like those of their less fortunate counterparts.