It’s hard to believe, but it’s true: toys are more divided by gender now than any time in the past 50 years. A quick trip to your local Toys ‘R’ Us will confirm it. The pink princess stuff is segregated in one huge section, while the darker-hued “boy’s” toys are segregated in another. 

Many Americans take this for granted, but in some parts of the world, this obvious gendering of toys is objectionable. Recently the Stockholm Toys ‘R’ Us had to go gender neutral.

Today I heard a talk by Björn Jeffery, the CEO and co-founder of Toca Boca. He explained why his company develops gender-neutral apps. He’s half English and half Scandinavian, and he says, “There’s a Scandinavian sort of heritage to this…I think gender equality has actually come much further [in Scandinavia].”

Toca Boca has made gender neutrality an important value because they want all kids to feel comfortable playing with any character and in any environment. They’ve actually done “audits” and decided that a character was too gendered and redesigned it to be more gender neutral.

Besides being more welcoming, gender-neutral toys and apps are generally better for kids, too. According to Judith Elaine Blakemore, a professor of psychology at Indiana University, “If you want to develop children’s physical, cognitive, academic, musical, and artistic skills, toys that are not strongly gender-typed are more likely to do this.”

The gender-neutrality thing has certainly paid off for Toca Boca. The company has more than 90 million downloads of its products.

Ana, Pixelkin’s preschool app expert, likes Toca Boca’s apps quite a bit. Take a look at the adorable Toca Pet Doctor, featured in Ana’s Apps:

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Linda learned to play video games as a way to connect with her teenaged kids, and then she learned to love video games for their own sake. At Pixelkin she wrangles the business & management side of things, writes posts as often as she can, reaches out on the social media, and does the occasional panel or talk. She lives in Seattle, where she writes, studies, plays video games, spends time with her family, consumes vast quantities of science fiction, and looks after her small cockapoo. She loves to hear from people out there. You can read more about her at her website, Linda or her family foundation's website,