Separate adverts for girls and boys should be halted to prevent children’s future career choices being limited, MPs have urged.
Marketing techniques are more noticeable in the run-up to Christmas and risk directing young people’s preferences and expectations along “outdated traditional lines”, they said.
Retailers are being asked to stop “unnecessary gender-specific advertising” in a parliamentary motion signed by 12 MPs, including 10 from Labour, among them Halifax MP Linda Riordan.
Campaigners’ concerns include commercials promoting pink toys and dolls for girls and action figures for boys.
Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran), the main sponsor of the early day motion, said the MPs did not want to stop girls having dolls bought for them, but she added that children enjoy all kinds of toys and should be given a wider choice of what they play with, which can develop more of their skills, rather than society dictating which are for boys and which are for girls.
The Labour MP said some retailers had responded to the work of campaigners although gender-grouping of toys remains a big issue, particularly in the Christmas period.
Ms Clark, a member of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee, said: “It’s all the dolls, brushes, pink things for girls, and action toys, construction toys for boys. Children like both toys but retailers are encouraging them down one path or another.
“People don’t necessarily think about it and in some ways people don’t think it’s important. But it’s channelling boys one way and girls one way. A mixture of toys might be better for kids and for them to think all toys are for them rather than gender-specific toys.”
Ms Clark said the targeted advertising could affect children’s job choices and create problems in the future, adding jobs traditionally associated with men are better paid than those linked with women.
The MP said she had long held the belief that women should be financially independent and children should be encouraged to develop all kinds of skills, which can be helped by playing with different toys.”