Playmobil is loved throughout the world as a timeless classic that can be passed on through the generations. One of the greatest elements of Playmobil, in my eyes at least, is how accessible it all is for all children. In fact, gender really isn’t a factor at all in many of the play sets; there are no gender stereotypes on colors, accessories or professions, just fun, neutral scenarios. I am sure you agree with me on this, which is why I have to ask a very important question: why on earth did they think that their new Playmobil shopping mall was such a good idea?
Let me set the scene for you if you are not familiar with this new offering. It is quite clear from the start that this is girls-only affair (they may as well have put a “no boyz allowed” sign on the box) as our daughters get the chance to enjoy some make-believe retail therapy at a fashionable shopping mall, complete with disposable income from the ATM machines. The characters included with the mall – of which there are seven – can spend this money in fashion shops with shoes and purses, in the café and, worst of all, the bridal shop. That’s right, our favorite childhood toy that we use to encourage children and show them interesting professions now has a set centered around a bridal boutique with detailed gowns that can be admired in a full-length mirror.
Is it wrong to be this upset about the direction of this Playmobil shopping mall?
Some may shrug the design off and say it is not much different than a set you would expect from Barbie or another girly brand but that is my point. We expect this kind of gender stereotyping from Barbie but we expect a lot more from Playmobil, especially when they have proved themselves capable of such wonderful, gender neutral products in the past. The City Life range that this set is a part of is one to be celebrated and enjoyed because the sets are detailed, engaging and show everyday life and scenarios in a way that any child can enjoy. The zoo, playground and school scenes are realistic, gender neutral and highly recommended for their quality and detail – the nursery school having a cute white and red building and detailed play equipment and the zoo being full of animals.
The shopping mall also has this level of detail in the ice cream and potted plants that can be added but there is something unsettling about the rest of the theme. Unfortunately this is not the first time Playmobil have had a feminine vibe to a set as there is also the beauty salon. Is this a sign of worse things to come? Can it get worse than the wedding dress shop? I’m not sure I want to find out! I am pretty sure I am not the only one to feel this way, who does not want to see ATM machines and fashion dolls in my child’s Playmobil set.
I don’t mind kids letting their characters ‘shop’ in fun stores but this is a step too far. Let other brands deal with girly stereotypes and grown-up themes and let’s try and retain the timeless class, innocence and charm of those accessible, fun sets we have all come to love.