Gendering McDonalds Happy Meal Toys – “Is it for a boy or a girl?”

Happy Meal Toys
“Is it for a boy or a girl?”

happy meal toys
(These actually came together in one Happy Meal toy)


Hello! Just wanting to get some answers from you guys regarding your happy meals.I am the mother of a beautiful 2yo…

Posted by Imogene Louise on Friday, 26 May 2017


Imogen Louise has made a complaint on the McDonalds Facebook page about being asked whether the Happy Meal she was buying was for a girl or a boy. The post has over three thousand comments, many of them strongly disagreeing with her.

It seems like an innocent enough question and McDonalds has been doing this for years. Asking parents whether or not the Happy Meal is for a boy or a girl and assigning them a toy based on their gender.

Gender Stereotyping Children

My daughter, was much like Imogene’s, would also often opt for the toy designated “for boys”. She preferred trucks, trains, cars, and superheroes compared to toys generally allocated to girls like dolls, ponies, Barbies etc.

Whenever we’ve been to McDonalds to get a Happy Meal for the kids I’ve asked for “two boys toys”, which occasionally results in a confused second glance at my daughter! Sometimes we’ve still ended up with a girls toy in the box, which we’ve swapped back with no drama.

So, it seems pretty obvious to me that children should just be given the opportunity to choose which toy they’d actually prefer, without assigning them one based on their gender.

And that goes for everywhere – not just McDonald’s.

The Inevitable Backlash

People are so deeply uncomfortable with the idea of not gender stereotyping children. It seems to make them irate to suggest that there’s no such thing as “boys toys” and “girls toys”.

The comments responding to Imogene Louise’s Facebook are unfortunately predictable. They call her a “nutter”, “pathetic”, “snarky”, “dumb”, “precious” and “too PC”. They’ve said things like “I feel sorry for your kids”, “You must be bored”, and ironically several have suggested that she needs to be a better mother and cook a proper meal for her child.

And there are so many comments telling her that it’s not a big deal, that she’s overreacting and to get over it – and yet it’s obviously a big deal to them or they wouldn’t have commented.

I don’t understand why people are so fiercely defensive of maintaining gender stereotypes.

It’s Not That Hard

“ Is it too hard to simply ask “would you prefer A or B?” “

That it. Problem solved. Discussion over. “Would you like a Batman or a My Little Pony?” How is that harder than asking “Is it for a boy or a girl?”

This doesn’t have to be a big deal. The solution is painfully simple. But the fact that it seems so hard and that it makes people so angry suggests that gender stereotyping children is a much bigger issue than just Happy Meal toys.

But that doesn’t mean that McDonalds can’t help by making one small step towards showing people that toys are for children, regardless of their gender.

Feel free to let me know what you think be commenting below!

Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner. Rachel is obsessed prams, car seats, carriers and all things baby. She has worked in the baby industry for several years, for both suppliers and also in a retail setting and has developed a passion for connecting parents with the right products to make their lives easier. When Rachel isn't playing with prams she's enjoys crocheting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.


  1. Hmm… first world problem? They’re all a bit el crappo anyway. Except for the Beanie Boos. We’re loving those right now. 2 girls toys please! ?

  2. Not gonna lie. This mildly annoys me too. Why assume that my kid wants Transformers instead of Shopkins because he has a penis? It’s not something that I’m going to get outraged about, but I will admit that it can irk me on a bad day. LOL.

    1. Having said that, I am loving that the Batman range seems to be an equal split of male and female characters when it comes to the free toys. The other part of me loves that there is a similar level of representation for girls when it comes to their choice of superhero. So yeah, I guess I’m seeing the other side of this too.

    2. Same. I’ve been politely asking for a “boys toy” for my daughter even if it does irritate me. It’d be great though if it just wasn’t a thing. Like if they asked “Do you want a transformer or a shopkins” – done.

    3. Yes it seems like a little thing but I think it could be one of those little things that makes a big difference. I hate the arbitrary limitations it places on stuff.

    4. “Do you want a transformer or a shopkins” – done.
      How easy would that be?!! Toys could be toys, kids could be kids, and we could stop with the ridiculous labelling that does nothing but limit all genders. One day … ?

    5. Why don’t YOU ask what the options are? Don’t give them the chance to categorise the toys…
      Drive the conversation yourselves in the direction you’d like it to go. It’s not rocket science

  3. Being the worlds biggest manufacturer of toys, I think its a fair question to ask. Why should someone be left feeling uncomfortable by their choice of toys? Particularly a child. If we asked everyone at McDonalds whether they wanted the ‘girls’ Big Mac or the ‘boys’ Big Mac at the same price, most women I know wouldn’t just take the girls one but want to know what the difference is… why should toys be any different. And really, if we don’t make an effort to prevent outside influences making our kids feel shit for being outside the norm or forcing them to like what is the norm and be compliant, really are we being a ‘good parent’?

    1. I remember driving thru at our local Maccas and Russ said to the girl when she asked ‘boy or girl’ toy that there is no such thing as boy and girl toys lol
      She didn’t even know how to respond lol

  4. I ask what the options are when they ask me for gender. My tutu wearing, truck playing, little monkeys like a variety of things so if we’re having a treat, I’ll choose based on their interests rather than their genders.

    And as for the “it’s been happening for ages so better get mad now”. There’s lots of things that was done for years that we don’t do now. For example, I didn’t need to stop working when I got married. The paint in my house is lead free. Women can show their ankles without rebuke. We use cars instead of horses. Maybe it seems like a small trivial change but if my son wants to play with dolls I won’t have people telling him they’re girls toys because dolls are an excellent tool for imaginative play. And I won’t have people telling my daughter she shouldn’t want to be batman because she’s a girl. My kids genitals don’t define their interests.

  5. Our local store asks ‘Batman or batgirl’ or ‘smurfs or transformers’ instead because they found people were asking what the toys were otherwise. It’s a much better way of doing it

  6. Gendering of toys probably isn’t going to change any time soon but I don’t think it’s a big deal to say “Shopkins or Batman” vs boy or girl. Then the child/parent can make the decision based on what toy the kid would like best!

  7. I usually tell the staff to surprise me. I like the idea of asking what the toys on offer are, don’t know why I never thought of that before!

  8. It doesn’t bother me toooo much because I know I only have control over what I teach my kids and what I expose them too. Having things as ‘girls’ or ‘boys’ – well I think that’s wrong, but it doesn’t wind me up too much. Probably though as my kids are so young still so watch this space x

  9. As a mum of 4 2 of each I like that they ask if it’s big or girl toy, make it easy for me,
    First world problems indeed!!! And PC going mad and before I get trolled- I’m all for gender equality, I’m for equality in general but FFS there are more important issue then Maccas toys

  10. Haha, guess they better start mixing the boys and girls clothes at Kmart, wouldn’t want to offend anyone with gendering the clothes now ?

  11. I honestly have to say this doesn’t bother me because my kids know that we don’t restrict them based on their gender. We usually ask what toys they have and we pick the ones they like. If they ask “boy or girl” toys, I know it’s more of convenience sake. I know then there is the element of where and how do things change?

  12. I found her complaint annoying, over the top and attention seeking. I am positive her 2 year old daughter did not give a shit about gender and reproductive organs she just wanted a toy! This lady clearly needs a social life.

  13. I get the point. In this context though, I think my kids would like both – because they like both boys and girls to play together, especially Lego But yes, in other contexts, I agree – I do (or did) get annoyed about the presumptions. But mostly, they were pretty good about swapping though …

  14. Reading some of the comments today and people thinking that really ‘its only’ a McDonalds toy. What we forget is that 68 million of these toys are handed out every single day. If we compare it the likes of Barbie who has often received criticism for her failures (I can remember Barbie being recalled for thinking Maths was hard, in maybe the 90s) Barbie sells a meagre 250 thousand a day in comparison. That is 68 million people daily being told what toy is designed for boys and what is appropriate for girls. And as our suicide rates in youth increase, with often failure to meet gender expectations from society listed up there as a frequent catalyst along with often impacting on depression, rest assured it matters. Mental health matters. Children matter. Its unnecessary and sends a message that doesn’t need to be sent.

    1. That’s a lot of cultural reinforcement. And it’s not just cultural reinforcement for the kids, it reinforces it for all the staff of McDonalds, and all the parents who take their children there.

  15. The comments are vile. And the people saying “first world problem” are particularly tiresome… do we not live in the first world? Almost all forms of gender inequality could probably be branded “first world problems”, does that mean we should ignore them?

  16. I also suspect that the people saying “it’s not a big deal” and we “have too much time on our hands” have never had to deal with this issue themselves. The distress and anxiety that gender non-conforming children feel is immense, the mental health challenges they face are terrifying. And the tragedy here is that, thanks to places like McDonald’s, even gender conforming children are made to question their preferences and interests.

    1. But as a parent it is up to you (and me) to steer the convo in the direction we need it to go for our children. WE are in control, not the cashier…
      “Can we get a happy meal please, with juice, fries & can you tell me what the toys are today”
      Done. No anxiety, no distress.. mum handled it like a boss. It’s not hard

    2. It’s part of a much, much bigger problem. Toy sections that are literally labeled “boys” and “girls”. We are not in control of the way our children are marketed to; we can try to educate them, yes, but our voices are difficult to hear over their peers and the many external elements that reinforce this message over and over.

    3. In all seriousness, if McDonald’s marketed a women’s Big Mac and a men’s Big Mac, would you honestly have no problem with needing to reword that in the way you describe just to get around what is a blatant and unnecessary gender stereotyping issue? Or would you prefer they remove gender from what you know should be gender-neutral choices?

    4. I think both approaches are important. I do talk to my children about this sort of thing frequently – in age appropriate terms, as things come up.

      And I actually think that preempting the question and asking “What are the toys today?” first is a good idea – while it’s still going on.

      But I also think we need to have these conversations about gender stereotyping with other adults, and other parents. And also provide feedback to businesses about gendered marketing.

  17. To solve this, just ask for “can I please get a 6 piece happy meal with a transformers toy” or “can I please get a cheeseburger happy meal with a my little pony”, that way the staff member won’t have to do their job and ask which toy you prefer.

  18. I literally just had this at McDonald’s. And as a kid I hated being given the girl toy automatically. Usually the boys toy was far more interesting

  19. I read all the posts here and no longer wonder why the world seems so fucked up:
    1, It is a first world problem…its a fucking maccas toy FFS!
    2, If you ask for the toy you want instead of expecting the poor underpaid kid behind the counter to read your mind, you will get what your kid wants.
    3, Some people have put so much effort into making polarized comments here I also no longer wonder where all the sticks in my yard went…they are clearly stuck up a lot of peoples arses!
    4, I am deeply ashamed of myself for bothering to read, respond and post about such shit!

  20. Just anounce toy, ie would you like the Hot Wheels or the Shopkins happy meal …let child choose…problem solved. My son like shopkins sometimes as my daughter like the hotwheels sometimes…

  21. Pfft!
    If you are that anal about this then you should be in control of the situation by getting in first and asking “what are the toy options today please?”
    Be accountable instead of bitching after the fact!

  22. Hmmmmm. My 2 boys are to worried about weather they want pink fingernails and green toenails or vice versa. ?. I did actually con my near 7 year old grade one primary school student that maybe go the pink on the toes this time round and the sparkly green ones on the fingers so they weren’t so bright and distracting. ?. Was a good choice but when I said yes to having pink toenails too I should have thought about the only footwear I own are going out thongs or work thongs and realise that anywhere I have been the last 2 weeks I’ve been parading this fabulous set of nails that really do shine ever so sparkly on top of my grubby dirty toes. If that isn’t enough then if my oldest boy is with me anywhere while shopping or whatever it may be in public he has to bring it to anyone and everyone’s attention on how great they look. Haha. He’s right though. They do look good. ????.

  23. I love it when people living in the first world use the term first world problems derisively. Honestly, you live in the first world, every problem you have is a first world problem; the critique is still valid despite the fact no one’s starving from it. Women’s voting rights were also once a first world problem.

  24. Omg she needs to get over it seriously, they are asking out of politeness instead of throwing anything in she could have said scan i have a boys you please get over it if that’s the worst thing you have going for yourself in life then count your blessings

  25. I work at mcdonalds and most of the time, I don’t ask. I offer the two types to the customer or put a random one in. In some cases where there are multiple happy meals, i ask the parent if they want all the same toy (to avoid arguments) or different toys! I find it’s often the parents screaming back at me that their child is “very upset” that they got “a girl’s toy”. While I would love to move forward to toys with no gender roles, in my experience I have found we are simply appeasing the majority of our demographic. It’s not right and I don’t agree with it but unfortunately at this point in time it’s how it is…

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