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TODAY   |  December 08, 2012

Should toy marketing be gender-neutral?

For the first time in history, Mattel is introducing a Barbie construction set, and some toy catalogs have raised eyebrows by adopting a gender-neutral tone that includes girls playing with Nerf guns and boys playing with dolls. “I don’t care what they play with, as long as they’re out of my hair,” said one mother of five. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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>>> consumers are expected to spend more than $10 billion on toys this holiday season . and toy companies are trying to create products for all kids, not one specifically aimed at only boys are girls . gabe gutierrez reports the push now for more gender neutral toys.

>> reporter: there are hot toys every year, but this december, a hot topic far from child's play. gender roles .

>> men and women are doing many different things, and, you know, we have to teach our children that they can do anything.

>> reporter: for the first time in history, mattel is introducing a barbie construction set, and in sweden, toys 'r' us and other catalogs are raising eyebrows by adopting a nor gender-neutral image. girls playing are nerf guns, boys playing with dolls, the opposite of what kids usually see.

>> why are women in the kitchen and guys, you know, working?

>> reporter: in new jersey, 1-year-old makenna pope is launching an online campaign against the maker of the easy bake oven . she says her 4-year-old brother loves to cook and she's upset the company doesn't also market its product to boys.

>> i found it pretty, i guess appalling that they do not feature males of any sort of their packaging or promotional materials or anything.

>> reporter: appalling to her, but quite common in the toy industry for decades. son and dad playing battleship while mom and daughter wash the dishes. boys building stuff while girls looked on. this year, legos is drawing fire from critics saying this beauty issalon portrays girls in stereotypical roys. this is intended for boys who want to be u.s. marshalls, but for girls , a much less realistic version.

>> certain children don't have an opportunity in certain parts of public life . i think we do a disservice.

>> reporter: still, many parents don't buy that argument.

>> i don't see anything wrong with the way toys are marketed now.

>> reporter: we found jennifer robinson shopping with her two girls . she also has two boys at home.

>> i ultimately think it's up to the child what they're going to play with. whether or not you embrace that shows what kind of parent you are.

>> reporter: when it comes to gender roles , another mom summed it up this way.

>> i don't care what they play with, as long as they're out of my hair. i'm fine with it.

>> reporter: talk about neutral. for "today," gabe gutierrez, nbc news, atlanta.

>> nbc news reached out to the toy companies facing criticism. legos says more girls play with its toys than ever before and the companies offers hundreds of products for different interests. hasbro did not respond to multiple requests for comment. so there you go. you know, i don't know about you guys, but my favorite toys as kids were legos and some of my dolls and my toy kitchen, all of which my boys have.

>> i think you have to go etch-i-sketch. and then you're good.

>> everything is so electronic now with the pads and computers.

>> i liked the mom who said you see what your kids gravitate towards and what they play with and then how you embrace that is really the answer.

>> i like the last mom who says anything that keeps them out of her hair.

>> amen to that. seriously.

>>> still ahead, martha stewart sick with salmonella. the domestic diva