Gender & Toys: Does It Really Matter?

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What your toddler knows is that he or she enjoys doing certain activities. These activities, whether sorting, role-playing, or building – can be done equally well with toys that are pink or blue, and few children, unless prompted by siblings or adults, see toys as gender specific.

Walk into any home with toddlers, and you will no doubt be able to tell whether the child is a boy or a girl by a quick peek into the playroom. Trucks, trains, planes, and baseballs will scream boy; while a room full of pink and frilly dolls and stuffed animals have little girl written all over it. Interestingly, toys have become as gender specific as clothes, and many parents are uncomfortable when their little boy chooses a doll over a truck or their little girl opts for cowboys over princesses. The truth is that it doesn’t matter, and the reality of gender specific programming is not something a toddler knows; it is something that is learned from the parents.

What your toddler knows is that he or she enjoys doing certain activities. These activities, whether sorting, role-playing, or building – can be done equally well with toys that are pink or blue, and few children, unless prompted by siblings or adults, see toys as gender specific. In today’s world where gender specific roles of men and women are becoming less of a factor in families, it is only natural that a little boy may choose to play with a doll. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with a girl pushing a toy lawnmower through the yard emulating her own mother who does the same.

Imaginative play is an integral part of childhood development. In a medical thesis by Dr. Carter Bruce, Cognitive Aspects of Sex-Role Development, clinical research proved that gender specific toys played a significant role in socialization that led to recognized principles of sex role development later in life. In other words, the mother or father who gasps or becomes uncomfortable upon seeing their little boy cook or play with dolls is simply passing on outdated schools of thought about what is acceptable for males and females. This same method of thinking would serve to stymie a male child as an artist or musician and, likewise, thwart a female from becoming a professional athlete. Although most parents do not gasp or gawk to intentionally divert their child’s attention, many parents harbor secret anxieties about their child being perceived as ‘normal’, as well as fears of their child becoming or being seen as a ‘homosexual.’

{ MORE: Why Keeping Your Baby's Gender a Surprise Can Be Fun }

Let’s face it, toddlers are just toddlers; they love to play with other children and often can spend lengthy amounts of time playing with simple toys using their imagination as a guide. While a parent may feel that pointing a child in a certain direction at a young age will heighten their interest, potential, or talent, chances are, if it isn’t something they are passionate about as they get older, it will fall by the wayside regardless.

What do you think? Gender & Toys: Does It Really Matter?

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16 comments

  1. Avatar of Theresa Theresa says:

    I don’t think that there is anything wrong with girls and boys playing with each others toys. My daughter is 3 and loves to play with cars. Although she is slowing coming out of this, my husband and I still have them around because we now have a boy that will one day play with them. I believe in letting a child explore every aspect of life no matter what others may think. My daughter now lately is wanting to dress her babies in her brothers clothes, which I am loving since she had this thing that all her babies had to be undressed. I really think that parents should just let their kids be kids. My father in law is old school and believes that girls should not play with cars and trucks but to stick with the dolls and playing house. Now since my daughter is getting older I do try to get her toys that are more for girls but if she wants a baseball for her birthday I will get it. I really do believe that children of today need to explore more of each side of life. I know that I am going to support my kids in whatever they decide to do in life. This doesn’t mean that I am not going to try to persuade them on certain things like education.

  2. Avatar of Lisa Lisa says:

    Look – let the kids choose from a variety. I kept insects, fish, turtles, snakes. I had books about all sorts of things. My mom had her awesome Barbie collection, and we had our My Little Ponies. We also however had our Tonka trucks (the foot and a half long ones, including cranes and dump trucks). I was allowed to run around with my shirt off whenever I wanted. My family never cared; the second you pigeonhole a kid into playing with a certain set of toys or acting a certain way including dressing a certain way, you are destroying any individual choice the kid had. The toys matter, but in a much larger way than people think.

  3. Avatar of Leah Leah says:

    if you peaked at our play room you’d think we had one of each. the toy box is pink, and she has a huge stuffed giraffe which holds her dolly, cabbage patch, monkey, pink skull bear… and she has a ride on airplane, from planes, a big bug rocking horse a fire truck. 7 balls, a box of blocks, pink duplos, and random little things. which are usually all spread out, but I think her wide variety of toys, building things, Lincoln logs, balls, trucks, building things, and tool box are her dad’gineer toys, and my need for engaging toys, I think girl toys are boring…

  4. Avatar of mommy nhoj mommy nhoj says:

    My baby girl is more interested on the box of her doll than the doll itself. She likes to climb n her treehouse and bang 2 objects like carpentry.

  5. Avatar of Alanna Alanna says:

    Androgynous boys and girls are more well-adjusted and have higher self-esteem.

  6. Avatar of liz says:

    i have a girl and i give to her female and male toys, i just want her to decide waht she wants

  7. Avatar of Sally Sally says:

    Mad Men’s Peggy Olson may have scored a corner office in a big Madison Avenue Agency but the options presented to a real girl in the 1960s were less than thrilling. As a baby boomer girl we were told we were told that on one hand we were a special generation with wide open options. On the other the choices were predictably limited. To assist in our journey was a board game called What Shall I Be? The Exciting Game of Career Girls which debuted in 1966 offering career guidance in becoming a stewardess, a model, a nurse or a teacher. For a peek at the retro career options

    http://envisioningtheamericandream.com/2013/05/02/girls-games-career-guidance/

  8. Avatar of pumpkin pumpkin says:

    honestly if my little guy is going to want to play with dolls and cookware, more power to him! easy bake oven?!? if he wants it, i will make sure to make it happen… if he just wants his GI joes and superhero stuff? thats cool too… like others have said kids will be kids and they love to play… it doesnt matter with what or with who (i think we can all learn a lesson from kids about acceptance) as long as it grabs their attention (or if its another child, someone of similar height to them :p )

  9. Avatar of denette87 denette87 says:

    I specifically bought my daughter a mixture of "boy" and "girl" toys.

  10. Avatar of Jeanetta Jeanetta says:

    It’s doesn’t matter to me what toys my daughter plays with as long as she is happy and learning.

  11. Avatar of Grace Grace says:

    agree, all my children’s toys were given to us (luckily they have a grandma who gives them presents that are girly or else they’d just have to do without)

  12. Avatar of Valerie Valerie says:

    its not really that big a deal. kids are kids and their going to play. so what what toys they play with. some kids don’t even have the privilege of having toys!

  13. Avatar of revogurl06 revogurl06 says:

    it doesnt matter what my daughter plays with toy wise as long she is having fun and learning.

  14. Avatar of meredith meredith says:

    I don’t understand why anyone would care which toys kids play with since they usually make up their own way of playing anyway.

  15. I don’t really think it should matter what kids play with, if its a boy playing with dolls or girls with cars and trucks. Just let them be happy

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