What do toys teach our kids about gender?

4 Jun

On the eve of Kiki’s birthday I popped onto my Facebook page a comment about how I was trying to find a lovely doll to gift her for her birthday.

I mentioned it because I was finding dolls that were ugly and freaky looking – think Chucky Baby Dolls – or worse, realistic life-like weeing, pooing, whining ones.

Chucky, just before the series of incidences that left him scarred.

Chucky, just before the series of unfortunate incidences that left him scarred.

I need fake wee in my life like a need fake chest hair.

I asked if anyone had any gift suggestions for my darling.

I had a suggestion of the Steiner Doll Without A Face (apparently that way the child can fill in the details), or hand making something sweet.
Then, one of my peeps responded that I ought to get her something else, and that she’ll be pushed in to feminine/maternal stereotypes soon enough by society.
Wait until she asks for it.

Oh. Shit balls. Really???

I didn’t have a Plan B for her birthday. Β Now what was I supposed to do?

I’ll tell you what I did….I got her nothing, but that’s because when I went to the fancy schmancy doll shop the only one that I thought wouldn’t give us all nightmares was $150, but I digress.

petit-colin-632551-poupe-bb-bio-lo-pitchounet-25-cm-8152599_medium

This doll is more expensive than gold per weight…. but it would speak French if it could speak.

Are dolls un-pc these days?

Would I really be setting back the feminist movement if I was to buy her one?

Of course, I completely see what she’s saying and on some levels, I agree. I would never wish to push my daughter into gender stereotypes. That would be terrible.

However……

Is it perhaps a little cerebral? Or am I thoughtless?

The kid likes dolls. She also likes sticks and cars and chewing on shoes if you let her.

To my reader’s defence, I worded it as Kiki could have a doll instead of D Man’s trucks to play with, and perhaps I should have said as well…. so let’s not make this about that particular comment, but about the theme in general.

I was surprised how my baby boy was drawn towards cars and trucks and planes. I gave him non-gender specific toys initially. Not because I planned it that way but because most toys for wee bubbas are fairly non-specific.

His best-friend is a rat called Ratty, but as he evolved from a blob to a baby, he loved machines like a fat kid loves Smarties (also un-pc, a thousand apologies).

Time and again, he was drawn to cars, trains, trucks etc until I bought him some machines to smash and crash and cripple my bare instep.

stepping on toy carWhether it is right or wrong, it appears that gender-role development, and acquiring a gender identity, actually requires gender-role stereotyping. Yes, this stereotyping is often over-generalised, but it is what it is, and this is how we develop.

My daughter plays with cars and trucks, because that’s what we have……Had my son been born second he would have played with whatever was in the house too.

Kiki also lives in her brother’s hand-me-down clothes. We have been given lots of dresses and girly things, but the majority of our wardrobe staples are fairly masculine. She has not really been exposed much to ‘girly things’ and yet at a friend’s house recently she wanted to play with the dolls.

Even at such a young age, there are major intrinsic differences between boys and girls. It’s inherently in many children. Of course, they’re still very young and there is cross over. Children become most inflexible about gender roles at about 6 or 7 by which time children understand that gender is a constant and cannot be changed, according to some info a child psychologist friend of mine sent when she saw the discussion.

D Man loves his toy kitchen, tea set and painting his toenails….. is that gender inappropriate?

If pushing one way is creating gender stereotypes, is repelling also doing the same?

Would not having dolls or trucks in the house be making a statement much louder than I need to?

Or only giving toys when they are requested to ensure we’re not pushing anything onto our kids? Maybe that’s the way?

I don’t have an answer, I haven’t studied the matter further than reading a little into it but it brought up a lot of questions, and maybe an argument or two, up at the Holsby Bar & Grill…. until someone solved the entire matter and bought Kiki a doll that she delights in cuddling.

What do your kids play with? Are they drawn to gender specific toys?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about gender specific toys, or politically correct play things….. but please remember to keep it kind.

Hooking up with EssentiallyJess because I blog on Tuesday.

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24 Responses to “What do toys teach our kids about gender?”

  1. Trish June 4, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    I gave my boys dolls (preloved hagged looking cabbage patch) they loved them, breast fed them (yes) and pushed them around in toy and real strollers- they also were rough sometimes . They also were drawn to trucks because they moved , Cars and NOISE .I don’t think it matters about gender.
    My almost seven yr old boys , love their ‘friends’ a collection of teddies, Mickey and Minnie Mouse , stuffed dogs and others because children love to have something to love.
    Ps have you seen Daisy’s crochet dolls.

  2. Toushka Lee (@Toushkalee) June 4, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    when my son was an only child, he loved Dora and had a dora doll. He also loved cars and trucks and rockets, painting, singing, reading and changing the nappy on his teddy bear. As he got older his love for Dora waned, unless she was strapped to a crashing car or rocket. He still loves tinkerbell and the powerpuff girls. My daughter is all about the pink and girly. She squeals when she sees shoes and loves puppies. Everything is “sooo beoootiful”. She also loves a good game of pirates with her brother.
    I agree that pushing toys onto a child can be wrong. But denying them the things they want is also bad. I think we over think it.
    As long as we don’t say “dolls are for girls and trucks are for boys” and let the kids play with what ever they hell they want then it’s all good. I reckon.

  3. ksbeth June 4, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    this is an interesting piece, i’ve raised 3 daughters, have 6 grandchildren and teach kindergarten and i see exactly what you’ve described, there is something to the gender thing, they seem to be quite naturally drawn to the stereotyped toys, though will play with the others at times. given the choice they generally choose exactly what you’d expect. i find it fascinating )

  4. robomum June 4, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    My little ones play with each others toys all the time. Perfectly normal and healthy. I think we put too much pressure on our kidlets. I’m over it…

  5. iSophie June 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    I don’t see it as an issue at all if she already has all the cars and trucks around to play with too, why shouldn’t she get to have a doll also. I have 4 sons, yet we have a toy kitchen and that has been used to death. Also, they love dolls houses, so I bought them one in the form of a fire station. #teamIBOT

  6. BOYEATSWORLD June 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    My little girl loves trucks as much as tutus and sleeps with a Hello Kitty and a Ninja Turtle. Her brother had a baby doll and a kitchen set when he was little and still loved Spiderman and co. I think it’s all about balance.They’ll be who and what they are. And we will love them for it. πŸ™‚

  7. Roar Sweetly June 4, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    My son adores wheels of all kinds…and lego has been his obsession since 2.5 years. He has a doll which he nurtures from time to time, but definitely prefers the moving toys.

    My daughter also likes the moving toys…but not as fervently. She is ambivalent about dolls, but loves stuffed animals. She loves to ‘dress up’ with hats and necklaces.

    They both enjoy the play kitchen / play food toys. I have glued the bottom of a Connect 4 game shut and they love to fill it with red and yellow tokens.

  8. Mrs D June 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    Both my boys had trucks & cars & toy guns (yes Guns!!!) when they were little. They also played with my makeup & clothes at times. Both have had soft toys, one collected beanie bears until we couldn’t see his bed for them. I bought whatever I thought they’d play with, not what I thought was necessarily boy or girl toys….trampolines, books, Lego – what kid doesn’t like Lego – board games, musical instruments…I didn’t think about gender & whether I’d be scarring them so I don’t think you should just because you have a girl…she’ll grow up liking what she likes…dolls or trucks..who gives a fuck πŸ˜‰

  9. Danya Banya June 4, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    I’ve purposely bought a few ‘boy toys’ for my daughters like cars and trucks just to try to keep some balance. They’re not the favourite toys in the house, but they have played with them a bit, and I feel good knowing that they have the option of playing with them if they want to. I haven’t had to buy too many ‘girl toys’ because they get given them by friends and family.

  10. Sam Stone June 5, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    My little girl, who is about to turn 5 is really into her dolls. She always asks for new dolls as gifts. But she is also getting into lego.

  11. EssentiallyJess June 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    Ok one of my pet hates is that we want to gender neutralise our kids, and make it almost unacceptable for boys to look cars and trucks and girls to like dolls. We’re all supposed to dress them in blue and pink, dresses and shorts and enrol them in ballet and rugby for both genders, when the actual fact of the matter is boys and girls are different. They should be allowed to be different and girls SHOULD be encouraged to be feminine and boys SHOULD be encouraged to be masculine. Whether that’s with dolls or trucks or whatever, I think we are fast become a generation that is telling our children that who they are is actually wrong. They should be more. Tougher or stronger or more dainty and compassionate. All great qualities to possess but not at the expense of losing who we are. Nature made us different for a reason, and it’s ok to encourage those differences.
    From my experiences, even though my girls play with cars, they are cars in a dolls house who go to tea parties. And even if my boy picks up a doll, he is taking that doll on a boat and they are going fishing for the day. All ‘gender typical’ things and I am ok with that. In fact I kinda love it.
    Sorry for the rant

    • Keeping Up With The Holsbys June 5, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

      Nice rant….. I think it’s an interesting topic and I hoped for some rant action. I love the cars having tea parties. That’s great!

  12. Rina June 5, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    I just recently bought a cooking play set for my two boys and they loved it πŸ˜€ There has never been a gender-pushed kind of thing. Never told them what to watch either but somehow they develop their own boyness.. They only like playing with cars, trucks, swords and all those boyish stuff, watch ninja go, and never have interest to play with doll. I think toys are there to play with, it’s not something that can push a kid into more of one gender.

  13. Here Now Brown Cow June 6, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    Such an interesting one to discuss isn’t it?! My big girl is girly, but maybe we pushed the girl toys onto her? It’s hard not to when you get given so many gifts. I gave my boy a doll and he wanted to throw it in the bin. My third, another girl, has the choice of all the toys in the house (“boy” and “girl” stuff) and has a good balance. She loves trucks, but also spends most of the time pushing a doll in a stroller. They see us being girls and Dads being boys, it goes way beyond the toys. I’m not sure what my point is, but don’t think too much about it, just have a good selection for them!

    • Keeping Up With The Holsbys June 7, 2013 at 7:38 am #

      Having a point is over rated. I’m a rambler from way back!
      I think you’re right though. Gender identity is as much observed as inherent.

  14. TheGreatZambini June 7, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Legos, hot wheels, and a (cheap!) doll. Seems like the perfect birthday to me! And those were my favorite toys, too. I wasn`t a tomboy or a girly girl, I just liked what I liked. That`s what not pushing stereotypes of gender is really about. Let your kids like what they are going to like, and don`t reprimand them for liking one style of toy or another. My brother had dolls and Legos as a kid as well, and he isn`t particularly feminine or masculine- he just is himself. That`s how you truly remove gender preconceptions, by almost removing gender from the equation at all. The worst thing you can do is try to push ‘anti gender’ toys specifically, like only giving your child ‘boy’ toys to balance out society or something, which is just as bad as only giving ‘girl’ toys. Give your child a mixture of different toys that will encourage different learning process and curiosity in different fields, and you`ll be doing a good job!

  15. Have a laugh on me June 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    My youngest, girl, used to love BALLS, yep, not babies, dollies or shiz like that and I actually didn’t care, she doesn’t even devote hours to Barbies she’s been given. Even now she’s not a girlie girl. My boys dress up as princesses but love cars. I say get a variety of toys and they will gravitate towards what they like! πŸ™‚ xx

  16. lunarliterations June 12, 2013 at 5:57 am #

    Thank you for writing this! I, too, struggle with the toy gender issue. While studying women’s literature in college, I swore my child would not be pigeonholed into antiquted gender roles. Fastforward 10 years, my daughter wears pink dresses and prefers dolls to dump trucks. I didn’t push her that way, but it’s what she prefers. I’d feel like a bad feminist, but I’ve realized I’m too sleep-deprived to care.

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