Toys for Boys? Toys for Girls? Why not just “Toys?”

This game has been the buzz item this season, at least it seems to me to be the buzz item.  For girls only though so boys, tough luck.  Go back to playing with your Legos, Kinnex, and Erector-sets (are those even still a thing?).

Last year, my step-mother-in-law, got this for the Daughter (who was almost 4 at the time).  While she was a little young to really get it, we have since played it together as she has gotten older and better able to understand the directions that have to be read in order to play.  Yes, it teaches her to put things together in a process and have an end result.  It allows her to experiment with different configurations and introduces the very basic functions of physics to her.  Overall, it’s an ok game for her to learn how to experiment and see what results she may get and then engineer a system to get the desired results which, for this game, include getting Katinka the ballerina dolphin in a pink tutu, to spin in a certain direction.

It is true that there is a disturbing, alarming, and frankly disheartening lack of women in science.  However, does that mean we need to “girly” up science for girls to get more involved and interested?  And then there’s the gender question – can something like engineering be turned into a girl toy or a boy toy?  Shouldn’t something like science (or any subject for that matter) be gender neutral?  Or even better yet…be ready to gasp, dear reader…shouldn’t all toys be gender neutral?

Let’s look again at GoldieBlox.  The game itself a good idea.  Get girls interested in creating something.  I just wish it wasn’t all cutesy with pink and silly characters.  I also think that it still kind of perpetuates the gender bias in toys with the colors of the pieces of the set (Pink ribbon, purple dowels and purple board) by insinuating that a girl will only play with it if it has pink and purple pieces and cute animals wearing clothing…but it’s a step.  I cannot deny that it is a step.  Though, as a kid, I played with Legos and really did love building all kinds of structures.  I always wished I had a Kinnex set just because it looked like fun to design and build stuff.

Lego also came under scrutiny recently when they launched a new line aimed specifically at girls.  They titled it “Lego Friends” and packaged it in purple boxes and made all the little Lego people women or girls.

girl legos

Again, can someone tell me when primary colors were deemed “boy” colors and that girls only like pink and purple?  Or when colors in general were deemed to have genders?  At any rate, they launched this product in the hopes to get more girls interested in architecture.  Apparently it is faring well because when you go into any toy store, you see rows of the stuff just on the shelves. But why?  Why did girls need to have this product line?  Why couldn’t they play with what was already out there?  It’s the same product, just different colors.  It’s the same concept, build a house or a castle or a wall or a tower or a whatever you imagine you have built and then play with it.  Why does it need to be specific for girls?

I know that I’m not a typical woman.  I do not wear a ton of make up or spend half an hour getting my hair to sit just right (if you know me, you know that my curls don’t like to behave anyway).  I know my fair share about cars.  I love watching the Science channel with my husband just because it’s interesting and the images are amazing on the nice pretty HD television.  I despise the color pink (please don’t revoke my woman card).  I don’t see a need for “girl” toys.  Does this factor in to my opinion of this game?  When my step-mother-in-law was explaining the GoldieBlox game, she said the creator made it because as a kid she didn’t have any toys like it to play with as a child.  At first, I probably reacted a bit rudely because sometimes, I can be a bit blunt with no filter (sorry step-MIL – didn’t mean to be rude at that moment), but seriously what did that even mean?  Didn’t she have access to Lincoln Logs or Legos?  Or was it that her parents didn’t buy those toys for her when she asked for them because she was a girl and her parents were stuck in a “this is a girl toy; this is a boy toy” mentality?

So, now let’s look at that idea – parents.  Parents are a child’s first and most important teacher.  Yes, we send our children to school to be educated and pass tests, and feel the pressure of pop quizzes, MCAS, SATs, PSATs, and ACTs.  But, as a parent, you can’t just rely on the school system to fully educate your child.  There are so many tests that the child must be taught to conform to.  There are so many guidelines that must be met in order to pass the child that parents need to have just as active an involvement in shaping their child.  Does that mean it’s easy?  NO.  Parents work a lot to maintain the basic life needs of a child (food, shelter, clothing) but, parents must also work to help their child explore their full potential.

That being said, isn’t it on the parents to introduce children to science in all forms and ultimately encourage the child to pursue what makes them happy no matter what that may be?  If your daughter wants Legos, buy her the Legos: Ninjago, Friends, Lord of the Rings…whatever.  If your son wants a kitchen set with pretend cupcakes and cakes, buy it for him. Haven’t you ever watched Ace of Cakes or the Cake Boss – those men are very manly and secure in themselves and HAPPY.  If your daughter wants dolls, get them.  If your son wants art sets, get them.  Do not tell your child, “Are you sure? Don’t you think that’s kind of girly/boyish?”  Do not perpetuate this idea that these inanimate objects have a gender specific target.  Let your child explore and discover what makes him or her happy.

As a parent, introduce your child to science.  It can be simple things at home, that are totally free like a Nature walk, a night-time “Star Party” to name constellations, a pot of water boiling.  The internet is full of great “free” activities that you can do with your child at any age.  Read your local newspaper to find local events that feature science.

science_works_better

We are lucky to live where we do because there is almost always something scientific going on somewhere.  If you aren’t as fortunate to have events to go to, just talk about it.  Just talking about it and pointing things out can help pique that curiosity that is naturally in your child.  If science isn’t want excites them, find out what does.  Nurture it and then watch as your happy child does something wonderful with his or her life.

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2 Comments

Filed under Family, Gift Ideas, Social Awareness

2 responses to “Toys for Boys? Toys for Girls? Why not just “Toys?”

  1. The toy companies may be wondering the same thing – why do we have to make the exact same stuff in a different color just to get girls to pay attention to it (or get girls’ parents and relatives to pay attention to it)? So, you make a good point. Parents needs to expose both sexes to all kinds of activities and toys and projects. Great post!

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