Can Toys Shape Your Child’s Future?

As a new parent, I’m always trying to figure out what’s best for my daughter, and how to prepare her for the greatest possible future? This certainly extends to the types of toys to introduce into her world.

Do children need toys?

Before my baby girl was born, I wasn’t a big fan of children’s toys. I thought they were clutter-generating, space-hogging objects designed to reduce creativity and drain wallets.

Now that my daughter is a toddler, I’ve totally changed my tune. I realize that toys have a purpose and function—they impact learning and help create the building blocks of my child’s future. The self-discovery and curiosity elicited by a great toy is awesome to watch. However, I still maintain that the quantity of toys should be kept to a minimum.

“Girl” toys vs “boy” toys

Having warmed up to the educational merit of toys, I now struggle with the issue of gender-biased toys. Should I buy my daughter “girl” toys or “boy” toys?

girl-boy toy

Educational researchers think that parents and other social factors—not innate genetic predispositions—are what influence children to prefer gender-specific toys.

As a side note, my little girl loves trains, cars, building blocks, puzzles, art, and music. She isn’t a big fan of teddy bears, dolls, or houses. My husband says she’s wired to be an engineer—she enjoys problem solving, and building/breaking things.

So what does this mean for her future?

Interestingly, a 2009 study found that 31% of “girl” toys are focused on appearance, involving hairstyling, plastic makeup, and clothing. The same study showed that children start to understand gender roles early—as young as 30 months, and develop social prejudices—including gender-based prejudices—in preschool. Meanwhile, “boy-specific toys encourage technical knowledge, invention, exploration, competition, mobility, and problem solving—all skills associated with highly desirable employees and leaders,” says LearnVest.

Reducing gender stereotypes

To quote Doug Gertner, popularly known as The Grateful Dad:

When we send or support messages of idealized gender—tough, unemotional, driven boys, and demure, passive, dependent girls—we are not offering our children the opportunity to be themselves.

Moving forward, I hope to minimize the issue of gender roles and stereotypes in my home by following my child’s lead. My job is to expose her to a range of toys, activities, and interests, which will allow her imagination to run wild. I want her to grow up knowing she can be a scientist, an astronaut, a writer, a golf pro, an engineer, a doctor, a professor, a celebrity chef, the president…or whatever else her little heart desires.

What are your thoughts on gender-biased toys and their influence on children’s development and learning?

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7 thoughts on “Can Toys Shape Your Child’s Future?

  1. Nice post. Parents definitely influence the kinds of toys their children play with – after all, they are the ones aquiring them. However, parents should be giving them a variety of toys to choose from and allow their children to take the lead. Children need to have the opportunity to try different things to develop different interests.

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    • I couldn’t agree with you more. I initially followed the stereotypes of buying my daughter girl toys (dolls, teddies), but she didn’t quite respond to them. Blocks, trains, and cars: she thoroughly enjoyed. So I’m learning not to impose my own prejudices and allowing her to take the lead instead.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  2. What a wonderful article. I’m not a parent yet, but I’ve had similar thoughts–not so much along the gender specific question, but about toys in general. I have friends with kids who have mountains of toys. To me, it seems over the top. Kids need to be able to use their imaginations and get outside, too… What I fear about “girls” toys is their ability to shape little girls’ self-images. I’d be much happier if my little girl could be a tomboy for the first few years of her life than for her to want to wear lipstick and nail polish like her dolls or images she sees on TV… But I guess a lot of that has to do with each individual child, too… Sorry, I’m rambling. But it was a good post that brought many things to mind. Happy New Year!

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    • Hi Jessica

      I have friends who had a similar problem whereby their kids were accumulating way too many toys. So they decided to give away a majority of them. And now whenever their kids get a new toy, they have to give away an old one. Teaches them responsibility and the value of things.

      I agree, kids definitely need to use their imaginations! And the research suggests that toys can shape little girl’s self-image. I think it’s great that we’re getting educated and even talking about these issues, so that we don’t impose wrong stereotypes onto our kids, or even the kids we have influence over.

      Thanks for reading and popping in! God bless and have a very awesome 2013 🙂

      Like

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