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?
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?
- 7 Ways You’re Hurting Your Daughter’s Future (LearnVest)
- Sweden makes my gender-free toy Christmas wish come true | Sarah Ditum (guardian.co.uk)