Dolls are for girls, lego is for boys – or so todays Guardian would have use believe.
Result – girls develop communication skills and emotional literacy, boys develop technical skills. There are far more educational and skills development opportunities built into male toys than the pink ‘fluffier’ toys for girls. But how do the children opt for their preferred toys in the first place?
Is it a natural choice? If placed in a room full of genderised toys what would a typical male or female child opt for? Do parents consciously or unconsciously orient their offspring to gender matched toys? Does marketing influence parents (and well-meaning aunties!) into buying gender matched toys?
The study quoted seems to place the decision for matching gender-based toys with the parents. Parents conservatively believe that boys should be physically involved with a toy, constructing something or being active with the toy. For girls, the orientation is towards care and nurturing.
Apparently, this push isn’t limited to humans, female chimps show a preference to dolls and soft toys while their brothers prefer toy cars. I’m assuming that the chimps can’t be influenced by marketing or conscious social stereotyping, so what’s that about then?
What about gender-neutral toys? Lego’s biggest market is boys aged 5 to 9 years. But they also have a range for girls (isn’t a lego block a lego block, whether it’s pink or blue?). Apparently, girls and boys play with lego differently, and their choice of what to construct with the lego reflects that.
What do the children themselves think? My nephew is getting a Kung Fu Panda themed product for Christmas this year, while my niece is getting a Dora-the-Explorer themed product. If I accidently swapped the labels, I could be certain of having a niece and nephew not impressed at all with their auntie. Why?
Dora is an intrepid young explorer, travelling the world, having wonderful adventures. Yet, she is a girl and doesn’t have the required macho qualities to appease a young nephew who is attracted to the bumbling though dream-filled kick-ass panda.
Dora sounds a more inspiring character to me, but given that I’m a female….