Nature Or Nurture And Toys

There is a lot of question as to why boys and girls choose the toys they do. Although there have been strides towards equality, the expectation of society is that boys are loud, dirty and stronger than girls. The toys that are geared towards boys (guns and cars) encourage that behaviour. Girls are supposed to be nurturing and passive and the toys geared towards girls (dolls and tea sets) encourage that behaviour.

It is interesting to look at where the division between the genders and toy selection happens. When a baby is born, already there are choices to be made based on gender; a little girl is in pink and a little boy is in blue. You can purchase teething rings and rattles based on colour. You can buy a plush doll in pink or a plush truck in blue. For infants, however, you can also find many gender neutral toys, with jungle or arctic themes.

By the toddler age, there are less gender neutral toys. You can buy a simple brown rocking horse, but you can also find a pink or blue rocking horse. You find toys based on television shows geared to either gender. Bob the Builder for boys and Dora the Explorer for girls. I have a daughter in this age group. While I try not to buy her toys based on her gender, I find myself gravitating to the Barbie aisle. Left to her own devices, she chooses playground balls and colouring crayons.

By the time the child is school aged, there are definite gender differences when it comes to toys. When perusing the aisles of any big box retailer, the toys are divided between what a boy would want to play with and what a girl would want to play with. For example, when walking down the aisles in the toy section at Wal-Mart, you will find action figures, guns, balls and trucks. The signs advertising the various toys are dark and masculine. In the "girls" section, however, the signs are pink and feminine. There are frilly dress up clothes, plush animals, soft toys and dolls. Why are there so many differences?

Some sources (such as Parenting Science) suggest that it starts in the womb and the amount of testosterone a foetus is exposed to. The more testosterone, the more aggressive or "rough and tumble" play. The same article also looked at the toys a boy chooses. He is more likely to choose a masculine toy, say a truck or a gun, then a gender-neutral toy (markers) or a feminine toy such as a doll. Girls, on the other hand, do not choose feminine toys over any other type.

As a parent, you ask yourself whether or not to be gender neutral with toy selection and whether you are buying into the stereotypes put on gender by society. Even if you buy gender neutral toys, your child is going to want to make their own choices based on the adds on Nickelodeon, the toys their friends play with and how much noise the toy makes. Should my daughter want a truck, I would be fine with that choice.


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