Traditionally, there’s always been a differentiation between ‘girl’ toys and ‘boy’ toys but, thankfully, these days, the lines are starting to blur.
Playing with dolls offers many benefits
We all know kids love to play. And that they will choose the toys they want to play with. However, there’s still some resistance against letting boys play with toys usually aligned with girls, such as dolls. No one would look twice at a little girl playing with a racing car or truck. My daughters have a Tonka tip-truck, trains, and toy bow and arrow set among their collection, all of which are wholeheartedly encouraged by society. Whereas the sight of a boy playing with a doll can sometimes still attract negative comments.
However, now there are many out there trying to dispel such traditional attitudes. Ad agency, Ogilvy Brazil for one. According to Adweek, the agency recently created a campaign called ‘We All Can Take Care’, which shows boys happily playing with the Baby Alive doll by Hasbro.
“Our challenge is to show that both girls and boys can learn a lot from playing with dolls,” Kellen Silverio, marketing director for Hasbro in Brazil, told Adweek. “This is a free-spirited, playful gesture that nurtures love and that counts for much in helping children grow up to become human beings who care for one another.”
“Important life skills”
Playing with dolls is believed to offer boys many benefits such as developing imaginative play and encouraging them to be compassionate, kind and nurturing. It also helps to break down yet another barrier between us and gender equality.
According to Jennifer Shewmaker, associate professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University, boy toys are often developed and marketed to promote aggression and competition while girl toys are developed to promote nurturing and relationship building. “Healthy people know how to balance all of these traits. Giving boys the chance to explore nurturing and connecting with others opens up opportunities for them to build important life skills,” she told the Boston Globe.
Give children the choice to play with whatever toy they are drawn to
For many parents, it’s not so much a question of letting their sons play with dolls, but rather giving all their children the choice to play with whatever toy they are drawn to. Kate, a mother of two boys, has always tried to give her sons all toy options. “My youngest loves dolls and will not go to bed without Greg, his rest toy from birth, while my oldest is more about Lego and transformers,” she says. “But in saying that they both play with all sorts of toys.”
Kate is thankful that her sons attend a progressive kindy that encourages kids to explore all play areas. “They limit the talk about boys and girls toys too, which I think is awesome,” she says. Despite this, Kate occasionally comes up against different attitudes but is quick to clear up any confusion for her sons. “The only time I’ve seen them shy away from certain toys is when outside influences get in their heads,” she says. “So, I’ve then sat down with them and talked it through to try and help them understand why some people think that way.”
“It’s an interest thing”
Natalie, a mother of two boys aged one and four, also believes in giving her children all toys to play with and seeing what they like. “We have always offered everything to my four-year-old son and he had never wanted to play with a doll. He chooses things like Lego and construction toys – he loves a good cook-up in his toy kitchen, but dolls and soft toys – no way,” she says. “Some kids, either boys or girls, just don’t want to play with dolls. For him, it’s not a gender thing but an interest thing.”
Natalie believes it’s an important discussion for parents, especially as she still comes up against antiquated attitudes when it comes to this sort of gender inequality: “I still have mates who think I’m a bit weird for ‘allowing’ my son to go to dance class!”