Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Toys to Gently Challenge Gender Stereotypes: The Boys Edition

I've written several posts with toy recommendations now- I had no idea I had so many opinions about toys! My earlier posts have had some ideas for toys to help even the most princess-obsessed girls grow skills that will set them up for future success in math and science classes, such as spatial reasoning and logic. But what about boys? I think they are also getting hurt by the current gender-stratified toy landscape. The overtly "boy" toys usually do a great job of growing spatial reasoning, logic, and other early math skills. They don't do such a great job of encouraging verbal development, interpersonal and caring skills, and artistic creativity- skills that the "girl" toys do a good job of encouraging.

In my perfect world, all toys would be fair game for all kids, and no child would be constrained in his or her interests or skill development by gender stereotypes. But we don't live in that perfect world, and challenging the gender-stratified world reflected by toys is a heavy load to ask our children to carry. I will stand up for any boy who wants to play with a baby doll (and yes, it is possible to find a baby doll that isn't all pink and purple), but I don't think it is fair to expect that every boy will want to challenge that stereotype, and just like I don't want our princess-obsessed girls to miss out on the chance to grow their spatial reasoning and math skills, I don't want our car-obsessed boys miss out on the chance to grow their verbal and interpersonal skills.

As the mother of two girls, I am obviously not the best person to make recommendations for toys that will help boys who insist on typically boy toys (or whose toys are purchased by people who insist on typically boy toys) to grow these skills. But I have a few ideas, based on my observations of the boys in Pumpkin's class and my thoughts about some of the toys we own, and maybe some of my commenters who do have boys will chime in with some more.

First up, I think that the LeapFrog Phonics Bus that both of our girls loved should appeal to vehicle-loving boys, and although I will admit that the phonics jingle gets stuck in my head and drives me nuts, I also credit the Leap Frog DVDs (which use the same jingle) with helping Pumpkin learn to read.

To give boys who wouldn't dream of touching a baby doll a chance to practice their caring skills, I think the Dalmatian Vet Kit my sister got Petunia for her birthday would be great. There is a little dog and a bunch of plastic vet's equipment in a dog carrier. Petunia and Pumpkin both like to check up on the dog and their other stuffed animals.

I also like the Lost Puppies board game, which Pumpkin got for her 5th birthday- from one of the boyest boys in her class, who loved the game. It is a cooperative game in which the players work together to rescue lost puppies and deliver them to their homes.

We also got our Crayola spin art as a gift, and it is also something both of my kids love. I suspect it would be a good way to get some art into the life of a boy who thinks all toys must have motion.

Those are my ideas... but I'm sure some of you have better ones! Leave them in the comments. Also, I plan to make this weekend's links post all about online gift guides I like, so if you want to suggest any of those, leave them in the comments or send me an email. I've got a few picked out already, but I'm happy to find more.


  1. Thanks for the suggestions! From the mom of a boy with a baby doll dressed in pink (he picked it out himself in the store) ;-)

  2. Anonymous11:46 AM

    We got our son a real tea set in China blue a few years back. They also had a set in camo for the full gender-bend.

  3. My 5-year-old son enjoys playing with dolls, stuffed animals, tea sets, and art materials - so I think your suggestions are all wonderful. The Leap Frog videos taught my kid to read, too.

    Our kids are also 3 and 5, and we recently got a great family game they've enjoyed called The Secret Door - it's like a cooperative memory game, kind of thematically-similar to Clue.

  4. My Bug has a scarf that I tie into a teddy bear carrier (sling style) and he loves it.

  5. Don't forget gender-neutral wedgits

    and snap circuits.

  6. The best thing I have done for my boys to encourage their creativity is spend a lot of time over at the artful parent, which is an amazing site. Some of her ideas are complicated (and frankly too old for my kids), but some are simple and wonderful. We made salt dough ornaments with glass beads and puffy paint recently. So for Christmas I bought them a huge box of art supplies from one the artful parent's supplies (Discount school supplies) where it's a ton cheaper. (She has a section on the site dedicated to the supplies in her closet, which gave me all my ideas.) I put effort into this, because I'm not artsy or craftsy myself, but I see how it will benefit them to have that kind of outlet. Now my 4 y.o. routinely asks to do an art project. "Look on the computer!" he demands. It has gotten us away from coloring books, and towards exploring materials.

    They also love to bake, which can be a creative experience. Montessori services sells real baking instruments, but child sized (spatulas, whisks, juicer/graters, etc), and I found a cooking with your child book on the internet (self-published by an experienced Montessorian) that's too basic for me, but a good start for parents who don't know how to integrate children into the kitchen. I love the petition to change the easy bake oven's color, but my kids don't need an easy bake oven, because they use the real one.

    I got my 2 y.o. his first baby doll. He loves figures and stuffed animals (#1 has no use for such things, though he did nurse his stuffed animals when his brother was a baby) and he plays with the neighbor girl's doll.

    1. Anonymous7:05 AM

      Second the Montessori stuff! My son got a real child-sized Montessori broom (in a manly red) and would help DH sweep up. (Oddly, they were selling the brooms at a tea-house gift shop literally in the middle of nowhere.)

      And also second on the cookbook. This one is fantastic:
      (Man, if I'd thought of it earlier I should have sent this to the nephew! Maybe next Christmas.)

  7. My 5-year old son loves playdough, which is pretty good for creative play. He also loves to play with a little kitchen set he shares with his sister (she's 3). We often bake together, and when we bake cookies, they get to cut them and decorate them as well. Maybe next year we'll build a gingerbread house from scratch.

  8. The kids are too much happy when we provide them with a collection of toys. If they are supposed to be entertained more, then surprise them more with the types of toys and placing them in the appropriate state. Not only kids, the red wagons are best suitable even for the adults. Best toys for 2 years olds


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