Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Can boys play with girls' toys?

I'm not one of those people who buys into gender-directed toys. My boys can play with whatever they like - the toys we buy them have always been directed by their interests.

Babies and toddlers seem mostly to play with gender-neutral toys - bright primary colours are the theme rather than fluffy pink princesses for girls and army-print-clad action figures for boys - Fisher Price Little People, Mega Blocks, shape sorters, stuffed toys, books and balls. This was true of my boys, anyway, and the other little children I know - any gender-directed toys at that age are more about what adults' perceptions of what they should play with than what they want to play with.

I do believe that it is primarily nature, not nurture, that leads most kids toward less gender-neutral playthings. We have never directed the boys' interests, yet ever since they were old enough to show preferences they've gravitated toward dinosaurs and building toys and cars and trucks and trains. Now that they're older, it's mostly Star Wars and superheroes and Transformers and Lego.

But they have on occasion seen what most people would describe as a "girls' toy" and wanted it. And I have no problem with that. When we moved a few years ago the boys discovered a box of my old Barbies and played with them for weeks. A couple of years ago the number-one item on one of our boys' Christmas lists was a hot pink and purple Zoobles playset. Santa brought it, alongside a bunch of Handy Manny toys and some Hot Wheels and Lego sets. The following Christmas both boys became obsessed with Zhu Zhu pets, which I didn't even realize were geared toward girls until I discovered them on the pink side of Toys r Us. And this year, Middle Child saw a Barbie guitar that he cannot stop talking about while we were shopping for a gift for his friend. The rest of his wish list: a Star Wars battleship, a pirate sword & playset, a Lego fire station and another light sabre.

I don't see anything wrong with that.

I know some people who would never allow their little boys to play with girls' toys. The unspoken fear seems to be that they will become "girly" - and effeminate behaviour will eventually make them gay.

Stupid.

Nothing is going to make a child gay. Allowing your six-year-old boy to play with an occasional pink toy or letting your toddler son teeter around the front hall in that pair of heels he found in your closet is not going to make him gay if he is straight. Nor will forcing your eight-year-old boy to play baseball and hockey when his real interest is drawing make him straight if he is gay.

My boys love to play soccer, baseball, Lego, Hot Wheels and Wii Sports. They love bike riding, Star Wars, Transformers, Handy Manny, and anything pirates. They also like to watch Care Bears and cook in their play kitchen with their baby brother. I encourage all of it - if I didn't I'd be a pretty poor mother. I love my children and I want them to grow up happy and confident human beings. I couldn't care less whether they are gay or straight.
Barbie Jam with Me Guitar
Barbie Jam With Me Guitar
Photo: amazon.com

That Barbie guitar will be under the tree this Christmas, because it's what my son wished for. What kind of a Santa wouldn't grant a child's wish? Santa isn't bigoted in our household. Our family and our Christmas is based on love - period. And I look forward to rocking out to "Barbie Girl" with my little six-year-old boy while his brother raps in the background on the T-Pain Mic he got for Christmas last year.


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