Toys Will Be Toys

I came across this piece at Slate — and I end up feeling a little bad for that little girl.

Her dad, the author of the article, is WAY over thinking her toy interaction and play.

My approach to play has always been… like, way less fraught with this. Did I want to have girls who were obsessed with princesses, or dresses, or pink? No, not necessarily. But I also did not completely shield them from any of these things. Furthermore, as much as I feel STEM fields are where the future jobs lie (STEM and healthcare), I am not inculcating my girls to love math.

Because that would not end well.

Tell a child what to do. Let me know how that goes.

This was my favorite sentence: “I think the onus, unfortunately, remains on individual parents to make sure their boys and girls question every instance of groupthink, whether it’s which toys girls should have or whether Frozen is actually all that female-empowering.”

His daughter is 4. She doesn’t care if Frozen is empowering, she just wants to pretend to freeze stuff and sing “Let It Go”.

Additionally, by attempting to steer a girl away from princesses and dress up, these parents are simply reinforcing that idea that girlie things are worthless! “No, you can’t be a princess because you’re smarter than that.” “No, stay away from pink; it means you’re a weak girl.”

Guys, you’re doing it wrong.

++

On a recent Family Movie Night, we all watched Mr. Peabody and Sherman. I didn’t like it. And, part of the reason I didn’t like it was that the two main female characters were mean girls — mean, bossy, bully girls (okay, one girl and one woman).

You know what I did? I said that out loud. “I don’t like that these female characters are bullies and mean girls. I just want you to know portraying girls and women like that in a children’s movie offends me. I don’t like the message.” (I also didn’t like Mr. Peabody. He was a smug, pretentious know-it-all. But, ya know, he was a dog. So.)

Girls can like pink and math. Smart girls can also be pretty girls (and vice versa). Girls can play with Legos, and Barbies, and LPS, and do science experiments at the kitchen table.

Having an attitude like the author’s sets our girls up for a false dichotomy. Limiting their choices to STEM-only is just as limiting as saying, “You’re a girl so you can’t play with cars.”

And instead of fretting, talk to your children. I do it all the time. Teach them to think critically about the shows they watch and the toys they play with and the school work they like (or don’t like).

Flora HATES math homework. She loves science and social studies, and reading books. So I focus on math with her because that’s what she needs to work on. But she’s not bad at math because she’s a girl. She doesn’t want to practice; practicing math takes focus, which Flora is famously lacking.

++

I asked my girls what they wanted to be when they grew up on the ride to work this morning. Flora wants to be an ornithologist. Kate went into goofy mode; she wants to be a turtle. She also did a word problem about selling turtles.

Children can do anything. It’s up to us as parents to show them the options, and then stand back and let them be themselves. Instead of worrying about them playing with dolls.

What do your children want to be when they grow up?

Kate and Flora, future ornithologist and pet store owner
Flora and Kate, future ornithologist and pet store owner
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5 thoughts on “Toys Will Be Toys

  1. I think that article showcases the writer’s own problems with insecurity about self-identity rather than those he may have for his daughter. Thing about kids is they change day to day about what they want to be and their interests, yet there are threads that run throughout their entire childhood. We HAVE to let them find their own way. If we aren’t supportive in their efforts, we are failing as parents.

    As for your question, my 11 year old son wants 5 different jobs, one for each day of the week. marine biologist, video game programmer, writer, etc. My 9 year old daughter wants to be a doctor. My 7 year old son has no idea and the other 2 are too young to really answer the question.

    The real question is what my 22 year old wants to be when he grows up.

  2. I think you touched on an important point….that anything girlie or feminine is of less value than things associated with males or being masculine…such as STEM. One of my favorite quotes from Temple Grandin applies nicely here…”Different, not LESS.” All options need to be available to all kids, and THEIR interests encouraged , regardless of their gender. And my kids dont know what they want to be when they grow up quite yet…or maybe they do know, but havent figured out how to communicate it just yet:)

  3. THIS. YES. It has always irritated me when I’ve heard people say they didn’t allow or discouraged their girls from playing with “girl” toys. HOW is that any better than saying they can’t play with trucks?? I get wanting to encourage girls to have an interest in science & math. But I fail to see how liking makeup & clothes & princesses would stop that (hi, I like makeup & I have a bachelors degree in biology & I run a web design company!) I also hate the notion of pushing a kid- boy or girl- into a career path at THE AGE OF FOUR OMG. I was 25 before I figured out what I wanted to do! And let’s not even talk about forcing a kid into a career that the PARENT wants. What if she hates science? What if she loves fashion? What if she grows up & becomes a famous fashion designer? Does that mean she’s not a success?

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