When my daughter was born, I decided almost immediately that I wasn’t going to push her into the “girly” things that it seems is so prevalent today. It doesn’t seem to be as big of a problem with boy children, but there is definitely a section of parents who push their female children firmly into the princess camp. I’m talking every outfit has a tutu and giant hair bow, they watch exclusively princess shows, and have plenty of dolls and dress-up clothes, but not much else. And it isn’t because the child chooses is necessarily, but the parents are unknowingly shoving them into it.
I have seen these parents and children at school and I was firmly against it for my daughter. I dress her mostly from the “boys” clothing section and allow her to choose things that might not be seen as feminine. I also give her a range of toys to play with. (Make sure you read to the end to learn more about the male brain and the female brain. It is so interesting!)
The biggest problem I see with children and gendered toys is the lack of availability. If you give your children a wide range of toys, then they can choose what they are interested in. I don’t feel like it is asking too much to allow any child to have a doll, blocks, cars, different types of books, etc.
When I had my first child (and only so far) I also figured buying a range of toys would also help us save money in the long run. Just like with clothes, who wants to buy a bunch of “girl” toys and then a bunch of “boy” toys. Just buy a good range of both to suit all of the children you have or will have.
This is an area that you definitely don’t have to overthink. There are so many kinds of toys that buying a wide range is the best idea.
Puzzles are a great toy for any child. A young toddler will enjoy a puzzle like the Melissa and Doug First Shapes Knob Puzzle. I even featured it in my post about what a Montessori toddler plays with. Older children will enjoy larger puzzles with fun pictures like the Melissa and Doug Under the Sea Jigsaw Puzzle. A fun variation is the Melissa and Doug Latches Activity Board. This super fun puzzle is a puzzle and an opening/closing activity all in one.
There are all sorts of cars, trains, and vehicles that go that will interest any small child. I remember being so jealous of those train track tables that would be in cool toy stores and libraries. My mom would probably laugh because I never mentioned anything about it, but I always thought they were so cool! But a kid doesn’t need a large table with a ton of tracks. A small set with tracks and a few train cars will suffice. The small Matchbox cars are good once children are older, but there are plenty of cars for younger children also.
Every child should have a baby doll. If we want our children to grow up and be good mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles, they should be able to practice caring for a baby doll if they would like to. There are lots of soft baby dolls for the youngest children.
For older children, there are all sorts of dolls to choose from. To be honest, my toddler daughter’s favorite doll is a cheap one from Wal-Mart. The doll doesn’t have to eat, wet, or talk in order to be interesting. Don’t worry about the extra features; just buy a simple doll.
I once went to an in-service about the differences between the male brain and the female brain. It was fascinating. Now just because you are biologically female, it doesn’t mean you have a totally female brain. All of us are on a continuum with male on one end and female on the other. That is the reason we have “tomboys” and “sensitive boys.”
My former co-worker has worked with children for 25+ years and as much as she tried to have a classroom where things were non-gendered, female brained children would gravitate towards taking care of baby dolls while male brained children would gravitate towards gross motor activities and things that go.
Despite our evolution into more cultured human beings, at our roots, we are still primal beings. We still default to the things we were primed to do in the wilderness. Men were hunters who found food. They spent time throwing spears and mentally calculating how hard and far to throw it. Women were the caretakers who were expected to take care of children and other home tasks.
So children, who are at their core primal beings, will typically default to one or the other. Again, it doesn’t always depend on what their biological sex is. There will be boys who join in the mommy/daddy/baby play of their own free will just as there will be girls who are more interested in the running and throwing. It depends more on whether they have a more male or female brain.