Mum's the word: April

This month Katie Roberts chatted to Mumsnet and Facebook users about gender specific toys?
Publish date:
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Toys aimed solely at boys or girls and parents’ attitudes towards them seems to be a controversial subject among both Mumsnetters and Facebook users.

This month’s subject was the first to unite all respondents on one topic so far, though. We asked parents if they were happy for their children playing with toys aimed at the opposite sex – and all of them said they were.

So despite all the products out there aimed specifically at either boys or girls, it seems that most parents are actively encouraging boys to play with what are traditionally thought of as girls’ toys and vice versa.

‘Theonewiththehair’ tells ToyNews: “They play how they want and neither DH [Darling Husband] or myself would have it any differently.”

‘Browneyesblue’ adds: “DS [Darling Son] has recently taken to shouting ‘baby’ and reaching for dolls whenever he sees them in shops etc, so DH and I bought him a set of two baby dolls yesterday.”

It also seems to bother Mumsnetters and Facebookers when generic toys are bought out in pink to target the girls market.

‘Madwomanintheattic’ comments: “ I do have a very real concern about the limitations of toys on offer for girls. The utter barrage of pinkery is sending a very clear message to young children about the role and value of women in our society.”

When asked whether their sons lean towards playing solely with ‘boys’ toys’, 79 per cent said their children played with both boy and girl-related products.

‘JaneB1rkin’ says: “DS2 is very keen on his baby (Baby Annabel’s brother; we call him Hannibal) and his talking Chou Chou, plus his pink buggy.

“I love it – nothing wrong with it. I wish more parents let their boys play with pink stuff/dolls/babies, etc. I don’t want him to be told it’s wrong by kids who have been laughed at for the same.”

‘GJR’ continues: “In my experience boys like ‘girls’ toys just as much as they do. Our three year-old girl has a workbench and gets as much pleasure from that as any of the boys do, and why wouldn’t she?”

We also asked parents whether they were comfortable allowing their sons to play with toy swords, guns and other war-related toys. This split opinion somewhat, with 35 per cent saying they were fine with it, 30 per cent saying they didn’t allow it and the remaining 35 per cent saying it depended on the toy.

‘Hebiegebies’ tells ToyNews: “I don’t allow guns. A stick or fingers make a gun if they really want to play shooting games.”

However, ‘Feedthegoat’ has come round to the idea: “DS is six and yes, he loves lightsabers and Nerf guns, but so does my friend’s DD. It is based on the fact that our husbands love Star Wars and encouraged it, not based on their gender. 

“I wasn’t keen at first as things can get out of hand if you don’t keep a close eye out, but generally I think it is harmless enough.”

‘Borntofolk’ has mixed views: “Swords are okay. I’m not wildly keen but he’s got a couple as part of pirate/knight dress-up sets and he plays quite nicely with them. We don’t allow guns in general.”

So it seems that modern kids are much less pigeon-holed into gender categories. The boys are happily playing with dolls, while many of the girls have cars in their toy boxes. And parents are more than happy for this to happen.

Research based on 32 Mumsnet and Facebook users’ responses

Mum knows best

ToyNews asked Mumsnet and Facebook users whether they allow boys to play with ‘girls’ toys and vice versa...

“I got a baby doll for eldest DS when our second was on the way, he quite liked playing with all the accessories and you could put a dummy in and out of its mouth, etc. They also both have soft cloth dolls. They don’t play with them much.”

“I feel sad that dolls and craft activities are seen as girly. He [son] loves craft activities and we have them out on the dining table all day every day because of how much enjoyment he gets out of them.
DH cooks and looks after DS so I don’t see dolls as a girl toy, just a toy that mimics the behaviour of adults and encourages nurturing and kind behaviour.”

“I think it matters more that what they play with is age appropriate than whether they are perceived to be for a specific gender.”

“I know some dads who won’t let their sons play with dolls as they think playing with dolls will turn them gay. What a load of rubbish.”

“I think there is far too much emphasis these days on what is a female toy and what is a male toy. Kids are kids; they play with what they want, when they want.”

“There are a lot of toy makers that make things and then do a pink version to please the girlies, but both of my daughters like the colour blue and fight over their brother’s toys.”

“We always had cars/trains, etc as well as dolls at home, but now our daughter is older and at nursery she has started to say that dinosaurs are for boys and things like that. She is now such a stereotypical girl and everything has to be pink, glittery and in the shape of a princess.”
Facebook User RK

“I don’t want my kids growing up being told they should behave a certain way because of their gender. I just want them to be themselves and be happy. As long as he’s not hurting anyone, who cares?”
Facebook User SG

“I really dislike gendered toys. My children (girl and boy) have plenty of Lego and Playmobil, and both like to play cars, dragons, dolls. I refuse to buy gendered gifts for birthday parties.”


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