New research conducted by parenting website MadeForMums has revealed a mismatch between parents and their children when it comes to the sorts of toys kids desire.
The survey revealed parents believe their children have an innate preference for gender-specific toys, despite the study also finding that kids up to the age of six had no preference.
The survey of 1,066 parents of under 7 year olds found:
- 80 per cent believed their sons like to play with cars, but only 19 per cent thought they'd like to play with dolls
- Only 43 per cent said their daughters like to play with cars, but 71 per cent claimed their girls liked to play with dolls.
- More parents are currently buying their daughters boys’ toys (53 per cent) than buying their sons girls' toys (33 per cent).
The study also found the majority of parents think that preference is natural.
A seperate social experiment carried out by MadeForMums showed that babies up to three year olds loved playing with the same toys whatever their gender.
But by the age of six years old, no boys played with dolls, except action figures. No boys would play with a purple Barbie car “because it’s for girls” while most girls would only play with 'girlie' wheeled toys.
“It’s been a real wake-up call to see such a mismatch between what parents think about gender-specific toys, and what their children actually choose to play with," said Susie Boone, editorial director, MadeforMums.
“Our research shows it’s time for us as parents to change and start thinking outside the traditional toy box. We've got to break the cars-for-boys and dolls-for-girls habit. Next time there’s a birthday or Christmas list throw in a couple of wildcard toys and see what happens.”
Professor Patrick Leman, Dean of Education, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London added: “As parents, we need to remind ourselves that we’re raising individuals, not just boys or girls. It’s important we encourage a wide variety of play before the opportunities close down.
"Small differences between the sexes become magnified and by the time children are at primary school, they’ve been socialised into gender roles. We can see this with the six year olds in the research. By this age, the biggest reinforcers of gender differences are the children themselves.
"Gender is becoming more fluid and flexible and society’s attitudes to gender is changing. But we can see from the survey that many parents are imposing gender differences, probably without realising it.”