Trying to Convince My Daughter That "Girl Toys" Don't Exist
My 3-year-old daughter is questioning what toys are for boys or girls. I just want my kids to play and have fun.
Has your preschooler ever asked for girl toys or boy toys? Have they wanted “girl” crayons? Or “boy” clothes?
This has been coming up in conversations with my 3-year-old more and more lately and I’m doing my best to address them in a gender-neutral way.
The other day, I asked Rissa to pick up the crayons from one of those big boxes that were strewn across the living room floor. She asked me to help. “Mommy, you pick up the boy crayons and I’ll pick up the girl crayons.”
“What’s a girl crayon?” I asked, puzzled.
“Blue and purple and pink…”
“They are just crayons. Boys and girls can use all the colors,” I said, hoping to make crayons gender-neutral once again.
That wasn’t the first time she brought up girl versus boy colors. What’s interesting is when I ask her what colors those are, her answers don’t always fit the stereotypical blue for boy, pink for girls. Sometimes she says red is for boys and white and orange is for girls. Or some other combination. At first I thought she was identifying her favorites as girl colors, but now I’m not so sure.
These conversations started after my son was born, but have picked up more in the past few months. She asked if he can wear her dress-up clothes (as she tries to put it on him.) We tell her he can if he wants to (And he does put on her headbands and tries to put on her shoes like the curious 1-year-old he is.) I love that she questions things and is figuring her world out, but sometimes I’m not sure how to respond when she tries to label things as “for boys” or “for girls.” I don’t remember categorizing everything as girls or boys growing up. Toys were toys. I had dolls and I had tools. I enjoyed playing with both!
Sure, we have plenty of toys that are marketed as “girl” toys and “boy” toys, but I don’t keep my daughter and son from playing with each others’ toys based on gender stereotypes. The only toys we don’t let him play with are ones with small pieces or otherwise unsafe at his age. We’ve provided my daughter with an array of toys since she was a baby, from dolls to cars. She absolutely loved a light-up work bench that made noise when hitting it with a hammer. She loves building with blocks and zooming (and crashing) cars around a city road playmat in our playroom. And when her brother picks up her baby dolls, we encourage him to hug them and play with them.
Both of our children love playing with the princess castle and horse stable my daughter received for her birthday. My son discovered all the “noisy” areas of each playset and likes to play the music. He helps his sister put the princesses in the castle and somethings steals the flags off the towers. Some days, my daughter gets mad at him for playing with the castle, telling him he can only play with the (few) prince pieces we have.
Though they both play with and share a variety of toys, she’s been pointing out items at the store and saying things like, “I don’t want that. That’s a boy toy. I want a girl toy.” When she starts labeling things that way I simply say, “It’s a toy. Boys and girls can play with it if they want to.”
Even though I’m aware of how certain toys are marketed, I had hoped to present toys as… toys. Without gender. Without stereotypes attached to them. I like that they both pretend to cook in our play kitchen, cradle baby dolls, build towers and dress up. I just want them to play, explore and have fun.
How do you respond when your kids ask questions like these?
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