Educational toys for girls and boys – is there a difference?
Do boys and girls play differently? Should you be choosing
different toys for them? And should an interest in certain toys be discouraged?
These are all questions that may cross the mind of any parent, family member or
friend trying to decide how to choose the most appropriate toy from all those
available on the market.
Boys will be boys
Few people would deny that most boys tend to like cars, trains, guns and action
packed games, whereas in general girls seem happier playing with dolls/soft
toys, domestic toys such as kitchens, and sparkly dressing up clothes. Is there
anything wrong with this? On the surface no, but if play is solely restricted to
strongly gender stereotyped toys and games then things may take a different
turn. It could mean that girls will grow up learning that looking attractive and
developing strong nurturing and domestic skills are of primary importance. And,
because their toys and games tend to be more competitive, often with an element
of risk, danger or aggression, boys may grow up learning that aggression,
violence, and competition are both fun and exciting.
Are you a positive role model?
There have been several studies into how girls and boys play with toys and what
influences them to do so. One of the key influential factors is how children
observe adults interacting with the toys during shared play time as this sends
strong messages to children regarding gender-typed behaviours (1). Children will
often mimic the behaviour of their role model adult. In fact studies have shown
that parents tend to spend more time playing with the child's gender-same toys
longer, for example a girl's doll, or a boy's train. Also, that parents seem
more comfortable with gender-same toys and can often be dismissive of
cross-sexed toys (2). Maybe rather than observing how your child plays with
toys, you should be observing how you play with toys and considering the
influence you are having on them!
What about comfort toys - good or bad?
Many children may become attached to a particular toy or object such as a
blanket. Whilst parents may worry that this is not healthy and should be
discouraged there is no evidence to suggest this is the case. In fact children
who adopt favourite comfort objects are often liable to sleep better and be well
adjusted. In most cases the obsession with a particular toy or object will be
grown out of when the child is ready.
Variety is the spice of life!
The bottom line is that from an educational development perspective both boys
and girls will benefit most from being exposed to a wide variety of different
play experiences to help them fully develop. Puzzles and shape sorters will
teach all children about shapes, colours and names of objects. And, all children
will gain from playing with, for example, toy kitchen equipment, dolls, cars,
fantasy figures and computer games irrespective of their gender. These type of
toys stimulate imagination and teach practical new skills. Maybe this is the
critical thing to remember when choosing a toy for a child - education begins at
an early age and a varied education will give every child the solid grounding
for a more balanced view of life as they develop and grow.
educational wooden toys
for girls and boys to enjoy;
Tool box for budding DIY experts
Vanity case to accompany fun dressing up
Wooden kitchen/cooker for the next Jamie Oliver or Nigella
Toaster to practice getting you breakfast in bed one day
Wooden sword for swashbuckling pirates
Shape sorter to challenge and stimulate the younger child
Strawberry Children's Toys
(1) Caldera, Huston, O'Brien, 1989
(2) Langolis and Downs, 1980
About Karen Singleton and Strawberry Children's Toys
Karen is a mum of two who is passionate about quality, affordable toys which
encourage learning and development through play. She runs her own online
independent shop specialising in
educational wooden toys
and traditional wooden toys
for babies and children under 5. All toys featured on Strawberry Children's
Toys are played with, tested and enjoyed by real children.