My seven-year-old daughter isn’t into Barbies. Or the lip-lined Bratz dolls with their wide, disinterested gazes.
She’s not into princesses either, “they don’t do anything,” she once explained—or the color pink.
None of the “girly stuff” for her.
Instead she loves animals (both herbivores and carnivores, but prefers those whose native habitat is on the African continent). She immerses herself in art (which our overflowing craft shelves can attest to) from crayoning to painting to building mosaics from colored blocks.
She also enjoys running, swimming, speeding about on her scooter and playing on the monkey bars. Anything with speed and motion, like a lot of her girlfriends.
Finding intriguing toys for her this holiday season should be relatively easy. Instead, it’s a grapple in the distinctions and assumptions made about boys and girls.
My three-year-old son loves anything with buttons, blasting and creating. As obscure as that sounds, finding toys for him is effortless. Store shelves are stocked full of tough superhero guys that shoot rockets, building sets, explorer compass/flashlight sets, etc.
Those toys also do something. They aren’t inanimate objects that can only pose. They may require three-dimensional thinking and execution through building. Or they reward instruction following with a cool effect. Kids can actually learn something while honing their motor skills manipulating small linking pieces to create a rocket ship or operating motor.
These same toys are considered “boy stuff” to most girls. The majority of the toy themes are geared to boys from war games to male rescue squads or racer cars with boys shown cheering the cars on the box lid. Generally these toys are also grouped in the “boy” section of the major toy chains. (To find the “girl stuff” follow the pastel hue until you reach the shelves of dolls, stuffed animals and craft kits.)
I see Lauren eye the gifts that William gets with envy and interest. He is given a head lamp to use for exploring. She, in turn, is given a beading craft. William gets spy goggles and a flashlight that can fit on his belt loop. She is given a set of nail polishes and a Beanie Baby.
I don’t know who cringes more, her or me.
As a Mom of two daughters, I’m conscious of the concerns young girls continue to face around body image, esteem, and eating disorders. As the sister to three brothers, I am also pleased that organizations are working to encourage young women to consider careers in math and science. But I also have to question why encouragement is needed.
Yet, I wander through the stores trying to find what is so obviously missing from the shelves for my inquisitive, engaging daughter who just so happens to not be into “girly” stuff.
Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of. Sugar and spice and everything nice. That’s what little girls are made of …
By Maija Threlkeld
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