Encourage or discourage your children from playing with opposite-gender toys?

Whether your son is into Barbie or your daughter loves Tonka in the mud, some parents find it surprising when their children of one gender express an interest in toys or make believe that we typically associate with the other gender. Does this concern you, or do you encourage it? Or do you even think it matters?

40  Answers

1 24

This is what you do..... nothing. Let them play, play with them, and let them enjoy what they enjoy.

15
39 0

Hi I am a mom of 2 boys and the author of PINK IS JUST A COLOR AND SO IS BLUE. The story is about gender stereotypes related exactly what to this question addresses. We want our boys to grow up to be nurturing, caring fathers and husbands. We want to give our girls the same opportunities as boys. Let them start when they are young... with the toys. Let girls know it is great if they learn to be assertive, build, create, jump, hammer away or want to be super heros. Many hairstylist, fashion/ interior designers and chefs are men so why shouldn't boys also play with these items as toys. Gender roles in society are shifting and evolving. Shouldn't this be reflected in children's play as well? http://www.amazon.com/Pink-Just-Color-So-Blue/dp/1469902176/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351352420&sr=8-1&keywords=pink+is+just+a+color+and+so+is+blue

15 27

i completely encourage it my son plays with baby dolls with his lil sisters and my daughters play with their truck and cars, i dont believe in stereo typing certain toys for boys or girl... they play with whatever they have fun with

13
13 22

One day my son and i were at the thrift store. He kept pointing at something on the toy shelf and I finally figured out he wanted a doll (he was 1.5 years old at the time). I bought it for him even though I wondered how hubby would react. Thankfully hubby didn't mind. Our son would walk around holding her, kissing her, hugging her, and on a couple of occasions he pretended to nurse her just like mommy did with him. I hate that society tries to designate boy and girl toys. Toys shouldn't have gender assignment to them. Any kid should be able to play with any toy that makes them happy.

8
26 0

that so great of you and his dad to let him be his self. every person is diffence

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3 15

I think that it is great when my children want to play with eachothers toys. Who is to say that men can't nuture a baby or women can't be mechanics! Besides at least they're not stuck watching the boob tube! Play on!

7
93 15

I believe it doesn't matter. I neither encourage or discourage it. I just let it be. I feel toys are a vehicle for expression, not an indicator of anything. I also believe that if I attempt to encourage or discourage one way or the other I may wind up accidently causing the very problems I'm trying to avoid.

7
9 1

My 3 year-old son has an affinity for anything girly. He loves sparkles and glitter and flashy things. I think they just grab his attention. The other day we were walking down the street and we stopped in front of a store window displaying some very nice purses. I asked him which one he liked better (out of my preferences) and he shook his head, grabbed my hand and led me to the other side of the window. There he pointed to two pale pink bags. I laughed. This is not the first time he has chosen something pink. He just loves that color and I think that's wonderful! At least one of us does!

5
1 0

My son is 6 years old and pink has been his favorite color for a couple of years. Do I think anything of it not at all. He also like silver and gold.

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7 34

I think it's ridiculous that anybody would be concerned with opposite gender toys. My son plays with his sister's barbies and my daughter plays guns. It doesn't mean they are going to grow up and change sexes. There is absolutely no correlation between boys playing with dolls or dressing up in girl play clothes or girls playing army and cars to a person changing sexes or being gay. It's simply a part of child exploration. Little kids don't think about, "oh those dolls are girl toys or those cars are boy toys." To children, they are simply toys. It's the adults (and sometimes older siblings) who place a label on them. Just let them play and enjoy being a child. And if they want to explore gender roles, like when they play house or dress-up, that's OK too. It's all about processing and becoming little people; it has nothing to do with sexual preference. They don't even know what that is.

5
235 30

Well my brother is gay and has even dressed in drag before and as a little boy he played with baby dolls and a Wonder Woman doll and dressed up like Wonder Woman instead of traditional boy things. I also dressed him up in a dress and put make-up on him. Now had he been forced to play with all the traditional boy toys I don't think things would have turned out any different because this is just the trial he's been given to bear in this earth life. (His words not mine.) So I think people will have that temptation no matter what toys they played with as a child if the Lord chooses to try them that way. So encourage your children in their interests no matter what they be and love them and they will grow up to be happy well adjusted adults. If that means your boys like dolls then maybe they will grow up to be good dads who help change diapers. Wouldn't that be wonderful? And maybe your daughters will grow up to be strong independent women who can fix their own car and don't always have to rely on a man because not all of them are handy. As the mom above said just let them play and have fun.

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4 0

I'm perfectly happy with my son playing with anything. Of course, we mostly have "boy" toys, since he has a passion for tools, excavators and dump trucks, and people give us these things for holidays/birthdays. But he's also terribly fond of his stuffed animals (they frequently form up in interesting families: "Mommy" alligator, "Daddy" bear, "baby" robot...and they BUILD ROADS!), he loves to cook (real or pretend) and he's been driving me nuts because he saw a PINK child-sized sewing machine at the fabric store. He really, really wants a pink sewing machine.
I think it's good for kids to play with all sorts of toys and to test out skills that might not "traditionally" be associated with their respective genders. For one thing, in modern society, even if you eventually expect to settle down in a very traditional separated-gender-role living situation, most young people live alone for several years, or even decades. So it's a very good thing for boys to know basic sewing and cooking skills and for girls to know how to fix their car and repair a busted toilet.

4
235 30

So true.

2 4

My favoirte toys as a child were "boy toys" ... tonka trucks, cars, planes & trains. I came home with dirt in my shoes and scuffed knees. My parents never told me I couldn't play with something b/c it wasn't for girls. I thank them for it!

I will raise my son the same way. I don't care what he plays with, as long as he plays :)

4
91 36

I think these days you wouldn't find near as many that would strictly limit one topic to one gender, though extreme traditionalists and homophobic people still may. As a girl I wasn't interested in barbies and the ones I got often ended up mutilated or shaven or drawn on, while I played with worms, crawdads, snakes and played with dinosaurs, robots and animals. Frankly I remember being more interested in outdoor activities than toys at all, which is hopefully what my son will do seeing as most kids stay inside entirely too much these days. I grew up just fine and grew up wanting to be a teacher or animal specialist. Eventually I found a little femininity but I still consider myself a tomboy and I fit in just fine with society. My son occasionally plays with my shoes, clothes, we play dress up, house, he helps me with domestic things and whatnot and I don't have any issues with it. I mean how many grown, successful, well adjusted men are out there praying that their parents don't break out the pictures of a little boy in a sundress or sunday hat, clunking around in heels or with lipstick smeared all over their face? I can tell you it's likely most of them!

It's a part of self exploration in my opinion and exploring all sides of a situation helps a person truly find who they are. In any well adjusted, mature person they know what they prefer and what they do not, but they also have respect enough to let others have their own preferences. Those that have not been given the ability to find their own preferences and may have had them pressed upon them generally grow up more insecure in themselves and fearful of what they are unsure of because they have not had the ability to experience another view. Because of this insecurity they are not as well adjusted and tend to have more hardships in life as other views clash with their own.

In my opinion I agree and disagree. I do not think we should encourage NOR discourage gender related activities, rather encourage those activities that they find interest in THEMSELVES regardless of labels, gender or otherwise. If I have a girl next I would like to have just one bigger play room for both of them instead of breaking it up (as obviously with a boy meshing would be expected). If she's not interested in barbies I'm not going to force them on her and if he's not interested in cars I'm not going to force it on him, but I'm not going to make him play with barbies if he doesn't want to just to say "I'm raising mine gender neutral." If he wants to take care of a baby doll so be it, if she wants to build an airplane that's fine, but if they don't then I don't believe in forcing them into a certain mode of play just so I can look good. To say "You must play with this" or "You cannot play with this" (other than violent, dangerous or age inappropriate things obviously) will always limit what they can experience and inhibit learning of the world they will inherit.

4
40 6

The fact is that all parents should encourage their children to play. Whatever toys they pick up are their decision and you should support that from the beginning. The child learns early that you support their decisions and encourage their learning. They are more likely to grow up making wise decisions and turning to you when they need help, support or encouragement.

4
581 24

absolutely not, it does not concerne me at all. Why should we? Toys are toys and it is perfectly healthy for a baby/kid to be interested in everything.

4
25 9

I let my son play with whatever toys he wants. Most of his friends are girls so he wants to play what they're playing. He plays princess with the girls, likes to dress up in their dress up clothes, plays baby dolls, and used to pick the pink toys over the "boy" colored toys. He's 3yrs and even though he likes to play with "girl" toys he loves all the "boy" toys too, trucks, Thomas, tools, every kind of sport, etc. My husband doesn't really like it but, I don't care because I'm the one with him all the time and I'm not going to tell him he can't play princess with his friends because he's a boy.

4
8 8

Funny but I think if this question were asked of a group of men, there would be some different answers completely. :) Usually it is men who get a little freaked out if they see their son playing with baby dolls. Like everyone else on here, it doesn't matter to me, just pointing out that it is more of a daddy issue than a mommy one. All the mom's seem to be fine with it and realize it is just kids being kids regardless of the toy.

3
0 0

As a mother of two boys I would say I encourage playing with some opposite gender toys. They have a boy doll and a girl doll that were mine when I was little and they play with them often. They also have a kitchen set (blue and gray). They love to play restaurant and my oldest (5) pretends the dolls are his kids and he's the dad. When we go to friends houses who have girls they will play with Barbies and I'm fine with that too. Would I buy my son a Barbie doll? No. I buy him food for his kitchen and he even has an apron to help me cook, but I would draw the line at purchasing Barbie's and "pink" toys for my boys. If they had a little sister and were playing with her toys that would be one thing but, I would not purchase the toys for my sons. But, overall I think there is nothing wrong with playing with opposite gender toys! I think it especially helps boys to learn to nurture when playing with dolls.

3
0 0

I think you're wrong to refuse to buy your child the toys he wants. My youngest son's favorite toy was Barbie's Ferrari. We didn't have any girls, so he'd have been out of luck in your household, I guess. When I was a child, I experienced some of the gender discrimination you appear to advocate. It's been half a century and I'm still not over not being allowed to wear red tennis shoes, because red shoes were for girls--I hated the blue ones. By the way, I'm a combat veteran and not of liberal political persuasion, in case someone is seeking to pigeonhole me. Oh, and I did a lot of "girly" things, like cooking, cleaning, grocery and clothing shopping, bathing the kids, attending PTO meetings, etc., since I was a single dad. I taught my kids to do those things, too. By the way, I like pink, which was the color for boys until the end of the 19th century.

44 11

As a girl who was a times stuck with pink, dolls and lace, let me just say my favorite color is blue, I love playing with cars and climbing trees. Our girls grew up playing with generic barbies and Bratz (that were properly dressed), legos, trains and cars. They also had crafts, hikes and planted gardens. Our oldest daughter is in training to be an MP in the US Army. Our middle daughter plans to go to college next year with a major in anything that can help conserve the bat species. Our youngest wants to be a teacher. I think when they are little there is nothing wrong when they play with opposite gender toys, as long as they realize when they get older that there are opposite sexes for a reason.

3
9 24

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with a boy playing dolls or dress up and a girl digging in mud or climbing trees. Toys and play do not define who a child is or what they are. Children should be allowed free play with whatever toys they like. My oldest was a girly girl but also loved to climb trees. My son is 4 and LOVES playing dolls and dressing up. While his favorite doll IS a 'boy' doll with blue booties and he owns 'boy' dress up stuff, i don't discourage him if he gets into his sister's sparkly dress up stuff-- he thinks it's fun! my youngest is 2 and she is my little bruiser! she loves her tutus, but is all about the sandbox and playing with her brother's matchbox cars! it's all about what makes them happy, not about what society says is for a 'girl' and for a 'boy'.

2
6 9

I don't think it should matter either way. I have a 6 year old daughter who loves race cars, dinosaurs, dragons and Monster Trucks. She calls herself a "princess" all the time though and likes to carry a pretty pink purse with a small toy dog in it. I just let her do what makes her happy and I never say it is wrong or that things she likes are only for boys. Children are going to go through all kinds of phases in life. They like one thing this day and next week they will have an interest in something totally different. Seriously we need to stop over analyzing everything our children do and just them be kids! You're only young once, and as long as whatever our kids are playing with does not do them harm then I say let them be happy!

2
4 8

Neither! Honestly I could care less about which toys my child chooses to play with at any given time!
He is using his imagination and enjoying himself. Toys are toys; what does it matter whether it has long hair or big muscles?! That GI Joe can still be dressed up in drag and Barbie is just mom with bigger ta-tas ! They are born they way they are going to be, why can't we just let them be a kid, leave this gender nonsense for when the hormones kick in! Have a problem deciding what underwear you want to put on in the morning? Use whatever's clean and forget about stereotyping already!

2
1 2

I like this question! I have 2 boys and 1 girl (oldest). She plays with her baby dolls and makeup. My boys have nvr really liked playing with the "girl toys", but I have nvr told them it was wrong, they just like to stick to the dinosaur, cars, and action figures! If they show an interest in my daughters toys, I don't discourage it because it let's them explore toys they have nvr played with. I don't want them to be sheltered from the female world and grow up being afraid of it.
My daughter has always been independent and carried a purse like Mommy, and when my oldest son started carrying her purse to be like us, I bought him a back pack to better suit his age and got it with the Ninja Turtles so he could carry stuff like us. He liked the idea of being able to carry his toys around in a bag... but it taught him responsibilty bc he had to keep track of it! (Harder lesson to teach than potty training!) Lol

2
39 0

we can teach children and adults that we have to be open minded, tolerant and accepting of all differences. I am the author of a childrens book, PINK IS JUST A COLOR AND SO IS BLUE. It is about letting go of our old gender stereotypes about colors (pink and blue) and toys kids choose to play with. The main character is a little boy who is not too athleti and his best friend is a feisty little girl who is "tomboyish". Our ultimate goal is to assure that our kids grow upto be confident, productive individuals, without placing so much emphasis on color and toys when they are sooo young.

http://www.amazon.com/Pink-Just-Color-So...

1
423 0

I think kids should play with whatever they want to play with..school and other kids will also influence this as well..I do buy some girl toys for my daughter becasue I like them for her...but she does have other educational material that is just for any gender kid..I want her to be a little lady so I teach her to feed her babies and put them to sleep and change their diapers..but most of this she does because she sees me do it for her..one thing she loves is her ballarenia dress.. just loves it..

I think as a parent you should teach your children to be what they were born to be in this world..if you have a girl, teach her to be one, if you have a boy teach him to be one.. I don't think adults should get all crazy about trying to steer a child in the opposite direction of their gender because of the way society is going today...

Keep it simple..

1
0 23

I have no gender label for toys. Someday, that little boy may be a Daddy and that little girl will be an independent woman. Why limit?

1
63 14

my son wears fairy wings and my daughter climbs everything, so what?
your a child once and children should be allowed to explore!

1
325 14

I dont really care. Its a toy not a death sentance.

1
235 30

My oldest daughter was a tomboy. I had a hard time with it at first and kept buying her Barbies. My 2nd daughter was a girlie girl and loved Barbies. Finally when my oldest was 8 I gave her what she wanted a Spiderman Web Blaster. Anyway now she's 21 and she's a no frills gal, but still feminine. I have 6 daughters all together and they are all different. I have All American Girls which are the ones that like dressing up and wearing makeup, but still like to do traditionally boy things. I think you should encourage your children to be who they are and play with what they want, within reason. I finally had my only son last year and we'll see if he likes dolls or if his dad has a problem with that.

1
51 27

When I grew up (I'm 53 yrs. old now) I would visit my grandmother (she lived out of town) but my boy cousins who played with play guns, superman type "capes", etc. lived close to her. So when we visited we would play with their toys (which included GI Joes) and our Barbies that we brought. But back then, it was not even thought about.
My 2 children (now 23 and 27): my son was oldest so he had the normal boy toys but I did get him a couple of "dolls" that were boys (Cabbage Patch, etc.). My husband wasn't thrilled. My daughter loved to play with boys toys, climb trees - a regular tom boy. Now she has a little girl. My granddaughter is 3 1/2 yrs. old and she plays with dolls, kitchen sets, etc. but she also loves to play with cars/trucks too.
I know this is a long answer. Basically, I don't think it matters.

1
1 8

our Duaghter grew up loving Thomas the tank engine and ended up with a collection the boys were envious of, our son enjoyed and at 5 stilll occasionally enjoys playing with her doll prams etc.. he loves his thomas too. and I am a dad. Fun and learning is the key... would rather them play with each others toys than spend all day watching tv or playing on the computer.

1
66 14

My 2 daughters LOVE Hot Rod cars and I have no problem with it. I have bought them their little cars.

1
13 2

I don't necessarily encourage or discourage this behavior. I don't see any problem with playing with toys associated with the opposite sex. I just try to support my daughter in whatever makes her happy. It is said that children don't develop that which they don't get attention for. So, even if a parent doesn't like their child playing with toys of the opposite sex, if you make a big deal about it, it could backfire. I honestly don't see the harm in it though.

1
0 0

Ack! I meant to hit the "Vote UP" arrow Melissa (Bancoff)! Please don't feel discouraged, I agree with you ;op Maybe there's a way someone can change it?

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46 1

I think it is important to have gender neutral play for children. It is interesting how many children do naturally flock toward their own male and female gender identities. My 2 1/2 year old daughter will go through a toy section or shoe department and say, "Girl toy, girl toy, boy toy, boy toy...girl shoes, girl shoes, boy shoes..." I haven't emphasized boy/girl to her but she is fully aware of it with having an older brother and sister in the house! She knows the gender differences, but loves to play with the "boy toys" like trains, cars, and trucks just as much as she plays with the "girl toys" of babies, Barbies, etc. We let her play with whatever she pleases, as a toy is a toy.

1
40 20

This is interesting indeed. My daughter has older cousins, both male and female, and she plays with their toys as long as she's careful with them and asks before using them. That's all I ask from her and she has free reign from there. Gender association isn't something I'd teach her with toys as I didn't grow up with that. I had four older brothers(1 passed away) and 1 older sister(she was the youngest till my twin brother n I came along) and our parents bought us any toys that we'd play with happily.

1
10 20

enourage...a toy is a toy in a childs mind...they don't see them as gender specific. My son is 2.5 years old and loves to ride his bike, jump in puddles, play football, hockey, basketall, baseball and wrestle with his older cousins. He also loves dollhouse and his cousins' Hannah Montana microphone. So what? As long as he is having fun, that's all that matters to me.

1
30 32

My child plays with whatever he wants. For a while, he had one of my toy purses in his toy box. It was just last week that he dug it out and brought it to me, saying, "Mommy, this is your purse!". He has a play apron and plays like he's cooking all the time. In fact, for his birthday, I asked for cooking toys for him. His favorite person on TV is Dora. I guess we did steer him toward more gender biased shoes when he asked for pink Dora shoes the last time we went shoe shopping but I remember feeling really horrible when we got home because I don't want to impose stereotypes on him. I am not concerned when he wants to do things that others consider "girl" things because really, what we call female and male roles are created by society and they don't transcend across cultures the same. My child has played with his bears, changing their diapers, and burping them like they were babies and I love it! He's learning about the world from the examples both my husband and I set so why should he not explore the roles we play evenly. I mean my husband and I share our houselhold roles so why shouldn't he. Even before he was born, we didn't know the sex of our child and it was a relief because no one could box him in. It frustrated others but it was so liberating.

1
9 13

It absolutely does NOT concern me. I grew up playing with my Cabbage Patch Kids and Tonka trucks. I didn't have any brothers, the cars were all mine. I figure if a boy wants to play with dolls, that's teaching him how to be a dad someday. And if a girl wants to play with cars, well, maybe she won't be dependent an a man when she grows up. I have 3 boys and a daughter now, and I'll admit that I do like to dress my daughter up in girly things (she likes it too) but she is the toughest out of my 4 kids.

1
7 8

Yeah it is a funny one it is usually not frowned upon if girls play with cars yet if a boy plays with barbie it's like heeeeey..... Children like to play and they probably go for the opposites because it is new and different from what they have at home or are used to playing with. Children have HUGE imaginations why limit them I say. Let them play with what they want it is all fun and games :D My girls loved cars and stuff until around 2 when I introduced her to barbie and stuff like tinkerbell, yet she still loves her blocks and cars over her tinkerbell toy lol I do not mind she loves girly lip gloss and yet she can play rough (fall over without much of a cry, dust it off and carry on) and loves playing cars doesn't bother me at all

1
35 19

Honestly, the bigger problem to me is the sexualization of toys for little girls. My boys play with dolls and ponies AND dinosaurs and cars. If they want pink, they can have pink. Different kinds of toys encourage different kinds of play, and "girl" toys seem to promote empathy and thoughtfulness and gentle behavior, in general, more than stereotypically "boy" toys. I want my boys to have the ability to be tender and thoughtful, and to empathise with others' feelings. I want my daughter to be strong and self-assured and stand up for herself. Pink and pastels never hurt any boys, and darker colors won't damage girls, any more than playing in the mud will hurt anyone. Some people who say it all much better than I ever could, check out this blog: http://blog.pigtailpals.com/

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1

its just like religion really you do or you don't and in the end they do or they dont

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123 3

I think it does make a little difference, but rather than intentionally say not to play this/that, maybe can observe what the child likes! You can read the book Pink brain, blue brain, was recommended for this topic :)

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18 0

I Encourage it i play with guns ( nerf, airsoft, paintball, and real ) my brother plays dress up

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