Toys have always fascinated me. Children learn from play and it helps to formulate their ideas, devise challenges and of course, foster creativity. I read today that a big toy for the holiday season is the Lego Friends series. So what is different about these Legos? Yes, they are in female friendly colors, shades of pink and purple and meant to build things girls like, such as a bake shop or hair salon.
My mind bounced around on both sides of this issue like it was watching a tennis match. Love girls playing with building toys. Love it so much that years ago I did a huge research project that explored the toy selection of young girls who later excelled in math and science. I love these kinds of toys and yes, I admit it, I liked dolls too, especially loved the dreaded Barbie which I am loathe to admit.
My discoveries in my research told me a few definitive things. It was actually difficult to collect hard data and would take a better longitudinal study to do this well, but nonetheless, certain facts were clear. Girls were very influenced by their parents in selecting toys, even if in a day care or nursery school environment. Many Moms were reluctant to give their daughters “boy” toys for fear they would not be viewed as feminine. The long and short of it is both parents were cautious and delivered subliminal messages because there were afraid that one day their beautiful female child would not be thought of as attractive or feminine. Bottom line: she would not find a quality husband.
This was my original hypothesis, but I was hoping for contrary information. As a parent, with subtlety or not so much, it is hard not to push your personal likes on your child. You want them to like what you like. You want them to have friends and be attractive and successful. It is hard to let your child be whom he or she is. Perhaps purely doing this is impossible, however, it is vital that a child becomes who he or she is meant to be. Most children want to please, and so they do and fall in line. Some rebel, some wake up, but some don’t.
I am happy about the Legos because it is a great toy. I am not happy that it has reduced the challenges for girls to simpler building challenges and restricted them to typical girl like venues. It belittles women in my opinion. What if a boy wants to build the bake shop? Can girls build Lego Star Wars? Can a girl build the Ferrari model? I don’t understand why these toys can’t be for either gender. If more variety in colors are needed, so be it. Primary v. pastel? Stars Wars in hues of pink and purple? Is that bad?
I have fought myself since reading a tweet about the ideal gift for the young girl in your life this holiday season. These Legos have been out for almost a year, but now have renewed interest because of the holidays. I want to think it is okay. I am happy girls will play with Legos. But somehow, someone doesn’t get it. Legos didn’t need to be dumbed down for girls to like them. Actually a lot of girls like them. I know girls like girly things. I like girly things, but I also like to build stuff and would have liked to make a complex house, train or car in any color. It really doesn’t have to be pink. I don’t even like pink.
It is Legos’ job to sell toys and so they will market to whomever they think will buy toys. I wish they could have a more advanced social conscience. This world needs to expand on its base of innovators. We need more scientists and engineers and girls have just as much talent as boys. Girls will never know they have this ability if they just put together simplistic toys. They need a challenge. They are up this task. I am sure.
Girls need to see other girls, women and like role models doing tasks that are not defined by gender. A girl can be anything a boy can be. Why not?