Now I have both a boy and a girl and they’re growing out of the toddler years, it’s been fascinating to watch their gender roles develop. Before I had children, I always thought “boys things” and “girls things” were enforced by society, but now I’m not so sure.
My children have always had equal access to all their toys and I never say “oh that’s for girls” or “that’s a boy’s toy”, however they seem to have naturally gravitated towards toys with a gender stereotype – my daughter loves to play with dolls and my son just wants to play with his cars.
While I’ve never discouraged my son from playing with dolls, he’s never been particularly interested either. He doesn’t seem to have that inbuilt nurturing instinct that my daughter has.
I do think that’s a bit of a shame and I actually think boys should be actively encouraged to play with dolls – the benefits are the same for both boys and girls, and after all we all want our sons to grow up to be good fathers, right?
Dolls and accessories are naturally marketed towards girls but there’s a notable movement towards providing more options for boys and I’ve seen quite a few dolls prams that would be great for boys – simple designs in blue or gender neutral colours that won’t be considered to be “too girly”.
Definitely at the toddler stage, there is very little difference between boys and girls and a wooden pram is a great toy for pushing, walking practice, carting around bricks and pushing each other back and forward. While there are lots of pink wooden prams around, there are also some lovely unpainted gender neutral versions and even a couple in the shape of a car that would be great for any little boy.
Young girls often have more developed fine motor skills compared to their male peers and one of the main reasons for this is the type of play that they’re so often engaged in. Dressing dolls, wrapping them up and pretending to feed them are all quite complex actions and help to develop the muscles and dexterity in hands and fingers. If you encourage your young son to join in with his sisters when they’re playing with dolls, it’s sure to improve his fine motor skills, as well as helping him to develop social skills and become more in tune with his emotions.
Lets not forget that boys do love playing with dolls – action figures have been an integral part of any little boy’s toy collection for several generations. The only difference between playing with an army figure and a baby doll is in the eyes of the parent who bought it.
I’ve found that it’s frequently the dads who don’t want their sons playing with dolls, whereas mothers are more open to it. If this is the case for you, it may be helpful to do a little google image search – I’ve seen some beautiful pictures of boys playing with dolls on blogs, including pushing them around in prams and wearing them in doll size baby carriers.
I really think that if more mums and dads encouraged their little boys to play with dolls instead of guiding them towards cars and “boy things”, we’d be well on our way to raising the next generation of more caring, well-rounded men.