Educational Toys For Girls And Boys - Is There A Difference?
By Karen Singleton
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.
Some great 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 Lawson
Toaster to practice getting you breakfast in bed one day
Wooden sword for swashbuckling pirates
Shape sorter to challenge and stimulate the younger child
Karen Singleton 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.