How normal is it for a boy to play with dolls, prefer girl playmates and love princesses? What is normal, however, is for this sort of behaviour to raise questions as a parent, since it does not correspond to your idea of little boy games. In addition, it worries you that your child could be ostracized in kindergarten and then in school; he could be the target of unflattering nicknames. All moms sometimes wonder if their son has a “manufacturing defect”.
Yet it is certainly not the case. Toys don’t have a gender. So what if your son likes to play with dolls? What he’s truly doing is projecting himself into the role of a father. Nowadays, fathers engage more and more in daily activities with their kids, making it normal for little boys to imitate them, which is good news! Why ask for a fully involved father and then be worried by the same behavior from your little man? He’s only acting like his model.
Furthermore, nothing leaves us to think that these games have any kind of repercussion on his future sexual identity or masculinity. In fact, what is important to understand is that, for the meantime, your son has more affinities with the female temperament. Whoever said that he enjoy setting up tea parties. Kids are curious and need to explore all possibilities. As a result, you do not have to feel uncomfortable in letting him play with toys of the opposite sex.
Games and toys are a world to discover for kids. With time, the way in which they play games and the toys they choose will change depending on their personal preferences. Boys will likely prefer action-filled games with a lot of movement, whereas girls will mostly favor role playing. Around the age of six, when children start school, games that are socially associated with their sex will most likely be accentuated.
Girls can be tomboys… but boys cannot play like girls
Nowadays, mothers describe their girls as fighters and their sons as gentle and caring. As for fathers, they see their little girls as adorable little princesses and their sons as turbulent handymen. Girls considered as fighters by their mothers and tomboys by their fathers please both parents. As a result, girls have access to traditional masculine toys and manly sports such as soccer, rugby and even boxing.
Pushing the envelope even further, parents encourage their daughters to fight (girls have to know how to defend themselves or else they are sissies) and even push them to participate in extreme experiences (… it strengthens personality).
Nevertheless, reality is completely different for boys, who have access to girl toys only under certain conditions. Either the boy has a sister to use as an alibi, or he as to behave in a manly or neutral way with the toys. (Personally, I am at ease because I have both sexes at home and they share the same toys.)
However ,certain toys still remain forbidden for boys:
- Dolls, except if they are deviated from their usual role ( if he plays with a doll only to later pull its head off, we are reassured)
- Games with domestic appliances, except if used in moderation (if he asks for the iron once, it’s OK, but if he asks for it 10 times, not so sure…)
- Feminine sports, such as classical dance, especially make mothers uncomfortable (I am willing to influence him and suggest other activities). Fathers, even if they are embarrassed, are more comfortable with the idea (then again, it depends on how definite the idea is).
Source: The study Les jouets ont-ils encore un sexe?, by ABC+ for the Observatoire Fisher-Price on the attitudes parents have towards differences in toys for boys and girls.