Child

My son plays like a girl

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.

Vox Pop- “Does it bother you?”

We asked our fans on the Mamanpourlavie.com Facebook page to share their thoughts.

“Does your little boy have a doll or your little girl a toy truck? Do toys have a gender? Have you ever been criticized for having offered a toy to your child that is traditionally destined to the opposite sex?”

I have never received any negative comments. I will not prohibit my daughter from playing with cars or trucks. She has a garage and has a lot of fun playing with it! However, I have often heard comments from fathers who will not accept that their sons play with dolls or babies, even if their son asks for it.
Isabelle

Prejudice comes from parents, not children….
Karine

My son plays with dolls with his sister and my daughter plays with trucks with her brother. I have absolutely no problem with that! However, I must admit that they both mostly play with toys associated with their own gender and that toys of the opposite gender are more for occasional play.
Marie-Michèle

My children only have an age difference of 18 months, therefore when my 3-year-old boy wants to play with cars, his 21-month-old sister wants to play as well! The same thing goes for dolls: we had to make sure we bought two strollers for Christmas so there would be no fighting! What is important to them is playing together. The “gender” of the toy is not important.
Sara

I have dolls in my kindergarten and it never crossed my mind to forbid boys from playing with them.
Marie-Pier

We have two beautiful boys, captivated by all kinds of things, from cars to dolls, play kitchens to hockey! Who said that taking care of a baby and cooking is only addressed to girls? It’s 2010! We are very proud of our sons
Sophie

Toys do not have a gender; it is adults who genderize them. Sincerely, I have trouble understanding why some toys have been attributed a specific gender… mom drives the car; dad makes supper and changes diapers, what is the problem? Our children tend to imitate us; it is normal for them to want a toy that corresponds to the person that they want to mimic.
Cindrella

My three- year-old son has a baby doll (that I bought him) and I do not have any problem with it. With the help of his doll, he learned how to be soft and caring, and today, he is very gentle with his little brother. When I take care of my baby, my oldest son likes to imitate me with his baby doll.
Valérie

Evolution?

Sexualization of toys has also changed for these second millennium parents:

  • Toys made for children less than two years of age have no sexual connotation. The same toys are given to boys and girls.
  • Two and three years old seems to be the turning point in age where toys start to become sexualized. It’s explained by the fact that it is the age when children are potty trained. The absence of diapers has children asking questions about their private parts and parents explaining the differences between genders.
  • Girls now have access to every category of toys and games, even if they express the desire to play exclusively with masculine toys (drills, Zorro, masculine figurines).
  • Boys also have access to toys that are either masculine or feminine.

However, parents still seem to show certain signs of reluctance. Boys have to mix genders in the way they play. In other words, both father and mother are not likely to allow their son to play exclusively with feminine toys (play kitchen, vacuum cleaner, feminine dolls…). That being said, sexual differentiation in toys seems to be of lesser importance nowadays compared to 30 years ago. Nonetheless, myths and beliefs concerning the power of toys and sports on the sexualization of children still withstand. The parental speech on this matter is alarmingly ambivalent: children can play with all sorts of toys, just as long as they do not spend too much time playing with toys of the opposite sex!

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.


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