DailyDirt: Toys For Girls

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Every parent wants to encourage their kid’s natural interests, but there are a ton of other influences in the lives of little kids — like toy makers and advertisers. It can be difficult to find purely educational toys that aren’t trying to peddle a bunch of other stuff. For parents of little girls, the toy aisles seem particularly loaded with questionable themes. Here are just a few examples.

If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post.

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Companies: american doll, lego

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Toys For Girls”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Other than the fact that the lego toys include a hair salon, I don’t really think that they’re reinforcing negative stereotypes all that much. None of these toys have to do with babies, housework or shopping, which are the stereotypes I loathe. According to the article (from last year) they’ve got a clinic, a veterinary clinic and a horse academy. I don’t have a problem with girl toys that encourage interest in human and animal medicine, and while horses are a girl stereotype, in my experience they’re at least an accurate stereotype. (So many girls I knew were into horses.)

As a girl, I would have loved to have purple legos, although I wouldn’t have liked the fact that they clashed with the rest of the lego colors. I think it’s good that they recognize girls aren’t as focused on putting together full sets (so they bag the pieces differently). I and girls I knew who played with legos, used legos to support stories. While I had a lot of cool sets, I don’t think I ever finished putting one together – that wasn’t my priority. Instead I created houses and things for my other toys (I preferred the playmobil dolls) and then played out fantasies.

Lego’s current “girl” offerings are more along those lines. Lots of Harry Potter, with some Disney princesses. However, I’ve got no idea what’s going on with the “Bikini Bottom Undersea Party” (Spongebob) and I’m not thrilled about the wedding stuff.

Xyzzy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Horses only became a “girl” thing after it somewhat abruptly stopped being a “kid” thing — it’s no coincidence that in virtually all of the children’s horse books written prior to 1950 (Black Beauty, The Black Stallion series, My Friend Flicka, many lesser-known books) plus adult fiction involving kids/horses like Steinbeck’s The Red Pony, the kid’s a horse-crazy boy. Until cars took their place as the “boy” interest, horses were even considered a specifically masculine interest, not something for girls at all!

Regarding the toys: I agree that it’s good that they’re not pushing the worst of the stereotypes, but it’s still taking normal gender-neutral toys that kids in general enjoyed, and making a small segregated crappy version what girls get. That gives the message that normal/mainstream things are male by default with a “feminine” version being a more limited girly-looking version, and that ‘real’ boys/girls wouldn’t want certain toys. That results in different abilities being strengthened through play in the two sexes, then gives them the impression that they’re better/weaker at certain things because those interests or abilities are inherently gendered (which can push kids to weaken or neglect what they’re good at in order to follow their gender identity or avoid possible bullying).

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Buy Cardboard Instead.

There is a kind of cardboard you can get, called “oaktag,” the kind of cardboard cereal boxes are made of. You can get it in big sheets at an art or architecture supply store. You want the variety which is about a tenth of an inch thick, strong enough that objects a couple of feet long will remain rigid, but thin enough to be bent by hand, or cut out with reasonably child-safe tools. I would suggest either a kitchen scissors, or perhaps a coping saw. You can cut out parts, and bend them, and tape them together. I had a lot of fun with oaktag when I was a kid, much more than I did with the various Legos, Erector sets, Tinker Toys, and Lincoln Logs. It is inherently much more flexible than modular construction kits. Of course the cardboard will get used up, the same as crayons, but that is an acceptable trade-off.

An architectural supply store will also have various kinds of wood shapes, which you might look into.

Tekton Coping Saw. They’re Chinese, of course, but I got some of their files, and they seemed to be reasonably decent workmanship for the price.

Here is a useful book, perhaps a bit advanced for children, but they can grow into it.

Minor C. Hawk, Theory and Problems of Descriptive Geometry, Schaum’s Outline Series in Engineering, 1962


Parenthetically, think about giving your child a set of good-quality mechanical drawing tools. I was given a set at the age of seven. Most of them stood up to childhood play, and I used them when I took mechanical drawing in engineering school, fifteen years later. CAD/CAM software is inappropriate for children. It saves a great deal of trouble in writing all the annotations and comments which an engineering drawing must have, but it buffers the direct experience of drawing lines and circles. For children, you want that direct experience.

SujaOfJauhnral (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No joke. I’m so fucking tired of pink! Just cause I’m female doesn’t mean I like pink, I HATE pink!

Blue is my favorite color yet it can be difficult to find especially in things like phones or appliances, usually they’ve got the general black, white & gray, PINK and nothing else.

Make it blue, god dammit, blue!

Anonymous Coward says:

I was just talking to my boyfriend about the way we played with legos. Mostly, he played with legos by using them to build things. In contrast, I used legos to build the toys I wanted. It seems like that’d be a good marketing strategy; Lego’s let your kid build the toys they want.

He’d build a spaceship, play with it for 8 minutes, then take it apart and build another spaceship. I’d build a house for my dolls and play with it. Then I’d come up with a better design for the house and build additions or tear it down and start from scratch.

LDoBe (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Maybe my brother and I (male too) got stuck in the Freudian penile phase, but all he and I ever made were the tallest towers we could (we were big on lego when we were around 7 or 8). We got some towers 3 or 4 meters tall before they fell over. We had a 3 story living room with indoor landing balconies looking out onto it from the stairs. (BTW, I’m not sure how I can explain the balconies other than it was kind of like an open atrium hotel where you could see ever floor from the ground.)

Xyzzy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sounds like a variant of how I played with mine as a girl — I found it kind of boring to just make houses or whatnot, I thought the real appeal was to build sideways (either bricks top-to-bottom but rotated 90? or truly to the side) as far as possible before it broke somewhere, figure out how to patch/prevent that break without adding enough weight in bricks to cause it to break at an earlier point, then (once I’d fixed it) start trying to lengthen it until it broke somewhere.

Then again, the only use I ever found in the silly Barbie dolls my relatives kept getting me was in dismembering them, then rubber-banding wheels from other toys onto each individual body part, and rubber-band slingshotting them across the kitchen floor with my little brother, either to see which we could shoot the farthest or in a slightly demented form of bowling using other smallish toys. (Unsurprisingly, when my 7th grade science class had to create rubber-band propelled vehicles, I chose a Barbie leg as the core of mine.)

Jason says:

Can't be both

Either it’s based on thorough research and observance of how actual children play or it’s a harmful stereotype.

It can’t be both. I’m a father of girls and for two of them, if you want to market to them, you’d better go pink or go home. The other two, they want their own 3D printer.

It’s not wrong for Lego to give girls what they want to play with. It’s just too bad they can’t let the girls fabricate their own toys.

Liz (profile) says:

Can't be both

A bit of toy history for you.

Lionel Trains tried to create and market a train set just for girls in 1957. Most girls were incredibly put off by the pastel train set and the product failed to bring in the sales that Lionel had expected. It was also considered a marketing failure for the company.

Turns out girls at the time wanted the same realistic trains that the boys had.

Jason says:

Can't be both

I don’t get it. Why was this vague historical tidbit directed at me? It doesn’t seem to relate at all to what I said.

The linked article (did you read it?) says Lego actually researched the differences in how girls play with their toys and planned the toys around what they observed in that research. My point is that an approach that diversifies available options based upon observed behavior is sort of the opposite of stereotyping.

How is that related to Lionel simplistically painting their trains a different color back in the 1900s?

Liz (profile) says:

Can't be both

You stated “it can’t be both.” it is even the title of your post. When in fact it can be both researched and horribly stereotyped at the same time. Especially when given a small sample size, or utilizing faulty data.

The point is that girls will play with whatever they like, regardless of marketing or stylistic design. We can delve into the sociological aspects of feminine design choices if you like, but that’s a bit dry for my tastes.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Recommended Drafting Tools.

Here is a list of essential drafting tools, substantially similar to the set I was given at the age of seven. At Amazon prices, it comes to about two hundred and ten dollars. To paraphrase the 1900 Sears catalog: “buy good tools, they will pay in the end.”

This looks like a fairly presentable set of compasses. Avoid plastic compasses like the plague, because they don’t repeat accurately. Note the “stoppers” at the end of the screw threads, so that the thing won’t fly apart if you turn the wheel too far. Also, you can just see it in the picture, but the pins have a small spike in a wide base. That makes for accurate positioning. Incidentally, Alvin is a long established manufacturer, and well recommended.

MAVERICK BOW COMPASS DWG SET Drafting, Engineering, Art (General Catalog)

It’s also nice to have one really big compass:

Staedtler Masterbow Comfort Student Compass for Circles to 10.25 Inch Diameter, Lead and Pouch (551-40-WP)

Triangle Set 10″ 30/60 & 8″ 45/90

Alvin & Co. FC88 FRENCH CURVE SET, 8 piece set

Koh-I-Noor Portable Drawing Board or Drawing Head portable drawing board

Koh-I-Noor Portable Drawing Board and Head – Drawing Head


Note that the rotating head is sold separately from the matching drawing board and T-square.

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