Gender specific toys: advice column Q&A

I came across a question and answer from a nationally syndicated advice column the other day.  I read this in my local newspaper and got such a kick out of it I brought it home to share with my partner:

My 7-year-old daughter loves playing with her 13-year-old brother’s toys.  She has her own toys, but she does not play with them because she said that boys’ toys are “way cooler.”  I don’t know what “way cooler” means, but I would prefer my girl to play with her toys.  Do you think I am wrong for thinking this way, or should I find “cooler” girl toys for my daughter to play with?
-Daddy’s Little Girl, West Orange, NJ

Your son’s toys will be fascinating to your daughter no matter what they are, because they belong to her big brother.  Her desire to play with them shows her interest in connecting with him.  Chances are, if you bought her duplicates of all of his toys, she would still choose to play with his.  This could be extremely annoying to your teenage son, who is probably doing his best to grow up and be independent.

Suggest to your son that he devote some of his time playing with his sister.  Enjoying a bit of her brother’s attention should help her to become less obsessive about his toys.  Suggest that your son let her play with one of his toys on a regular basis as long as she agrees that she will not touch any of his other toys without his permission.  Negotiating playtime and boundaries should help them to find a comfort zone.

When I read this, it felt like a tiny victory.  This parent was, essentially asking what to do about the gender-anxiety-inducing situation of her offspring playing with the wrong type of toys.  Should she find cooler girl toys so her daughter will be more drawn to the right ones?  She wants her girl to play with girl toys.

Normally, I’d be miffed that the advice columnist didn’t address the question / concerns.  But in this case, it’s so refreshing that gendered toys was not touched on whatsoever.  Rightly so – seems like a non-issue.  Also ignored was the impulse to buy more toys and control the daughter’s desires.  Instead, the columnists focused on cultivating a good relationship between the brother and sister based around spending time together and creating boundaries.  And also pointing out how the 13-year-old must feel about all of this.

It’s not about girls’ toys and boys’ toys.  It’s about family dynamics and finding what’s best for everyone.  The columnist gets it!  Spread the sentiment!

2 Comments on “Gender specific toys: advice column Q&A”

  1. MainelyButch says:

    I have a friend who grew up with an older brother and she wanted to do whatever he did, so she wanted his toys, to play baseball like him, to ride motorcycles like him…and eventually to have a girlfriend like him….do you really think it’s about the toys? I don’t. Just my opinion, but as a child (without any older siblings at all) I always chose the more “boy” type of toys…not only were they “way cooler” but they were exactly what I wanted and it had nothing to do with them being for “boys” or “girls”…it was the TOY that I chose, not the gender of the toy (if there IS such a thing). Thanks for sharing this, very insightful. 🙂


  2. Kate says:

    I read this same column in the paper and felt validated. I am also a little sister who was most likely supremely annoying to my older brother growing up, for the same reasons put so simply in the response. I spent a lot of time in his room when he was away, and have felt a void since a young age for not being able to connect once he became a teenager. It’s shaped more about me than I care to admit.

    But there’s more to this scenario. These toys may cue the parents regarding their daughter’s real interests. There is something more to them than simply being her brother’s, or they likely would not sustain her extended attention. What is it that engages her? Are they mechanical in nature, or do they tap into an aspect of imagination that lame “girl toys” don’t? Understanding that could lead to a find that is possibly cooler than her brother’s toys and reinforce in her a stronger sense of self — independent of her brother and from the onslaught of subliminally transmitted notions that boys themselves are way cooler.

    Cool post! I am intrigued by the discussion of gender identity in relation to sibling / family dynamics.

    Liked by 1 person

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