Boys are taught from a young age what is considered masculine behavior in today’s world, with an emphasis on encouraging the formation of those traits. They are taught to have no fear, to run, jump, and build things, and are encouraged to both save and rule the world. Aside from societal pressures that advocate males in dominant roles at home and in their chosen careers as adults, much of young boys’ imaginations are shaped by the toys they play with. The marketing masterminds have caught onto this, cashing in on your little boys’ play time and society’s inherent gender bias.
- Building Blocks and Construction Sets – Spatial thinking is the ability to visualize the relationship between structures in terms of location, distance, direction, shapes and patterns. Research at the University of Chicago has shown that children with this ability have an advantage when it comes to learning mathematics. These kinds of toys are said to improve spatial thinking capabilities. Building blocks are commonly seen in brick red or an assortment of primary colors. Rarely will you see pink building blocks or a construction set with a pink hammer and matching purple tool belt, though there has been a push to encourage girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
- Video Games – Typically, video games involve race cars, aliens in outer space, the military, gun fights or all of the above. There are video games for hunting enthusiasts, too. The main character tends to be male and the plot often involves some sort of battle with another male figure. You won’t find many mainstream video games with females in the lead, unless they’re licensed by movie studios and helmed by princesses.
- Action Figures – You may occasionally see generic military figurines, but any iconic big-screen action star is bound to make it the toy shelves. Many comic book characters are also transformed into little plastic collectibles for boys to bring their imagination to life, and girls are seldom in on the action.
- Toy Guns and Weapons – Most often offered in standard tough guy colors like black, blue, green, brown or gun metal gray, guns and weapons may not be popular choices with parents and are commonly regarded as detrimental to kids’ developmental health, but they do still proliferate. The promotional efforts by the manufacturers of these kinds of toys rarely appeal to little girls and are seldom seen in classic girlie colors, even though few parents would be likely to purchase them if they did.
- Toy Cars – They come in all makes and models, from miniature to kid-life size. Some have wind up wheels and others have real motors in them, so they can escort their best buddy around the back yard. Unless they’re bright pink accessories to the perfect life of a fashion doll, they’re not marketed to girls.
- Remote Control Toys – Little boys seem to have an affinity for toys with moving parts; with gears, tracks, or some detachable component to them. They also trend towards anything with a remote control. There is an astounding array of options for remote controlled cars, trucks, trains, planes and boats to feed the need for speed for your little boy, but few gender-neutral marketing campaigns to support interest in little girls.
- Sporting Equipment – There has been a rise in the popularity of professional women’s athletics, but culturally speaking, the field is dominated by males. The majority of toy sports equipment is generally sold in classic boy or primary colors that will appeal to the strong athlete in them.
- Trading Cards – Trading cards may be a favorite past time for older generations but they’re still out there and directly geared toward young boys. Most trading cards are sports-related, with male all-star athletes on the front and their career stats printed on the back.
- Superhero Costumes – Costume toys and dress-up sets for little girls do exist, but they’re all of the princess or traditionally-feminine variety. Dress-up costumes help your son become the embodiment of his favorite male superhero, but your daughter isn’t likely to have that choice.
- Grills – Little girls get pastel kitchenettes with an apron to match, emphasizing dainty cupcakes and cute food. Manlier sets come in colors far from pink or purple, with traditionally masculine trappings and a barbecue grill attached with all the appropriate cooking utensils for your little man to cook plastic meat.
The saying “boys will be boys” may hold some truth, regardless of which gender-specific toys they are given. The stereotype that boys should grow up to be strong, powerful men, capable of being the primary provider might have less to do with which toys they are given, and more to do with their own family culture. If you’re looking to raise a strapping young lad equipped to fulfill those traditional gender roles, worry less about the possibility of your son getting ahold of a pretty pink fashion doll and spend more quality time doing the things you see fit for an impressionable little boy. In the end, the environment in which they’re raised will have more influence on boys than playing with toys “for girls.
Syndicated with permission from FindaBabySitter.com.