Culture & Entertainment

The boy toy ghetto: GoldieBlox are the least of our issues

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Culture & Entertainment

The boy toy ghetto: GoldieBlox are the least of our issues

Marketed-to-girls building toy GoldieBlox has been all over the Internet and today, CBC's The Current. GoldieBlox first hit my radar for its supposedly pink-aisle-busting ad [formerly] featuring a song by the Beastie Boys, and then for its lawsuit about being able to continue to use the Beastie Boys' song, which it has now dropped. Newsflash: Girls should have building and engineering toys marketed to them too, and not just be stuck in the princess myth. While as a mom to two boys I kind of want to grouse -- where is the viral marketing campaign trying to get boys into important, social doll play?  -- I honestly am not that worked up about this particular product. (Boy and girl play tea party...in 1904) Kids learn through play. I agree that having a blue/boy section for toys and a pink/girl section for toys is totally problematic. I was raised in the '70s on Free to Be You and Me and I hate that we are still having to have these discussions. However, I don't think that the problem is whether Lego Friends are too purple or GoldieBlox has too much princess sparkle. I think the real problem is that we as parents don't cross the toy aisles often enough. This hit me when my eldest son was getting close to 18 months old and starting to play more with toys. We went on a playdate and he was really into a baby doll. I realized I hadn't actually bought him any dolls, and so I went on a search for one for him. All the dolls I found that were under about $25 and in my local mainstream toy stores were pink. I was pretty infuriated at the time that all the strollers and car seats and everything else were in the "pink aisles." Where were the boy-oriented dolls? Finally, I found a set of twin baby dolls where one was a girl and one was a boy and brought them home. Noah played with them for a few weeks, and then figured out they were great projectiles down the stairs. Here's what I learned from all that: 1. If as a family you really believe in a particular toy, don't wait for the right colour. There was nothing stopping my 18-month-old from picking up a pink doll but me. And no, Lego doesn't have to be pink for girls to get all the awesome benefits of playing with it. If you want your child to have a science toy, buy that child a science toy. That said... 2. Cultural messages start early, so make sure you are providing your own. Boys may be more attracted to "boy toys" and girls may be more attracted to "girl toys" for a wide variety of reasons. But both girls and boys love attention from their parents, so sitting down and playing with them in a wide variety of ways is a pretty good way to introduce them to whatever it is you think they're lacking. 3. Kids are going to have their own minds about it anyway. Although I think marketers are thrilled to think that putting the right sparkle on a building toy will make it cool, in fact kids are going to want what they want. And yes, their peers are going to influence that -- isn't that how it worked when you were a kid? And so are ad campaigns. But ultimately, we are our kids' parents and it's up to us to support them in what they want -- and also get them what we think they need. That was kind of the original message about "William's Doll" on Free to Be, You and Me anyway...William wanted a doll. His parents were the ones who wouldn't buy it for him. So what's your take? Do kids naturally gravitate to toys based on gender? Have you got a pink or blue ghetto going at your house? (Photo: Miami University Libraries, via Flickr Creative Commons)
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The boy toy ghetto: GoldieBlox are the least of our issues

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