The other day, I asked my 12 year old niece for a Christmas wish list and requested that she work with her younger brothers and sister to get me one for them too. When I received them back, I was astonished…and then embarrassed.
- For my 10 year old niece? Legos
- For my 4 year old nephew? A toy vacuum, fridge and stove.
Suddenly I recalled my nephew’s birthday a year previously, I had bought him Legos, partially because he had just started a Lego club at school, but partially because what BOY wouldn’t enjoy them? I remembered that my then 9 year old niece exclaimed, “I want Legos so bad”. I smiled and nodded and went on with my day.
As an educator and an advocate for equality, I like to believe that I expose the children in my life not only ways to enjoy education but also that I am open enough to give children a well-rounded experience. And yet I failed. I had put these toys in a box, literally and figuratively and gave them to the “correctly gendered” child.
Later that week, I got into a conversation with a friend of mine, who is a technology designer of some sort . We looked on smiling as my husband threw our friends’ one year old in the air. In an effort to ever be the educator, I exclaimed, “And this is why children need father figures”. Men are so much “rougher” with children giving them skills they wouldn’t have otherwise. He excitedly told me about a study he had read about, in which some basic S.T.E.M. skills are enhanced by activities such as these. According to this study (I am researching its whereabouts), girls are played with a bit more gently even by their fathers, in turn affecting their proprioception and other essential skills.
As I think about the implications for the real world, both home and classroom, it encourages me to dig deep and really examine my preconceived notions about toys and their role. Parents need to be able to identify their own misconceptions and make decisions based off of their values in order to ensure that their children receive the most well rounded opportunities to grow their passions and build on their strengths.
Who knows? My 10 year old niece might grow up to be a world renowned architect. And my 4 year old nephew? Well he could decide that he wants to be a stay at home dad, own his own cleaning company or design and manufacture the newest and best household products. The possibilities are endless. If we let them be.
Read more about gender typed toys at: http://www.naeyc.org/content/what-research-says-gender-typed-toys