Educational toys for girls and boys - is there a difference-

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					?Do boys and girls play differently? Should you be choosing different toys for them?
And should an interest in certain toys be discouraged? These are all questions that
may cross the mind of any parent, family member or friend trying to decide how to
choose the most appropriate toy from all those available on the market.

Boys will be boys

Few people would deny that most boys tend to like cars, trains, guns and action
packed games, whereas in general girls seem happier playing with dolls/soft toys,
domestic toys such as kitchens, and sparkly dressing up clothes. Is there anything
wrong with this? On the surface no, but if play is solely restricted to strongly gender
stereotyped toys and games then things may take a different turn. It could mean that
girls will grow up learning that looking attractive and developing strong nurturing and
domestic skills are of primary importance. And, because their toys and games tend to
be more competitive, often with an element of risk, danger or aggression, boys may
grow up learning that aggression, violence, and competition are both fun and exciting.

Are you a positive role model?

There have been several studies into how girls and boys play with toys and what
influences them to do so. One of the key influential factors is how children observe
adults interacting with the toys during shared play time as this sends strong messages
to children regarding gender-typed behaviours (1). Children will often mimic the
behaviour of their role model adult. In fact studies have shown that parents tend to
spend more time playing with the child's gender-same toys longer, for example a girl's
doll, or a boy's train. Also, that parents seem more comfortable with gender-same toys
and can often be dismissive of cross-sexed toys (2). Maybe rather than observing how
your child plays with toys, you should be observing how you play with toys and
considering the influence you are having on them!

What about comfort toys - good or bad?

Many children may become attached to a particular toy or object such as a blanket.
Whilst parents may worry that this is not healthy and should be discouraged there is
no evidence to suggest this is the case. In fact children who adopt favourite comfort
objects are often liable to sleep better and be well adjusted. In most cases the
obsession with a particular toy or object will be grown out of when the child is ready.

Variety is the spice of life!
The bottom line is that from an educational development perspective both boys and
girls will benefit most from being exposed to a wide variety of different play
experiences to help them fully develop. Puzzles and shape sorters will teach all
children about shapes, colours and names of objects. And, all children will gain from
playing with, for example, toy kitchen equipment, dolls, cars, fantasy figures and
computer games irrespective of their gender. These type of toys stimulate imagination
and teach practical new skills. Maybe this is the critical thing to remember when
choosing a toy for a child - education begins at an early age and a varied education
will give every child the solid grounding for a more balanced view of life as they
develop and grow.

Some great educational wooden toys for girls and boys to enjoy;

Tool box for budding DIY experts
Vanity case to accompany fun dressing up
Wooden kitchen/cooker for the next Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson
Toaster to practice getting you breakfast in bed one day
Wooden sword for swashbuckling pirates
Shape sorter to challenge and stimulate the younger child


Karen Singleton

Strawberry Children's Toys


(1) Caldera, Huston, O'Brien, 1989

(2) Langolis and Downs, 1980

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