Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Toys: Boys vs. Girls (The Second Child Edition)

Back in July 2010, I wrote a blog entry about the difference between how boys play with toys and how girls play with toys: http://sandysmotherhoodblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/toys-boys-vs-girls.html Revisiting that entry now that I have a child of each gender only serves to reinforce my belief that boys and girls play differently. It’s certainly true in my family, at least.

My son has been obsessed with cars and trucks ever since he was small. Even before he could walk, he would crawl over to anything with wheels and attempt to spin them – a grocery cart, a stroller, a skateboard. I always made sure to keep a matchbox car or small truck in my purse to keep him entertained. And since his obsession continues, my daughter (who is almost 2 years younger than her brother) has grown up surrounded by cars and trucks. And when she was tiny, she was also content to zoom them across the table and to watch their wheels spin in fascination. But now that she is old enough to be interested in what toys are or represent, rather than just their physical size and feel, she is much less interested in cars.

Her toys of choice are generally soft items like stuffed animals and dolls. She loves to hug them and coo to them and make them kiss each other. For her, I keep several small plastic animals in my purse. Giraffe and tiger often make an appearance at a restaurant, hiding behind cups and salt shakers and playing peek-a-boo with her, and just generally allowing themselves to be kissed and pawed and snuggled and loved. If on occasion I have forgotten to put a car in my purse and I give my son the same toy animals to play with, instead of kissing each other and playing nicely, they will roar ferociously and attempt to eat each other.

There are also huge differences in how they choose to play with the same non-specific toys. Give them both a box of Legos and my son will alternate between building and knocking down towers and designing some kind of gun or cannon, whereas my daughter will stick a single Lego on the index finger of each hand and click them together with fascination, and then pick out all the flowers and animals that are part of the Lego set.

If you let them choose from the same group of toys, they rarely choose the same things. At a local play area, my son runs directly to the train table where he immediately starts redesigning the track while my daughter makes a beeline for the play house and begins to “chat” on the phone.

Of course, there are often similarities in their play, especially when it comes to imagination games. They both love to run, and squeal, and be tickled, and play hide-and-seek. They both love to dig in the sand and splash in the water and scribble with crayons and chalk. They both love to strum the guitar and pound on the piano keys and bang on anything that bears a passing resemblance to a drum. They love to make an old paper towel tube into a trumpet. They are both fascinated by sticking stickers on things.
But when it comes right down to it, their play is fundamentally different, because THEY are fundamentally different. And although I would never tell my daughter that she can’t be a construction worker or an engineer simply because she’s a girl, and I would never tell my son that he can’t be a nurse or a teacher because he’s a boy, I do believe that their future interests are going to be very divergent from each other just due to their natures, which are in part due to their gender. Because they’re different. And viva la difference!

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