Dubai: This may come as news to many parents.
The toy trucks, trains, airplanes and construction models that are routinely bought for male children?
Well, they would be absolutely perfect toys for girls too, according to a study conducted by toy-maker Lego.
Toys that have traditionally been viewed as male-oriented, elicited the highest quality play among girls, the study said.
Involving more than 6,000 mothers and fathers worldwide, including in the Middle East, the study sought to examine the historical, cultural, and psychological prompts for parents when buying toys for their children. What factors influence parents to assign genders to toys?
We apply stereotypes to so many things in life and in our everyday rush, it becomes easy to apply it to our kids too. Maybe next time you’re in a toy store with your daughter, for example, explore a section that you otherwise wouldn’t have considered.”
Do toys deemed as feminine limit the imagination of young girls, or set it free?
Toys are development tools
The choice of toys and the way of playing, says the study, can affect children’s development differently.
Urszula Bieganska, head of marketing Middle East Lego, said: “Unconscious biases are just mental shortcuts that stem from longstanding social norms and cultural conditioning. We apply stereotypes to so many things in life and in our everyday rush, it becomes easy to apply it to our kids too. Maybe next time you’re in a toy store with your daughter, for example, explore a section that you otherwise wouldn’t have considered.”
The big myth that needs to be debunked here is that parents don’t always know which is the right toy for their child in developing their cognitive abilities.
According to experts from the Centre for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University, toys that look the most interesting to adults are not particularly effective in promoting development among children.
Basic is best, say the experts. Simplest toys — like classic construction toys, building blocks, or sets of vehicles and road signs - are great baseline options to begin with.
These kind of toys, says the centre, promote problem-solving, social interaction, and creative expression in boys and girls — and because they’re pretty open-ended, kids can use them in lots of different ways.
What the study found
The Lego Foundation study asked over 6,000 mothers and fathers worldwide, including in the Middle East, and found:
96%of parents believe playing helps kids develop their creativity and social skills.
95%feel that playing fosters creative problem-solving and the ability to learn from mistakes.
Experiment: Are you standing in your child’s way?
THE ASSUMPTIONS: Lego Middle East conducted a social experiment, through a Imagination Has No Gender campaign video in the Middle East that challenged parental assumptions. Mothers were asked to view a video that depicted the hands of a child building an airplane made of LEGO bricks. Mothers then talked about the child’s possible career – maybe a pilot, they said. Or a scientist. Engineer. Perhaps an architect.
THE REALITY: The hands building the toy airplane, however, belonged to a little girl. The mothers automatically assumed that the child was male.
The experiment shed light on an unconscious bias that mothers hadn’t recognised they had, showing just how impactful certain social, cultural, or traditional influences can be.
So the next time you’re considering which toy to buy for your child, ask yourself: “Am I standing in the way of my child’s imagination?” And then, choose well.