Raising a Boy: Toys

One of the things I knew way before I became a mom is that I would let my child, and any I have cared for over the years, play with whatever age appropriate toys they wanted regardless of its supposed gender designation. There are not boy toys and girl toys. Pink toys and a lack of interest in team sports will not turn a boy gay and I clearly wouldn’t care if he was.


There are tons of already gender neutral toys like play kitchens, blocks, and  puzzles that it baffles me why there have to be hyperfeminized versions of each next to the bolder or neutral options. Why does everything have to be plastered in pink and frills in order for a girl to play with it? It didn’t used to be that way and is just a marketing scheme aimed to make parents buy more stuff.

I have heard of parents, often times fathers, refusing to allow their sons to play with kitchen sets, dress up toys, or baby dolls. All of those things come in non hyperfeminized versions. An uncle of mine, and father of five, commented about getting Wallace into sports and lots of boy things. I don’t think he was joking.

Before Wallace was born, I started finding good basic toys at garage sales and thrift stores while searching for baby clothes and books for myself. I found a wooden shape sorter, stacking toy, and airplane as well as duplos and dolls from my own childhood. I started making felt play food and putting a few things on the shower registry. I was trying to keep it neutral and developmental because he wouldn’t have opinions on these things for a couple years.

For his first birthday and Christmas, I was proud of my family and friends for not going crazy with stereotypical boy toys or overly commercialized products from shows and movies (seeing as we don’t watch TV). He did get a lot more trucks and blocks than I think he would have if he were a girl so it is good he seems to love all things vehicular. He also didn’t get anything thought of as for girls.

Now that he is 2 and full of opinions, I like seeing what things he gravitates to. He was obsessed with a dog purse, replete with pink sequins, at a house I worked at so I got him one when I saw it on sale at Target. His current favorites at home are trains, garbage and dump trucks, cars, and little people animal sets. I don’t mind that he is really into these toys because they are his genuine interests and a stereotype reinforced by marketing, peers, and people he looks ups to.

I try to let him choose any age appropiate toys but with toys segregated by gender designation in stores, it means walking through all the aisles. It can be hard to steer him away from toys that are above his age level or include things I won’t buy like weapons or things from TV shows. I was glad to read today that Target will be taking down gender based signage in their toy and decor sections. If they rearrange by age level and toy type that would make shopping with a little kid so much easier.

I know he will encounter people telling him he shouldn’t like or play with something because he is a boy. I hope to instill in him a strong sense of self and the ability to make his own choices regardless of what color the packaging is. Though I doubt he will ever beg me for a princess doll, he may find himself needing to stand up for a friend who does.

About JennP

Single mom by choice, lesbian, natural living, parenting, car free, Chicago.Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment!
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16 Responses to Raising a Boy: Toys

  1. Ha ha, I love the flow chart.

    My nephew’s taste in toys was very eclectic when he was a toddler/preschooler. He was very into sparkles, and seemed to have no ideas of girl/boy toys. But as soon as he started kindergarten, that all changed and he became very self-regulating. His favourite colour changed from purple to black. It made me really sad for him to see him imposing these new limits because of peer pressure (and this was in a really liberal community). I think a lot about how we’ll handle those gender pressures, and this kid of ours isn’t even out of the womb yet!

    Sounds like Wallace will have a good sense of himself and will have lots of support to explore the world in the way he wants to. Hope he continues to feel free to play with anything he chooses to!

  2. I am definitely nervous about the influence of other kids on his choices and behavior. He is just at the beginning of understanding what other kids are talking about and playing. Parenting is hard!

  3. Sweet Pea isn’t really interested in dolls. She likes cars and blocks, oh and dinosaurs. One of her grandmothers gets her princess everything, and Sweet Pea has no interest lol I’m a little tired of it lol She much prefers “Supermaaaaan” haha

  4. Lindsay says:

    I let Evelyn play with whatever she wants. She does sometimes get gifts from my mom that are very genderized (toy heels, anyone?) and I hate that. And she *does* tend to gravitate toward things that are deemed more “feminine” (dolls, etc…). But she has trucks and blocks she plays with quite a bit, and she plays equally with boys and girls at her school.

    Yesterday my nephew said “I hate pink, it is for girls!” I lectured him about how colors don’t have a gender and told him about how until the 1960s, pink was considered to be more masculine color, etc…At the end of my tirade (lol), he shrugged and said, “I still don’t like pink!” haha At least I tried!

  5. Carter has no hesitation with his love for the colour pink. He tells me all the time. When picking out shoes to order the other day I presented his options “black/red, pink/grey, blue/grey” he said “ummm maybe I would like pink and baby Dylan likes blue”. Im starting to think I should just get them matching things so she doesn’t always end up with blue in the event it isn’t actually what she likes.
    In terms of toys my rule was if I would want my daughter playing with it I wouldn’t have it for my son. This means nothing obnoxious. They are exposed to a lot of toys at school so home is mostly a kitchen, blocks, little people house and farm and tons of cars.

  6. Yeah, sometimes I fantasize about living in an intentional community. It would be nice to not have to swim upstream all the time in terms of ideas about gender, food choices, capitalism… Hard enough without kids, but even harder with. But then part of me feels a bit of a responsibility to be a dissenting voice in the world at large, rather than taking myself away to a community of likeminded individuals – I kind of go back and forth on that.

  7. I try to go with simple and explain that colors aren’t for girls and boys and each person can like their own thing.

  8. We all have our definitions of obnoxious and I bet ours are similar! I had to take all the batteries out of toys so I wouldn’t go crazy. There are still a few that do because they are essential to the function of the toy.

    When I went to the local shoe store to get Wallace’s shoes for his orthotics, I was irritated that they only showed me the “boy” options. I asked if there were other colors to choose from and I was told no. I make a point of shoeing him all color options when we are buying something new. We get hand me downs from mostly boys and one girl.

  9. We just ordered keens and they have neutral options in all colours. I’m really happy with them.

  10. I really like Keens. I am on my second pair of these nice wide Velcro ones. Problem is with Wallace that I need to make sure they fit his orthotics and I can take the insoles out. I am not sure where I will be able to find options around me when it was hard enough in Chicago.

  11. Clarks makes nice wide shoes with removable insoles! They have good sales and we LOVE our Clarks. So well made.

  12. I have heard of those too. I was told Vans work well with orthotics. I’ve got a few options to try but it will be a hunt. I’m sure I will post about it. 😉

  13. Lj says:

    Completely agree and I’m so excited about target stepping forward with this!

  14. Have you read some of the absurd things people are saying? Hahahaha!

  15. kayrosey says:

    I always choose primary colors over pink/purple stuff for Ali, I think if you just looked at toys you would have a hard time figuring out if a little girl or little boy lived here. Especially since she’s into blocks and mr potato head and has no interest in ‘girl’ toys so there aren’t any sitting around. I do dress her super girly though, and her room is pink/purple with giant flowers painted on the walls, so there’s that…

  16. So there’s that hahaha!

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