A very contentious issue…


Hannah is a girl and has girly toys including dolls, bags, a play kitchen, a play vanity stand and so on. Liam is a boy and his room is filled with boy toys like cars, robots, soldier figurines, plastic tools, a carpenter’s stand and so on. You get the picture, right?

Since forever, they have played happily together, sometimes in her room and sometimes in Liam’s room. They swop toys, they take turns and everyone is happy. Recently my husband has decided that he doesn’t want Liam playing with dolls or carrying handbags. This breaks my heart a little – the kid is four, so what if he wants to hold a dolly or play dolly house with his sister? I really don’t see the big deal. In turn, surely this should mean that Hannah should not be allowed to play with his “boy” toys? What message are we sending if we allow her full use of his things, yet we restrict him from playing with any of her things?

Also, why is it easier to accept that your daughter may be a tom-boy and we all laugh about that, but the idea that your son may like dolls is sacrilege? Why are men wired so differently to women – and why can’t we just agree that playing with a doll is just THAT – playing with a doll. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s not a sign to anything, and it most definitely is not the end of the world!

I am torn between letting him just play with whatever he wants to play with (especially when Daddy isn’t around but I don’t want to confuse the kid and besides that’s like doing things behind Daddy’s back which opens a whole other can of worms), and keeping a united front with my husband and agreeing with him in front of the children. I’ve had the discussion with my husband and it’s a no-go: hear yeh, hear yeh, there will be no boys playing with dolls in this house! Liam is well aware of certain things that boys (in our house) don’t do – nail polish is for Hannah only, only Hannah and Mom have pierced ears (he is HORRIFIED when he sees pictures of his younger Dad with TWO pierced ears nogal), and we get to wear lipgloss but he only gets to wear “Lip-Ice” (lip balm). So yes, perhaps I have indoctrinated SOME gender specific aspects already I guess. But always in a way that they understand – like how only Daddies shave their faces because only Daddies grow long beards, or only Daddies and boys pee standing up and mommies and girls pee sitting down. You know, in ways that make sense in their little minds for valid reasons – like can you even imagine if Hannah had to pee standing up, it just wouldn’t work, right? And of course, that makes sense, so they agree.

To compound the issue, we’ve had this conversation with lots of friends and it seems there is a complete divide between moms and dads. Moms are cool with their little boys playing with girly toys and all the Dads are horrified at the idea. Dolly house is just role playing for goodness sake – kids wanting to be like mommy and daddy. And it’s a bit ridiculous to lay down this law at home, when at school and at church, boys and girls play together – whether in the dolly corner or riding bikes wildly outside and it is considered absolutely fine. Let the child, on their own, get to an age where they are able to distinguish between the different roles that people play. But all this fussing just creates more drama than is even necessary at this age as far as I am concerned – creating more questions and confusion in the mind of the child.

This is the first time ever that I have thought that parents with same sex children do have it a bit easier! Generally, there will only be one category of toy in that house depending on the sex of the kids, right? And because Liam and Hannah are so close in age, they do generally play together with the same toys. They haven’t yet reached that age where he goes off and plays with his toys, while she does her own thing in her own room. They do everything together. Parenting is so difficult – finding the balance between firmly guiding them in the way they should go, and becoming completely Nazi over silly things is intricate and complex. There is such a delicate line between getting it right or completely screwing it up, isn’t there?!

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12 thoughts on “A very contentious issue…”

  1. Ah hon, let him read our story on gender neutral toys – boys who play with dolls make awesome adults: empathetic, nurturing and strong men and fathers. I don’t think in this instance it is your child who has to change but rather his dad. Tough one though so good luck!

  2. With my 2 girls I do not allow guns and so on, but I encourage them to play with cars and other boy toys.

    The little boys who visit my house often run for a pram and a doll first.

    I don’t understand why men don’t like it.
    Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

  3. I agree that kids should play as they see fit and that it does create “more” drama if we impose a certain logic on them when its beyond them. It is quite hypocritical of us to be okay with a tom boy but not really with a son who enjoys playing with dolls! Its sad, they’re just kids.
    It is a fine line to walk but you’ll do what’s best for your family.

  4. Oi I hear you my friend! I have same sex kids but Miss K loves guns and cars(I have not bought a single gun yet, she uses shoes and other things to ‘shoot’)but her dad does not like this boyish idea much. To him she is supposed to play with barbie(which I have also not bought yet) and wear dresses because she is a girl! Not sure how to handle this situation myself! Good luck. X

  5. Personally, I think it is soooo dangerous to discourage boys from playing with “girls toys” and vice versa. Firstly, why cant a boy play with a doll or a play kitchen – are we teaching them that the kitchen is the “women’s place” and that mothers are the sole care givers for their kids?
    Also, why tell a child that liking something is wrong – are we teaching them that you can only like what society tells us is acceptable?

    Really need to think about it…………………

    1. “Generally, there will only be one category of toy in that house depending on the sex of the kids, right?” No. There’s only one category and that is ‘toy’. My daughter has soft toys, science toys, dinosaurs, arts and crafts, outerspace themed stuff, toy story stuff – it’s all based on her and what she likes not on some ridiculous idea that society has of what makes a girl or a boy toy. She has been given dolls and never shown any interest in playing with them. She is not a tomboy. She is a girl who is allowed to be herself. Check out the @lettoysbetoys campaign on twitter, it’s just common sense.

  6. I agree with you and the replies so far. I have a nineteen month old boy who loves to watch ‘Fairies’ and ‘Sophia the first’ and I have no problem at all with that. I happened to mention this to someone over the weekend and she immediately told me how her boys would never watch that…..and that they really like ‘Ninja turtles’. So I don’t think its only guys who have this view.

  7. Were you in my mind? My cousins and I had this conversation yesterday. Her son loves to be in the kitchen, so I said why not buy him a kitchen set, to which the mom says not sure it’s a good idea, and the dad pipes in and says I think it’s a good idea. I get to cook dinner for you every now and then because I was allowed in the kitchen. And also he doesn’t have a high chair because the one she saw was pink and purple and didn’t think it was appropriate. Interesting dynamics. I think gone are the days of gender stereotyping (in my opinion) – men wear pink and purple shirts so what’s wrong with a boy playing with a doll (and we would complain if they don’t help women out with the baby)

    Sorry for the long comment.

  8. So what happens when the boy grows up, has a wife (or husband) and has a child? Is that equally off limits? Why should just his sister look after any future children?

  9. My mother was quite horrified last year at their birthday when i let C play with a pram. I don’t know what’s wrong with that – in our family (!) D has always pushed the pram (while I take photos :)) and he probably changed more nappies than I did because I did kitchen stuff like bottles and food. So I am VERY happy for my boy to have that kind of role model so he can take care of his own babies one day 🙂

    My two play together – both have twin babies (!) – of course C is much more violent with his babies 🙂 than K is. She’s a nurturer – much better than I am! And of course she plays with cars and things too. I must confess, I have a THING about girls being able to keep up with the boys spatially so I strongly encourage building, puzzles, etc. (like you with colouring inside the lines!!!!)

    I don’t allow guns at home – they’ve tried to get me to buy some and I keep saying, “I don’t allow guns because they kill people”

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