I saw this on Babble, and couldn’t help but notice it was a PERFECT example of the whole concept of enforcing gendered play.
Not only are little girls and boys typically presented with gendered toys from birth, but when their parents see their kids reactions to these toys - those interpretations are very often made along gendered lines.
Short example/explanation: A female-assigned-at birth infant doesn’t absolutely hate it and cry when her Mom puts pink on her, the Mom personally likes the color pink and projects that the kid is “so girly just like mommy” and thus purchases “girly” toys for the FAB infant. The infant will play with the new toy (because who doesn’t like playing with new toys) and the behavior is thus further gendered.
This definitely happens here. Yes, we all know that ALL parents project their own personal shit on to their kids, but what no one ever talks about is how this behavior can be detrimental to the social and even intellectual behavior of the child.
In this post below, the mother and Babble blogger, Selena Mae, glorifies how similar her toddler is to her. Now, I have nothing against this particular blogger, but it just presented a very stark example of this issue and precipitated a HUGE eye roll. Seriously…… OF COURSE YOUR TODDLER IS JUST LIKE YOU, SHE’S A TODDLER AND CHILDREN MIMIC THEIR PARENTS. At this age, children are who you teach them to be (with a few exceptions). In the part of the post below, we see that teaching and enforcing gendered play can have a further gendered outcome: The child likes, enjoys and internalizes what she is taught to enjoy. When the child responds positively, the child can interpreted as even more “traditionally female.” This becomes a vicious cycle.
When little girls play with doll houses or any sort of toy that has multiple pieces and visual complexities, they are seen as ”delicate” and “nesters” which makes them - at the age of 22 months - great future mommies! Let’s already start that biological clock and look at this toddler as a future baby-maker. (Never mind the fact that she can’t even fully grasp what that means, or access the number of options she has available to her.)
When little boys play with toys that involve the same type of behavior - arranging multiple pieces and a lot of hand-eye-coordination or visual space arrangement, they are seeing as being thoughtful, strategic, and little builders or engineers in the making.
But really, for all we know, this little toddler girl is in fact the future engineer or CEO or big-time project manager. What I see when I look at her playing with that ENORMOUS “dollhouse” is a child who is very excited and stimulated by very detail-oriented, strategic and meaningful play that she associates with the types of stories she is taught. Children often like this type of arrangement play because it gives them a positive sense of control and responsibility - they are responsible for putting together the legos or doll house pieces and it gives them satisfaction to have everything fit together correctly. Not to mention, kids are also emotionally fulfilled by acting out these stories in an empathetic way, and that behavior is reinforced as acceptable for her because she is a little girl and little girls are supposed to be sweet and caring. She also wants to make mommy happy by playing with the toys that her family wants her to play with, and thus receives positive reinforcement.
Note: This is not meant to be at all a criticism of the mom. She’s probably a totally fabulous mom and I also deeply want to point out how she emphasizes her daughter is “fiesty” and “sassy” - which are words that also point to the fact she is she’s starting to respect her daughters independence and developing personal will. Rock on. My goal by writing this blurb is to analyze how these types of gendered play behaviors are perpetuated by parents who otherwise have golden intentions and want to nurture their children’s sense of personal agency and creativity. However, I think that limiting children to gendered play then limits how their skills develop and how they perceive those skills and behaviors. Just food for thought.