Barbie cat fightI'm a sucker for a good monkey story. And when that story involves a study between children's toy preferences and gender, well, just call me hooked.
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A recent Huffington Post article revealed that in various experiments, male adolescent monkeys chose to play with wheeled vehicle toys, while females liked the dolls. It was a study that actually suggested a biological explanation for why girls like dolls and boys like trucks. Now I don't know about you, but I haven't seen too many HDTVs in the jungle airing Barbie or G.I. Joe commercials. So I kind of have to agree with the study.
Are humans already wired to like gender-specific toys? Well, it's no silver bullet, but I pretty much agree with the monkeys. My sons have never really liked girl toys. I never flat out told them they can't play with Barbie dolls, they just never had the desire.
Does that mean boys will never play with dolls? Or girls will never want to play with superheroes? Of course not. In general, for the majority of the time, boys will play with boy toys, and girls with girl toys. The whole nature vs. nurture thing seems kind of moot. I'm a big believer in both.
I think, yes, we are predisposed toward certain types of activities. For the most part, boys like roughhousing, playing war, fighting, smashing trucks, etc. And girls generally like tea parties, dressing up, dancing, and playing house. I'm not saying that's how it has to be, but I just think those actions and desires are based on overall gender traits.
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Now if I had loads of Barbie dolls in my house and talked about them all the time and played with them with my boys when they were little, would they be totally into Barbie, or would they be laughing at me? I have no idea. Most likely my kids would be including Barbie dolls in their massive Battle Royale fight with all of my superhero and Star Wars action figures.
I know plenty of parents who are adamantly opposed to the whole gender-based toys and seem to go out of their way to avoid it. Moms won't get their daughters any Barbie dolls at all, instead buying them only Batman figures. Knowing how kids rebel a bit, if they're already predisposed to wanting a certain toy, then forcing them not to have it is only going to make things worse.
Would I buy my boys a Barbie doll if that's what they asked for now? I guess so. But I'd much rather get them a Captain America action figure. I'm just waiting for the day Mattel puts out a Transgender Barbie figure. Then we'll have a whole new debate on our hands.
Do you think toy preferences are biologically set when we're born?
Image via Sebastyne Young/Flickr