When you look at traditional toys for boys and girls, the ones for boys generally relate to STEM. Blocks, building kits, science kits, tools, cars, motors, etc. directly or indirectly relate to and encourage science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics. This can easily lead to interest in careers in STEM, which pay very well.
Girls’ toys general relate to and encourage “ABCD:” arts, beauty, childcare, and domestic duties. Generally speaking, jobs in these areas do not pay well and often careers do not pay that much more.
There is nothing wrong with art and craft supplies. Arts and crafts can make wonderful hobbies. But how many people do you know personally who have made an excellent living out of them? Or any income at all?
There is nothing wrong with pretty clothes, make-up, and hair accessories. Again, though, how many people do you know who have created a successful career out of “beauty?” Another issue is that overemphasis on looks encourages girls to think that beauty is more important than brains. (I have always thought brains were more important. If you are smart enough, you can earn enough money to buy pretty, but you can’t fix stupid.)
There is nothing wrong with baby-dolls. Or all the furniture, clothes, accessories, etc. that go with these dolls. However, if a girl gets these toys almost exclusively, it sends the message that that is all that should interest her. How many people do you know earn a good living by taking care of children? Yes, there are careers that revolve around children, but how well do they pay on average?
And there is nothing wrong with the miniature kitchens, household appliances, housecleaning equipment, etc. that so many girls receive as gifts. Too much emphasis on this, though, can encourage girls to think that that is all that they can do or all that should interest them. And how much do women in food service or housekeeping jobs generally earn?
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with “ABCD” toys so long as the girl also receives a variety of “STEM” toys. This can encourage her to develop interests that can later lead to a high-paying career.
Whenever we buy toys for children, I think it is important to ask three questions.
- Why are we buying this toy?
- What will the child learn from this?
- How will this learning benefit the child?
I understand the importance of play for the sake of play. I agree that not everything has to be a planned learning experience. However, children constantly learn from their environment and from what happens around them. We need to be aware of what we might be inadvertently teaching them and the impact it can have on their futures.