Do We As Parents Dictate What Toys Our Children Play With 

I have written on a few occasions about gender stereotyping when it comes to toys, films and activities for our children. I am 100% behind toys being gender free.

As parents I have often wondered do we influence what toys our children play with because of our own likes and dislikes from childhood? After all our children as they grow up are like sponges and hear everything we say, and without question mimic us. Above all things though, they trust us completely and without reservation. So if I was playing call of duty on the Xbox would they then think that’s what I want to do? My son who is now nearly eighteen years old saw me play Xbox with a passion, so I was not surprised when he became just as obsessed as me.

I also had a conversation with him about girls playing online and his response was that girls very rarely play online. It’s a male dominated platform. This didn’t really surprise me to be honest. If you go into your local Game store it nearly is always full of boys and men. There are very few, if any, girls and women, proving without question that gaming is a male dominated hobby.

Growing up my favourites were Batman and Scaletrix. These are traditionally toys for boys. Certainly in my childhood, girls would never have played scaletrix or watched Batman, but thankfully times have changed and it’s ok for girls and boys to play with any toys they want. If they like them, then why not?

My wife has an obsession with Beauty and the Beast, and has done since she was a child. My four year old twin girls definitely now have a massive liking also for Beauty and the Beast. Would this have been the case had my wife not loved the story so much? Had she liked Cinderella with the same passion would they I have loved Cinderella in just the same way? I think they would have because we’re influencing them with our own likes and dislikes.

I see online on a regular basis girls that are obsessed with Star Wars and Superheroes, and that’s absolutely fine. but on closer examination I discover that so often the parents of said daughters usually have a similar obsession of Star Wars or one or more superhero. I wonder if these young girls would be that interested in Star Wars or the latest superhero if they hadn’t almost grown up from toddler stage seeing it all around them all the time? Are these parents unconsciously influncencing their child’s choice?

Nowadays it has become the norm for toy makers to start making toys for women and girls in a much more empowered way. Yes, of course that’s great and it’s right and long overdue, but it’s also toy makers cashing in on the flavour of the day. Will it eventually die away or will they become an important part of our society? Time I’m sure time will tell.

My four year old twin girls are very different in their likes and dislikes. I would like to think they have not been influenced by us their parents into the types of toys they like, but you just never know.

They have picked what they like and it just so happens that one of my four year old twins  has a preference for superheroes and the other princesses. Although they can also like exactly the same toys because they  mimic each other’s tastes. Which is interesting to watch as they grow up. R who is definitely more a superhero girl recently has been at ease with barbie, whereas M has always been a barbie girl but of recent times loves poison ivy and supergirl.

As I said we allow our four year old twin girls to enjoy all toys, whether these are predominantly seen as boys or girls toys.

As adults are we influencing our children’s choices in what toys to play with? Because it’s cool for girls to like superheroes now. Because superheroes for girls is everywhere at the moment. Mattel have even brought out new barbies in a more empowered way with barbie footballers and the tiny waist seems to have gone.

Do you think you dictate your children’s choice of toys? Would love to know your thoughts.

37 thoughts on “Do We As Parents Dictate What Toys Our Children Play With 

  1. I would like to think I have as much influence on them as they do with me. I let them know my favourites and they teach me theirs. All my kids love playing with everything and I love that, my son with Barbies and my daughters with Star Wars.

  2. As I write this my one-year-old is playing with a box of wipes and a 1kg tub of moisturiser, so I’m not sure what influence I’ve had on that. She also has a strong attraction to power points!
    Time will tell whether I have a strong influence on her or not. Hopefully I can at least convince her to play with some Lego!


  3. Hmm I’m not sure, I’ve got 2 boys and they are definitely not into the toys I was as a child, although I would be thrilled if my 3 year old wanted to play barbies or my little pony. Saying that, he loves star wars and batman, both things his dad is obsessed with so you might be on to something here #thatfridaylinky

  4. As a scientist, I’m going to end up buying lots of STEM toys. I hope he will love that kind of thing too, but I also want to be mindful of his own creativity. He’s too young for me to know how it will really play out though. Good things to think about. #thatfridaylinky

  5. I think its hard not to be drawn to gender related toys and opting for the same toy in pink because you have a girl. Poppy’s not yet one and so most of her toys are just typical baby toys with the exception of a singing teapot she got gor christmas. Alot of her toys are her brothers too and I’ll be led by her as she gets older. #thatfridaylinky

  6. To some degree yes, but I think their toy desires are very much influenced by TV or YouTube internet programs, and I’m not talking about the cartoons they watch, I’m talking about the adverts in between the programs. I don’t even know half of what they are on about sometimes, not because I’m not monitoring what they watch, but I monitor the shows they watch, not the adverts in between.
    Marketing towards kids now is a MASSIVE industry.

  7. It’s an interesting topic. Growing up I had my brothers who were in to the usual boy toys and games, my Dad encouraged them with sport and even my Mum has never been a “girlie girl” and more of a “tomboy”. I however have always been in to all things girlie, anything pink I wanted it and I’m still a bit like that to be honest! I’m not sure whether it was me rebelling, or my friends influencing me more than anything as I’ve always wanted desperately to fit in. Or whether that’s just the way I am and was always going to be. Either way I’m glad that nowadays children seem to be more free to like what toys they like regardless of it’s gender stereotype and hope it isn’t a fad and that it continues. Thank you for hosting #ThatFridayLinky

  8. I think we definitely play a big role in what our children end up having an interest in etc, My little boy saw his dad playing on his play station so now he asks if he can have a little play too, My little girl though seems to have taken more influence from her big brother as she is obsessed with his super hero toys even though she has baby/toddler toys everywhere! When my little boy was a toddler he loved baby prams and we had to buy him a pink one because we couldn’t find a blue one, not that this made much difference to us but some people did stare when he was out with it! One lady came up to us to tell us how special she thought it was that our boy was learning about fatherhood from a young age! he was pushing a pram lady, not changing shitty nappies and wiping snotty noses!

  9. Parental influence definitely dominates whilst their own characters and preferences form. Fidget flits between being a princess and a superhero. She also has an Arsenal football kit and a Welsh rugby top … that’s all on me. But she likes programmes that Little Man already dislikes, and vice-versa. The thing that gets me is walking into a toy store and seeing a pink section and a blue section. No! Mix it up and let kids make their own choices! Really nice post, Nige.

  10. Interesting post this Nige. I honestly don’t know what my opinion is if I’m honest, which is a rarity for me. My son is three, so I guess to a certain degree I’m influencing what he chooses to play with to a degree and also external influences like pre-school etc. #thatfridaylinky

  11. I have no issues what my children play with apart from when my son had his nails painted – but that was more about the stick I thought he may get at school. I do find they tend to gravitate towards toys aimed at their sex, but I’m not sure if that’s done by us subconsciously, advertising or if it’s a natural process

  12. This is a difficult subject in our house. Having a boy my OH is looking forward to playing with lego and super heroes. I’ve asked him before how he would feel if Rory asked for a doll. His reply “he won’t play with dolls he’s a boy!” To save an argument I left it there. The thing which angers me about my OH is that if Rory had been a girl theres no doubt in my mind that he would have had any issue with his little girl playing with action men or toy cars. If in the future Rory every asks me to buy him a toy which is marketed at girls, I will buy it him without a moments thought. Children should be able to express themselves however they feel, they shouldn’t be confined my the restraints of what society tells them they can play with! Great post!!! #thatfridaylinky

  13. I try to allow my children to choose which toys they wish to play with, or ask for at Christmas, but to some extent as babies I suppose I did dictate what they played with. My youngest, Harry, isn’t interested in any stereotypical boys toys, he is all about Disney princess, dolls and dress up! My husband sometimes tries to encourage him to play with more “boyish” toys and yet for me, I say let him play with whatever he likes!! #thatfridaylinky

  14. my youngest boy like all the boys things and my little girl likes all things pink. But I do buy them what they want to play with, not because they match their gender. They will play with each others toys all the time. My little boy wanted shopkins for Christmas, and even though their is a boys version in the grossery gang, he liked the shopkins better so thats what Santa got him #ThatFridayLinky

  15. I think they are influenced by their friends and siblings. My daughter plays with cars and trains with her older brother. My younger son, aged just 10 months wants to join in too! #ThatFridayLinky

  16. Interesting post, really makes you think if our own unconscious biases effect our children. It’s true, my son will probably be more a fan of Star Wars than Star Trek, because let’s face it, Star Wars is just better… But how do I make sure he comes to that conclusion on his own??

    Thanks for hosting #thatfridaylinky!

  17. Hi, great post. I think parents can influence what their children choose play with. Perhaps it’s all about having a balancing act. Growing up I had traditional girl toys but played with all of my cousins toys i.e.: superheroes and enjoyed it just as much, Chloe #ThatFridayLinky

  18. I have tried to get my daughter to play with a mix of everything.We bought her a car mat and a train set and some dolls etc. She always gravitates to the dolls. I think they can be definitely influenced by our preferences but ultimately they know what they want!! hehe. Thanks for hosting x

  19. I have a boy and girl close in age and they play with each others toys all the time – my little boy dresses as elsa and little girl as Spider-Man – but they love it – I just let them play free range and enjoy #thatlinkyfriday

  20. To some degree I would agree after all I am the person buying the toys. How can I not be influencing their likes when I am responsible for buying their toys since they were born.
    Now Reuben is three he knows what he does and doesn’t like but that is a result of previous toys purchased.
    Where TV and films are concerned I would say his friends have more of an impact than me, he will obviously watch what I like and vice versa, but for example, he wanted to see the new lego batman film because he likes batman. We have never watched batman with him in the house, in fact we have never watch any superhero with him other than The Incredibles but he can tell me all about Spiderman and Batman and imitate them.
    So whilst we influence our children, do we in turn influence other peoples children?

  21. Love this post, I really think that a lot of what children get into is down to what the parents like. My eldest is starting to get into Star Trek and I think because I watch it so much. Great read

  22. I was mostly left to my own devices as a child (long story) and as it turned out I grew up loving My Little Pony and StarWars and Sci-Fi. I was an early 80’s child so this was very definitely before it was cool. I think kids are guided by what their parents like because they’re programmed to want to be like their parents, but I also think that as they grow they that changes and they slowly develop their own thing.

    Oh, and as far as gaming is concerned… I used to work in GAME when I was younger and could kick the butt of most of the boys on any game 😉 I think the reason most girls don’t do online gaming is not that they’re not gamers, but that there is a huge problem with male aggression towards female gamers online so many female gamers just give it a miss. It’s sad really. #thatfridaylinky

  23. I think people and especially children are always influenced by what they see around them and what they see others enjoying. I don’t think you’re limiting their choices by showing them something to try out, especially if one day they want to do something else and you encourage that too. All just part of growing up and finding what they like 🙂 #ThatFridayLinky

  24. I’m so glad to read this, we also try really hard not to gender stereotype toys and dressing up. I’m not a girly girl particularly and so I was hoping my neutral gender view would rub off on them. I didn’t ever encourage them to watch overtly girly stuff on TV or dress them in frilly pink, we have a cross section of toys in the house including a tool kit and dolls house. However to my shock they have instinctively gravitated towards princesses, pink and all things that make me want to vom!
    haha, We can but try.

  25. Am I influencing the toys my daughter plays with? Probably – I’m not telling her ‘play with this’ but I am giving her the option of having a variety of toys around her. Star Wars and superheroes, to balance out the dolls and tea sets that marketeers says girls should be playing with. And she likes both. Children don’t exist in a vacuum, and if we don’t offer our influence, they will get it from elsewhere. But I am very clear – I never want her to think something isn’t for her because she’s a girl, whether that’s Star Wars, gaming, or science.

  26. I believe we do yes, thats why its so important for us to remain open minded when it comes to what our children like 🙂 Ive wrote about gender stereotyping before too and i feel its an important topic.. you have covered it very well Nige. #thatfridaylinky

  27. Oooo good post…..I would say yes to a degree as when my 2 were younger obviously we’re buying the toys that we think they’ll take an interest in and then they decide if they want to play with them or not. On the other side of things Alfie has taken an interest in things from the TV, he likes to watch my little pony but then doesn’t want to play with them. It swings in round abouts really! Thanks for hosting #ThatFridayLinky

  28. I think all toy stores need to change the way they lay out their stores, for example, Toys R Us is very clearly laid out in a girls section and a boys section. I’m a store manager for a company that sells children’s crafts and toys and it has bothered me for a long while that we have a “girls kits and boys kits” section. My plan now is to put them all together but do it by suggested age instead. About a year ago my little boy was out with his mum and he wanted a little pram with a baby in, my wife bought him it as why would she not? A lady didn’t comment that it was really nice she was getting that for him. Whilst that is nice of the lady to say, it shouldn’t have been something she felt she needed to say.

  29. My daughter is 14 months old and of course what she likes is entirely because of me. I’m the one who chooses what toys to buy with no input from her and I’m the one who decides what she watches on tv. She’s too small to tell me what she wants. She does have preferences among the choices I present to her but she’s too small to tell me that she wants to see or play with something I’ve never heard of. She simply doesn’t know of anything beyond the things that I choose to exposer her to. I have always steered clear of sterotypical girly things. I’m not against these things but I don’t want to force them upon my daughter. I try to choose a variety of somewhat gender neutral things to expose her to, or at least some “boy” and some “girl” things. I want her to make her own choices as much as possible. #ThatFridayLinky

  30. Both my husband and I watched Thomas the Tank Engine when we were little. This has been passed down to the eldest more because her Grandmother showed her a video on it while on holiday. She liked it so we went on to show her more videos of him. Had she not have seen it abroad then I doubt we would have a Tommy addict. We merely go by what they show interest in. #ThatFridayLinky

  31. I know that I’m picking up toys that I had as a child as I love seeing Ben playing with them and we have got loads of Disney DVDs for Christmas which when he is older he will watch too so I guess parents do influence their children. #thatfridaylinky

  32. I definitely think we dictate everything in our children’s lives. What foods they do/don’t like, what they watch, what they play with. My children have a good variety of toys and are free to play with any gender toys they like! #ThatFridayLinky

  33. A subject I also wonder about. I think that it would be naive to not believe that our interests have an influence. Our kids want to play with us, to do things with us, and naturally we are going to be more invested if we like it to. I think there is also a natural instinct to want to share with them things that make us happy, or that we enjoyed as children. As they get older they will probably start to be more influenced by their friends and in turn will influence their friends. #thatfridaylinky

  34. I’m all for the encouragement of exploration and free play, as long as it is safe. I happen to have two of the girliest girls on the planet. Only very recently do they choose pants or shorts. My Big, she didn’t like soccer because of the uniforms. I say expose them to all and let them find their true passions. #ThatFridayLinky

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