Boys vs. Girls: What’s In Your Toy Chest?

Boys toys vs. girl toys. Photo by Scott Ableman via Flick CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Boys toys vs. girl toys. Photo by Scott Ableman via Flick CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Among all of us writing for GeekMom, we certainly cover a wide array of opinions and experiences. Especially so when it comes to toys. Some of us grew up with geek parents who desperately pushed us away from girly toys, some of us rebelled against our doll-loving moms, some of us let our boys play with pink ponies if they so choose, and some of us cringe every time our daughters pick up Barbies.

Me personally? I grew up with only a brother and ended up going into Computer Science. I don’t shun my feminine side, but my comfort zone is being one of the guys, if not by preference then simply by experience.

Now I am raising a 3-year-old daughter and expecting another girl in a few months. I never imagined I’d spend my home life surrounded with girls; in fact at some point I might have considered that a worst case scenario. Yet here am I, proud to have a girl who’s growing up to be so incredibly strong and independent, and thrilled to get the chance to do it all over again with girl #2.

Nonetheless, I still often worry about what kind of message I want to give them, and that starts with what kind of toys I choose to allow in my house. I don’t believe a child needs so many specialized toys, so helping me keep a small inventory is a solid organization. I try to keep our selection to basic, simple toys and keep them sorted in bins by category:

  • Transportation: Trains, train tracks, cars, airplanes.
  • Pretend play: Hand puppets, bird costume, mask and cape.
  • Pretend food: Tea pot and service set, picnic box and plastic foods.
  • Lego: Duplo blocks.
  • Plastic odds and ends: Figurines, Hexbugs, binoculars, magnifying glass, dinosaurs and animals, prisms, bags and containers, playing cards, etc.
  • Music instruments
  • Puzzles: Jigsaw puzzles, magnets tiles, marble run.
  • Crafts (self-directed): Scissors, paper, glue sticks, crayons and pencils, play dough.
  • Stuffed animals: My daughter could not care less about them, yet we always seem to be accumulating more of them somehow. (Ah-hem. I have a soft spot in my heart for them, that’s why.)
  • Video games: Too many to list! (Okay, fine. So I have a soft spot for a few things.)
  • Books: Small books, big books, books about daring girls, books about daring boys. We have a ton of them.
  • Outside: Water table, balls, Frisbee, gardening tools.
  • Out of reach items (the things that require strict supervision): The messy supplies for adult-directed craft time, science experiment tools, Rock Band, an old trumpet she can practice on, grown-up Lego, board games, etc.

I think everything in this list is fairly gender neutral, except maybe for the pink tea set that would probably be labeled as a girl toy. And I guess the transportation toys would be labeled as a boy toys. But overall, I think it’s a pretty unisex crowd of toys.

The most important message I’m sending my girls is this: Should I had been raising boys instead, the list of toys we provided them would have been exactly the same.

There’s still a part of me wondering if it’s weird that I don’t have, for example, a single doll in the house. My daughter hasn’t shown interest in them, so it’s not like I’m forbidding her to explore traditionally female toys. I suppose if one day she shows interest in them then I won’t deny her. The same would be just as true if I had a boy who showed interest in them. But until my daughter shows interest for any particular toy category—and if anything so far she’s shown us that she doesn’t have much interest in toys at all—this is the ultimate set of toys that I would want my child to start with, boy or girl.

So let me ask you this, what toys do you have in your house? Would they be any different if you had children of a different sex?

Ariane is a programmer married to another programmer. Together they have two little girls who don't stand a chance against their nerdy lineage. Ariane can also be found writing about STEM travel at Geekling's Guide to the Galaxy.