Before Christmas I read an article about how since fathers are doing more of the child care and more of the purchasing for their families, toy makers are responding by producing toys for girls that also appeal to men. Enter construction worker Barbie and pink Legos.
This may be the first generation of girls to get a chance (on average) to play a lot with construction-type toys. From the article:
“Research shows that playing with blocks, puzzles and construction toys helps children with spatial development, said Dr. Susan C. Levine, chairwoman of the psychology department at the University of Chicago and co-principal investigator at the National Science Foundation’s Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center. Even controlling for other skills such as verbal and numerical skills, she said, children with better spatial thinking are more likely to eventually go into mathematics, engineering, science and technology.
She said that a set aimed at girls could be beneficial, if only because it might increase girls’ likelihood of participating in construction activities.
Dr. O’Brien, the consultant on the new Barbie set, said adults had traditionally been “the limiting factor” in why girls have not played with those toys as often.”
I thought it was fascinating (and obvious, in hindsight) that adults have been the reason girls haven’t received toys that develop spatial skills, and as I recall in my childhood, nary a Lego entered our home until I was about 10 or 11 and my little brothers were old enough to play with them. At that point, I certainly wasn’t interested in playing with construction toys.
This Christmas, my husband and I bought our 5-year old son a Lego set (although his favorite gift was a set of WWII airplanes from his cousin), and our 2 year-old daughter received pretend-play kitchen toys (since that’s what she gravitates toward in her Nursery class) and some puzzles. I want both my kids to fully develop their minds in all kinds of ways, but it’s interesting to me that my husband is the one that’s the most vigilant about making sure our daughter doesn’t get too many “all-girl” toys. And, he’s the one to really shop the sales. The toy makers are noticing!