Boys and Dolls: Are Dolls Only For Girls?

Every little girl loves her dolls. Every little girl should love getting a new baby doll, Barbie, or anything else girly that she can play house and the like with; boys, on the other hand, should love their cars, trucks and action figures. Ultimately, is this really how it should be?

It became clear for some of us how the majority of people thought it should be when McDonalds Happy Meals became gender specific. As a young girl, this left me with a dilemma. I wanted to be girly, but I also wanted to gain my father’s approval and feel like I could like the boy stuff, too; after all, my favorite color was blue. I often opted for the boy’s toy, as my mother would order, “one girl’s happy meal and one boy’s happy meal, please.” (The one “girl happy meal” was for my sister, who stuck to her girly roots.)

As society becomes more and more tolerant of ideals that stray from the norm, this may not have seemed so strange, however, there are still some believers that when girls act like tomboys, it’s one thing, but boys should absolutely not be playing with dolls. Is this fair?

On an ABC News episode of “What Would You Do?” they explored a toy store’s shopper reaction to just that scenario: a young boy wanting nothing more than a Barbie doll. A young boy actor and adult male actor strolled into the store as the young boy grabbed a Barbie holding it close and proclaiming that he wanted nothing more. The father was stunned and confused. One woman offered the solution of providing the boy with a Ken doll to play with (since Ken is a male). Another woman, who happened to previously be a kindergarten teacher, had a different perspective.

“This is very natural for a 5-year-old to want to engage in and play with dolls,” she reported to ABC, “Just encourage them to explore. Explore whatever they want to do. This is the time.”

Just because a boy is more apt to want to explore and play with dolls does not necessarily mean his gender identity is skewed. In fact, it could mean the exact opposite some experts argue. It could just be a child’s way of wanting to explore a father-like roll. Children learn by watching and playing, is having a boy act as a caregiver really something we should discourage? Ultimately, we should encourage children to explore what interest them. This is a time of learning and exploration, and curiosity is the key.