Well that is three posts in one day. What I am noticing more often nowadays is the increasing discussion in the feminist community about gendered toys, in response to an ever increasing number of those gendered toys. I like to talk about toys, because they gave me some good memories about my childhood, but I don’t doubt that much of my behavior and attitude was initially formed by the toys I had and the games I played with them.
I do in no way blame my parents for the type of toys they got me. Even if they purposely avoid all gendered toys I would still have whined about at least some of them. Whining about the toys we wanted was really the trend with us kids and I suspect that not much has changed since that time.
Being a girl I had of course some barbies and my little ponies. Hell, me and my friends would have found little in common with one another if I never had any of them. Every girl in school had at least a few and when we visited each other that was mostly what we played with. Everyone knew them and always expected to be able to play with them.
My parents were never too keen on toys that resembled weapons, though eventually we did get some water pistols and a plastic pistol that could shoot darts with suction cups. The plastic sword I so desperately wanted at one time I never got.
I also had my eyes set on a radio controlled car. That seemed like a lot of fun to me. I never got one of those, so I played with parts of the vacuum cleaner instead. One of the parts was a steel tube with a wide nozzle at the end. If you twisted the tube the nozzle would turn and I liked to pretend that the nozzle was a car and the tube the remote. We had an apartment that went all the way around, from the living room, to the hall-way, to bathroom, to my parents’ room and back into the living room. I would take the vacuum cleaner part, hold it in front of me on the floor and run around the house like crazy, steering my imaginary remote controlled car. I was quite young at the time.
Another toy that I really loved was the wooden train-set we had. You could take the track pieces apart and rearrange them anyway you wanted. The goal was, naturally, to create the most bizarre tracks, using often wooden building block for support, without having the track collapse underneath your little train. I guess I was already experimenting with rollercoaster long before they made the game.
We never had many toys that resembled house-hold appliances. They didn’t interest me that much either. However I would like to have had one of those big plastic cooking sets when I was little. I do not feel that such toys are bad for children to have. I merely hate the way they are often gendered. Eventually we all become responsible for our environment and I don’t think it is bad thing for children to learn through play to clean up after themselves. This applies to boys as much as it does to girls.
My absolute favorite was Lego. I can even begin to count the amount of hours I devoted to the stuff. When I was introduced to lego it was one of the most ungendered type of toy out there. It was marketed to both boys and girls and on the package you would always find a boy and a girl playing with each other and I as remember correctly they weren’t always white either.
Lego provided for so many different ways of playing. You could make anything with a little imagination. My parents just got us two buckets of the stuff and give us some tips on creating more stable structures. However, I wasn’t interested in just building. We had some pirate lego figures and I figured they needed a place to stash their gold chest, so I set out to build a secret sea-cave, where one side of the cave would rotate away, giving them entry.
I also loved to build ships and cargo containers. I build docks all around the living room and “sailed” the containers from one dock to the next. Another favorite of mine was building lego horses (I never like the stock horses much that came with my castle) and building them either a stable or a coral. With lego you could make anything, as long as you didn’t get too many specific parts.
I think the greatest favor parents can do their children is by getting them toys that are flexible and that can turn into almost anything the child wants. It will keep them interested for a long time. Of course, when you are a child, every little nick-knack seems interesting, but I remember myself how quickly I got bored with those.