I have always be interested in the sterotypes of girls and boys and whether their preferences were in fact hard wired from birth or whether it is born out of their environment and influences. My nieces have always loved their dolls and the boys in the family have loved tractors and farming. However was this because of gender expectations and what they were led to, either conciously or unconciously. Or was this because that's what they were always destined to like? It may have been due to what toys were bought for them and what they had available, but with nurseries having all types of toys this was probably not the main reason.
There have been many studies on this topic and a number of them found that differences are evident from birth with boys being more active, having a preference for moving toys such as cars and girls preferring role play and dolls.
I never really had an opinion or understood, but when my little boy arrived a few years ago I was interested to see. I was concious never to buy him gender specific toys and with all of the girls in our family there were always pink things and dolls around. The majority of his toys up to the age of 1 were brightly coloured and gender neutral although this was often difficult to find.
Then one day we were having Sunday Lunch at a local pub, he was about 16 months old. There was a vintage tractor in the garden and he was hooked, he spent most of his time on the tractor and only came in kicking and screaming once dinner was ready.
He started saying Tractor and noticing them on books and in the shops. We found a book "Goodnight Tractor" which had been given to him for his first birthday but it was the only thing we had with a tractor on. So I gave in and bought him a red tractor, it was only small but he loved it. Soon after that we were given things to borrow, Tractor Ted DVDs, books and my old farm yard which my mum had kept since I was little. His love of all things farming related had started .....
Soon after this there was some building work happening outside our house, there was a small digger working for about 3 months across the road. Each day he wanted to go and see the digger at work and his interested in vehicles had extended to diggers too. I genuinely believe that his intial interest in tractors was all down to him, but his interest expanded and was encouraged by the presents he received and me "going with the flow" of what he liked.
1 year on and he is still the same, he loves all things Tractor related, Diggers, Milk Tankers, Cement Mixers the list goes on. I know if I give him a dolly now he would just throw it on the floor. I now believe with my little by he was always going to love vehicles, but he was influenced by things around him. I am sure I could probably get him into trains but due to our environment it was tractors and diggers which took precedence.
I do believe that children will always have their own preferences, but the world around them will have influence. I would love to hear your thoughts and what your boys and girls are into.
Our range of toys at The Wooden Play Den did start completely gender neutural with all toys being brightly coloured and not girl and boys specific. However I received lots of feedback and comments asking for pink girls things as their little girls just loved pink. So I have introduced some of these toys too!