The XX Factor

If You Buy It, They Will Play

Holly, I love that you’re thinking about buying your boys a dollhouse. I’d do it, and here’s why: Yes, some researchers have shown that even though a lot of the boy/girl, pink/blue toy divide is adult imposed , boys may indeed have an innate preference for cars and girls for dolls . But it’s hardly conclusive research-and who cares? I’m pretty sure neither boys nor girls show an innate preference for blocks-but building with blocks is fun, and no playroom should be without them. By buying a dollhouse, setting it up and establishing Woody, Buzz, and the Army men as residents, you’re setting up a whole new way for them to play with their toys. What 3-year-old wouldn’t love that?

Here’s the catch: At some point, they will be in a public setting-preschool, toy store, doctor’s office-and they will wander over to the dollhouse, and some other boy will say: “Hey! Boys don’t play with dollhouses!” It’s going to happen. I live, as one of my friends put it, well behind the tofu curtain in a land where boys are given dolls and allowed to wear dresses pretty much as a matter of course, and it happens here anyway. Your hope, of course, is that your boys will look at the interloper, point out that he is inherently wrong: They are boys, and here they are, playing with a dollhouse-and get on with smashing Buzz into the dollhouse toilet. But if they don’t have a dollhouse at home, how will they know?

I have two boys and two girls, and a too-wide selection of toys. In fact, of my two younger kids, the boy is far more likely to play dolls with his older sister than the girl is, although they’re equally likely to play with trucks. I’m always surprised, and a little disappointed, if I do go to a friend’s house where the toys are all purely gender biased. And I suspect those boys who look at my son’s American Girl doll with scorn come from just such a house. Don’t let it be yours!

Photograph of dollhouse courtesy Wikimedia COmmons.