Play Like A Girl: Why I Let My Daughter Play With Whatever Legos she Wants

Today was the day. My daughter successfully stopped sucking her thumbs (see A Tale of Two Thumbs, for the entire agonizing journey) for two weeks and today was reward day. In my mind, giving up sucking your thumb is like giving up smoking or alcohol. However, there is no support group for recovering thumbsuckers, so she had to go it alone using sheer grit and determination, and that I felt needed to be rewarded. Scouring the internet for possible trophies, ribbons or gold gilded certificates, I found very little that truly captured what she had been through, so we opted for a trip to Toys R Us instead.

We walked through the doors with a mission: Legos. Her older brother went along to show his pride in her accomplishment, and also perhaps because he thought he could work the system and come out of it with something himself. He rationalized that he should be rewarded for “listening to her be miserable for two weeks.” He came out of it empty handed, but he was a good team player.

We had scoured the Lego catalog in the mail earlier in the week and had a few ideas, but M. wanted to see them in person and decide which set she wanted. It’s hard to decide if you want the helicopter that is hovering over the ocean and comes with a shark, or the helicopter that hovers over the snow and comes with a sled and a pack of sled dogs. Obviously, she chose the snow chopper because there was only one shark and there were six sled dogs. She likes to get her money’s worth.

We were feeling triumphant and proud. Until. Until a mom came storming loudly up the aisle with her daughters in tow, visibly frustrated. It turns out, the Legos she was looking for were not on that aisle. She was irritated. “These are the boy Legos. Where did they put the Legos for girls?”

This woman looked at my daughter when she made her comment, my daughter who was dressed in head to toe purple today with pink shoes and is very obviously a girl.  My daughter looked at the Lego set that she was holding in her hands, then up at me, confused. The question in her eyes was, “Are these boy Legos that I picked out?” Without breaking my smile, I told M. that there aren’t boy Legos or girl Legos; Legos are for all people. My son piped in with, “Even adults can play with them!” Then I pointed to the “Friends” section that the other mother was obviously referring to and ushered my kids away from her while she rolled her eyes at what she must have assumed is my flaming feminism.

If you have a daughter, you probably know that Lego has come up with a “Friends” line of Legos designed for young girls. There’s a rainforest rescue, a hot air balloon, a tree house, an actual house, in girl friendly shades of pink and purple. There’s a hair salon and a shopping mall.  There’s a ranch and a lifeguard stand, and the Lego people that come with the sets are all pretty girls with names like “Emma” and they have their own adventures in their convertible.

It’s stereotypical gender role toys that have been obviously marketed with a specific group in mind. Girls like shopping and getting their hair done, so maybe if we build Lego sets of their favorite activities, they will buy into it.

Before you get your panties in a bunch, let me clarify that there’s nothing wrong with girls who like to go shopping and get their hair done. I look at shopping like a sport and I am a champion. I’m not saying that it’s wrong if your daughter loves the Friends Legos.  It’s all creative technology-free play and it’s a great toy option for girls who love all things pink and want to build.

M. doesn’t, for no specific reason. She’s a girl that doesn’t like girl Legos. She has a big brother and she wants to build a helicopter. There is a helicopter rescue set sold with the Friends Legos, but it’s small and pink and it doesn’t have the awesome sled dogs, so M. chose the “boy” one instead. Should I have encouraged her to buy the pink one because it is made for girls and she’s a girl, when the one made for boys is so obviously better in her mind?

The problem that I see isn’t the Lego sets themselves as much as it is the fact that they are so specifically marketed for boys or girls.

When I was my daughter’s age, I loved horses and tree houses, riding my bike and playing in the woods. My heart soared when my mom made me a pretty dress or I got a new Barbie.

My legos were primary colors and I could make anything I could imagine with them as long as my brother didn’t steal all of the good pieces.

My daughter loves basketball and soccer and playing in the dirt. She also plays with dolls and dress up clothes, takes ballet, and we have watched “Frozen” 900 times.

She loves all of these things, but not any of them separately define her. So my question is, why should her Legos?

I think my daughter, and my son, should have the option to build without being marketed into a specific gender role of what they can or can’t buy in the Lego section. Why can’t the shopping mall and the hair salon sets be on the shelf with the dump trucks and the helicopter sets? Isn’t it okay for children to like both?

Not only did the Lego company decide that it isn’t acceptable, as evidenced by their marketing and packaging, but Toys R Us agreed when they put the “Friends” sets in an entirely separate part of the store. Heaven forbid a little girl accidentally look at a set that isn’t designed for her feminine sensibilities, or a little boy decide that he wants to build the bakery instead of a ninja warrior temple.

I don’t agree with the specific gender marketing and part of the reason is that parents like the mother I ran into today won’t see past the color on the box and allow their children to choose to build based on their interests, but instead will buy based on the color of the box. Not all girls like shopping, and not all boys like trucks. They’re still going to want to build stuff. I wish that Lego would go back to their roots and focus on pieces of all colors, shapes and sizes that can create anything, regardless of the gender of the builder.

In the car,  M. asked why that lady thought she was buying boy Legos. I told her that some people think that boys can only play with cars and helicopters and girls can only play with dolls and beauty salons, Her reaction was exactly what I’d hoped it would be.

“Well, that’s pretty dumb.”

She’s almost done with the snowmobile sled already, and it’s fantastic….even if it was built by a girl.