by Carrie Kirk
Sometimes it takes a trip down the princess aisle to recognize the artistic endeavors of the Lego aisle. Last week, my youngest son George was invited to a birthday party for his neighborhood buddy Josie. She was turning 10. Although Josie loves hair barrettes and poppy female tunes featured on Radio Disney, this damsel has two older brothers, plays hockey and can spar with the best of them. George was truly in a quandary about a gift that would most please his friend.
We headed down to Mass Ave Toys - which I consider to be the best toy store ever - to check out their toy selection. Ball or book?Blocks or Baubles? He was confused about which gift direction he should go. I suggested we take a look at the store's art and crafts area. As we wandered the space and looked at every single item, I noticed the prevalent colors of pink and purple. There were lots of fairies and glitter too. When did art and crafts seem so geared to girls? In fact, because Josie - like most girls really - enjoyed wrestling with George as much as peacefully sitting and making a friendship bracelet, George didn't think this was the right direction to go. Was all of this too girly for his friend who just happened to be a girl?
I understand why toy manufacturers design their products to appeal to one or the other gender. Not that I have done all the research or consulted the consumer studies as they do, but I have seen the difference from the start between the two sexes. When I was a young mother with young children, oh the envy I had. When I would be chasing William or George, and sometimes both, around a restaurant or a meeting place, my counterparts with young daughters would quietly reach in their bag and pull out a sparkly coloring book and some crayons. They would place them in front of their little girl and she would dutifully get to work. Meanwhile I was crawling around the floor looking for that one Hot Wheel that got away. So, yes, boys are inherently extremely active but when did they become extremely uncreative in the eyes of so many?!
As I looked at the multitude of crafts, I thought of so many of my boys' friends and how they would have enjoyed many of the activities. Weave a pot holder? Sure. String a cool friendship bracelet? In a minute. Paint, draw, construct origami? Yes, yes and yes. But what they wouldn't have gone for was the package with little girls (always with lip gloss on, by the way) on its front. They would have probably also enjoyed working with a color wheel that included some darker hues. And how about expanding the types of charms to be strung on the yarn outside of the realm of just butterflies, hearts and flowers? I am not down on girls. After all that is my background. I just would like to see a broadening of how we market to both boys and girls. We shouldn't limit boys and their artistic endeavors just as we shouldn't pigeonhole girls into a life of pastels, glitter and lip gloss.
If you are wondering what we bought Josie for her tenth birthday, we went with the friendship bracelet kit (the one with the most diverse selection of string colors). And George ended up coming home with a gift for himself from Target - Legos. Boys can find art in the most plastic of places. You just need to know where to look.