My son had saved up allowance to buy a random bulk assortment of 80+ Iwako erasers on eBay. They just arrived. Some are puzzle erasers, others are pencil toppers. A few are indecipherable objects and may require consultation with friends who understand Japanese culture more than we do.
My wife thinks it was a waste of money, and even though I think they’re cool, I tend to agree. The boy is happy, though. Certainly, 80 erasers for under $40 was a better deal than the $1-$2 apiece you see in stores. I expect plenty of them will become gifts for upcoming birthday parties for his peers….
For the first time in Barbie’s more than 50-year history, Mattel is introducing a Barbie construction set that underscores a huge shift in the marketplace. Fathers are doing more of the family shopping just as girls are being encouraged more than ever by hypervigilant parents to play with toys (as boys already do) that develop math and science skills early on.
It’s a combination that not only has Barbie building luxury mansions — they are pink, of course — but Lego promoting a line of pastel construction toys called Friends that is an early Christmas season hit. The Mega Bloks Barbie Build ’n Style line, available next week, has both girls — and their fathers — in mind.
“Once it’s in the home, dads would very much be able to join in this play that otherwise they might feel is not their territory,” said Dr. Maureen O’Brien, a psychologist who consulted on the new Barbie set.
Hey dads. Stop being too chicken to play with your daughters. You don’t need to buy them “manly” versions of “girly” toys (or vice versa). Go ahead if you want, but you should make your play time about PLAY, whatever your kids want. Don’t limit your children to the toys which marketers and culture want you to buy. Your daughters want to construct things? Your sons want to play with dolls? Good for them.
(Aside: why is Barbie building pink luxury mansions? Is there a Habitat For Humanity Barbie somewhere? Maybe a Hurricane Sandy Response Team Barbie?)
In any case: there is nothing wrong with Barbie as a construction worker. That’s great. Nor is there anything wrong with Lego Friends — in fact, it might open up new possibilities like Lego Friendjitsu. Truly, the only gender limitations in your child’s play are in the matter between your ears. The kids just want to play.
I agree there is a problem here. I just don’t think the problem is Lego. The problem is society, and the toy marketing industry.
Go ahead and complain about Lego. Should they should be better than this? Sure. But that is tremendously unlikely to happen in a profit-driven world that features major opportunities like this. I’ve worked in marketing. This is a huge opportunity for Lego.
To be honest, my kids are immune to the Lego Friends advertising because they don’t watch television. Occasionally they watch PBS when in the care of their grandparents, but there are no toy advertisements on that channel. So perhaps my outrage is less than it would be if I saw those ads frequently.
Maybe the solution is to stop letting your kids watch television, which is far more responsible for negative gender stereotypes than the toy industry. After that, give your kids the toys that you think they should play with, and then play with them in the way you think they should play. And whenever your kids repeat or mimic stereotypes from the world around them, take the time to discuss why the stereotypes are wrong. This is hard work, frankly, but it’s the only proactive option I see before us.