In Our House, Barbie Plays with Batman

In our house toys are toys.  We have consciously attempted to avoid labelling things as boys’ or girls’ toys and have encouraged exploration outside of what conventional marketing would dictate.

My nine year old son just finished playing Calico Critters animal doll set with his 3 year old sister and 4 year old brother.

Earlier today my daughter came in from outside, upset that her brother didn’t want her to play the make believe soldier game.

When my big boys were younger, I bought them a toy kitchen. (Gasp!) They loved it.  They also had a grocery cart, toy food, a cash register.

There are all sorts of costumes in the kids’ tickle trunk; superhero costumes, wigs, funny glasses, animal costumes, old skirts of mine and funky hats.  The skirts were in the tickle trunk long before my daughter was even a glimmer.  My boys use it for capes and wear it as a skirt when their creative play requires a femme fatale.

These same boys have watched the Little Mermaid movie over and over.  Currently, my daughter’s favourite move is “Zoro”.  Clearly, our children do not realize that they are breaking all of the gender limitations on toys and play.  What rebels!

We have embraced the idea that all toys are for all kids,   no matter their colour or target market audience. Imaginative play should be just that, imaginative.  The whole point is that kids can be any character and wear any costume, no matter the gender.

A few years ago my mom brought over my old worn out Barbie dolls from my childhood.  The boys played superheroes and civilians with them.  One afternoon my oldest sons had two of their friends over.  The Barbies were in a pile with the “guys” a.k.a the superhero figures.  These two boys laughed.  They asked my big kids why they played with ‘girls’ toys.”  The question was asked with a distinctive mocking tone of voice.  Not one that was lost on my sons either.   My children were surprised.  It hadn’t occurred to them that these were girls’ toys.  They had always just been…….toys.  Sadly, then my boys felt embarrassed.  I could see it on their faces.

My boys came to me confused and upset that their friends were making fun of their toys.  I approached the kids and explained that in our house, toys are toys and colours are colours.  There is no such thing as toys only boys or girls can play with and enjoy, or colours that only boys or girls can wear or call their favourite.  These boys looked shocked.  This idea was completely out of their frame of reference. They had never heard of such an insane idea!

“Now,” I said to them, “imagine the possibilities.  There is a world of toys out there that you didn’t even know you were allowed to enjoy!  Have fun!”  Then I left the room.

Upon returning, worn out Barbie was battling Batman in an epic save the world battle.  And all of the boys were playing.



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