Over the years, surprisingly enough, there have been very few studies on the effect that certain toys have on children. This comes as a shock since about ninety percent of preschoolers play involves toys. Toys play an important role in children’s development, toys can either help or hamper with a child’s development in intelligence, social skills and personality. Many believe that toys positively help a child’s development, arguing that playing with toys helps contribute to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and even adolescent’s.

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Yet, there are others who would argue that certain toys especially violent ones seriously affect their behavior throughout life, and not in the positive way that we would like. However, while there are some characteristics that may be genetically entwined in a person, there are also some characteristics that can be learned, either from parents, surroundings, or even the toys with which kids play. Toys can aid children in better understanding certain social rules. They help open up a child’s mind about our society’s social roles, whether they are good or bad, they help children discover on their own the social stereotypes and “norms”.

For example when kids learn that certain toys are generated more towards the opposite sex or when boys learn that certain violent play is off limits, they are discovering something about the society in which we live in. Toys also help to breakdown gender stereotypes and help children better understand gender roles and avoid gender bias. Yet there are people who don’t see this and instead strongly believe that toys are causing boys and girls to grow up in separate societies with separate expectations. People who believe this also believe that there is hidden sexism occurring in children’s toys.

Toy and advertising Ontiveros 2 companies are working hard in dividing boys and girls toys up, making clear distinctions between the two. These companies are generating the toys as either strongly masculine or strongly feminine sending out strong indicators of what is gender appropriate to play with. All too many times these companies have had and will

Page 2 The Effect That Toys Have on Children Essay

continue to have a strong effect on how children construct their gender identities. According to an article on the Observer by Etienne Benson, Blakemore says that “both strongly feminine and strongly masculine toys seem to be associated with the worst aspects of gender roles: i.e. , a focus on appearance in girls and violence in boys,” (Benson, Toy Stories).

While this is all true and very interesting toys also create a wide range of opportunities for growing children. They allow children to gain, practice, and progressively perfect new skills. During the age in which children most enjoy playing with toys they also acquire a tremendous amount of mileposts throughout the cognitive, fine motor, gross motor, language and social-emotional domains. Often time various toys help in the progression of one or more of these developmental areas.

Certain toys like puzzles for example help to promote “a child’s problem-solving ability within the cognitive domain, as well as his or her fine motor skills. Dress-up clothes nurture your child’s cognitive and social-emotional domains, by permitting her to create new play agendas and imagine the feelings of other individuals”(Swain, Toys And Their Impact On Child Development). However, most opponents would claim that these gender generated toys send out the wrong signals towards children and are falsely guiding them. Many female toys are wrongfully teaching young girls that appearance is everything and leads to acceptance in society.

Companies have Ontiveros 3 manufactured many attractive, thin, fashionable dolls that misguide a girls view on how a woman should look. Dolls such as Barbie have shaped the image that girls have in their heads of what society expects of them. Barbie, being such an un-proportioned sex symbol of a doll, with her long thick legs, busty chest, tiny waist and done up face, gives many girls the “picture-perfect” standard of beauty. This valued image by girls leads them to obsessive and often damaging behavior in order to obtain this image.

“According to a recent study by University of Sussex psychologist Helga Dittmar and her colleagues published in Developmental Psychology that girls between the ages of five to eight who are exposed to Barbie dolls feel worse about their bodies than girls exposed to dolls with more realistic physiques” (Benson, Toy Stories). Games aimed towards girls also fail to challenge their mind and instead teach them to sit and play quietly. These toys also reinforce the stereotype that girls belong at home in the kitchen, cleaning, and taking care of the family all while looing eloquently beautiful.

As for boys, the toys are mainly manufactured in blue clearly setting them apart from girls. Toy companies manufacture toys for boys that signal and symbolize masculinity and power. Most of boy’s toys include action figures, soldiers, and weapons thus encouraging aggressive, active, dominant, and competitive behavior. These toys send out a clear message to young boys that violence can solve problems. According to an essay “How Toys Teach Children Stereotypical Gender Roles: A Look Inside A Local Toy Store,” by Denise Starr boys learn at a very young age that “they must be strong and “Warrior-Like” in order to be accepted as a real man.

Although both side of this controversy prove to be equally right and reasonable common ground can be found between them. Toys do in fact aid children in their development as well as “provide children with fun and fantasy while teaching hard-edged social norms; they promise parents peace of mind while bringing the chaos of popular consumer culture into the home; they produce massive profits for multinational conglomerates whose public relations offices promise to put the child’s interests first” (Benson, Toy Stories).

Regardless of anything toys also help teach children about social roles and norms. However we can’t lay down all the fault and responsibility on toys because according to some psychologist “boys’ and girls’ preferences for certain kinds of play are driven by hormonal differences, and socialization plays a relatively minor role” (Benson, Toy Stories). Even parents are partially at fault since, without even realizing it, they promote these levels of play by accepting these toys into their house.

The social media, society, and peers all aid in a child’s view on gender roles. Toys for boys however prove to be least harming and instead the most helpful since unlike girls toys they better prepare boys for the real world by teaching them coordination and problem solving skills needed for survival in the real world. An easy solution to this problem might be banning toys in one’s home, however I don’t think that would be quite reasonable considering the fact that toys play an important role in the development of a child.

There are many toys out there that are not gender biased like puzzles or other mind stimulating games. As mentioned before boys toys are significantly helpful in their development but as for violent toys I would suggest the introduction to them in later years and the moderation of the games with them. Girl’s toys however are a little different since they do happen to affect young girls a slight bit more negatively. Playing with dolls all together does not harm them and instead does aid in some of their development so therefor should be encouraged especially since It’s also a part of what being a girl is really about.

However playing with certain types of dolls like Barbie or other mature and materialist type of dolls does harm a young girl’s perception of their body image and who they should strive to be. For this particular issue in my opinion I would say to not encourage these types of doll, there are plenty of other more realistic and girl friendly dolls that don’t affect a girl’s image of what a woman should look like.

Yet, in the end it doesn’t even really matter we do because stray and protect our kids from all the gender biased views of society because kids will always end up learning of them elsewhere either by teachers, media, or their peers. In conclusion however harmful toys may seem to affect our children they do in fact have a tremendous impact in the development of our children. Certain toys do reflect and encourage severely negative ideas that harm our child’s perspective of the world and themselves.

Girl’s toys in particular affect children the most negatively, giving them images of what the perfect woman should look like and making them believe the stereotypical role of the woman. Unlike girl’s toys, boy’s toys are more helpful in their development helping to better prepare them for the future. Restricting play with certain toys like Barbie’s or simply monitoring play with violent games can help the situation. Nonetheless as Atwan would say “we are shaped, to be sure, by what we inherit and by the world around us.

But that’s not the sum of the human story. We also do a lion’s share of the –or, in some cases, the unshaping” (Atwan, 149). So whatever we do to try and shield our children from the cold and biased views of the world, they will always end up getting to them at least a little. All we can do as parents is inform our children ahead of time, Ontiveros 6 teach them what we don’t want them learning elsewhere so when they are faced with the worlds biased views, they can already be prepared to draw their own opinions for themselves.

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