Bright minds at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, UK think so. But is it true? Read on to find out.
A recent study conducted by the Institute of Engineering and Technology, UK has a bold conclusion: Don't buy pink toys for your daughters. The reason - it reduces their chances of choosing a career STEM. STEM, as you know, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
According to this report, the study analysed the toys available for boys and girls. 9 in 10 toys targetted towards girls were pink. Only 1 in 10 toys meant for girls involved something related to STEM. This is a sharp contrast against the toys meant for boys. Here, every third toy had a theme around STEM! So clearly, the toys out there are sending out a wrong message.
This article was published on the Facebook page of BBC, and it sparked a debate among the readers. While many mums agreed with the idea in general, there were a few women who opposed the finding. These were successful doctors, engineers, and scientists. They played with their Barbies when they were young and now rock their workplace!
Do toys influence the career choice?
There is no straight answer to this question as there has been no credible formal study that I could find. The next best thing is expert opinions, followed by empirical evidence.
There have been instances where a boy played with an action figure as a child and ended up working for the Army. However, this is not the strongest piece of evidence for two reasons. To start with, most of the boys end up playing with toy guns and action figures as a child. This is a big segment when it comes to toys meant for boys.So, most of the soldiers have had an action figure toy growing up. And secondly, boys who have played with guns end up being carpenters or doctors as well!
Likewise, girls who play 'kitchen' are not always going to aspire to be a housewife. Mums, have you not played with dolls? Has your aspiration always been to be a mother?
However, there are educational toys out there in the market that really stoke curiosity. They are often designed intelligently to promote healthy learning. Monopoly taught me about the places in London and the art and craft of trade! Games like Guess who and Pictionary stoked my imagination. In fact, there are so many board games available for adults today! It is just like an extension of the process of childhood learning.
To conclude, toys influence interests, which in turn may influence career choices.
What influences careers, then?
It is seen that people influence careers more often than the toys. If you talk to women in science, they will often have a definite name of a person who influenced their decision to be a scientist, or a doctor, or a mathematician. It might even have been Bill Nye, the science guy!
Is your child playing with the 'right' toy?
The raison d'être of a toy is to engage the child. It might entertain her, stoke her curiosity, or just serve as something she would love bashing against the wall. Here are 5 things you should keep in mind when choosing a toy
- Less is good. If your child has a million toys, she would not be able to explore any particular toy properly. This defeats the purpose. I know a child who is nauseated at the prospect of getting a new toy. I know mum, you are overcompensating for your own meagre toy chest. However, don't do so. Introduce a new toy every other month, if you want to. And see which one becomes her favourite.
- Don't stick to a genre. There is merit in introducing a variety of toys to our children. Giving a doll to your son is not going to make him gay later on in life. (Sorry to state this here, but a lot of mums have expressed this doubt in one of my previous articles). According to Neil Sinclair, an ex-commando who is now a full-time childminder, the choice of a toy depends not only on the child but also on how her mood is that day! So, some day, she will choose a Lego. The other day, she might just arm her Barbie with a toy gun.
- Go for more physical games. When you have to choose between a physical toy and an online game on an iPad, the latter is simpler to purchase. However, there are three shortcomings to this. Firstly, there is a danger of exposing your child to online predation. Secondly, you are exposing them to blue screen. It may have some long-term consequences. And lastly, there is very little scope for imagination.
- Offer a box. When it is playtime, offer an assortment of toys instead of just the favourite toy. Let the child choose one, or more. Encourage her to tell you a story around the toys. The best toys are those that could be used as props! This will boost her creativity and stoke her imagination.
- Be more involved. There is merit in letting the child play with her peers. However, there is a definite advantage when you get involved. Every now and then, sit with them and join their 'tea parties' or 'army raids'. Ask questions. This will keep them engaged with the toys and they will not 'demand' the iPad sooner.
Mums and dads, toys are important, however, let them pick and choose.
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore
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