Boys like blue and girls like pink. That’s a universal truth that has been set in stone for generations. It’s simply natural. Right? Wrong. Color-coding our kids is a relatively new thing. It started in the 1940’s or so. And even then, “pink is for girls” wasn’t as universal as you might think. In fact, blue was originally a girl color. Red and pink were for boys. When you look at toy stores today, though, you get a very different picture.

In recent years, segregating toys for boys and girls became even more pronounced. And annoying. I challenge anyone to go to the “girl toy” aisle in any store and try to find a single doll that’s not hot pink. Pink is not a bad thing, but if your little girl’s favorite color is green, she might be in for disappointment. And if she does like pink but wants to play with cars, you are even more out of luck. And what about boys?

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Can boys play with dolls?

Only if they are called “action figures”. Just kidding. Of course they can! And they might benefit from that too. This extreme gender segregation of toys can have a detrimental effect in our children’s development. This is because children use play to learn new skills and develop socially, mentally and emotionally. However, if only girls get access to certain toys and boys get access to another set of toys, their development might be incomplete. Dolls can help children develop their nurturing qualities, which is something all genders should have. Children who play with dolls may learn how to be empathetic faster, and they can develop their imaginations when creating new words and stories for their plastic companions.

It might just be childish curiosity… or it might be more

In most cases, when a boy expresses interest in playing with typical “girl toys”, it may be just because of simple curiosity. Pretty bright colors are hard to resist for children of any gender. And if the boy in question has sisters or close female friends and relatives that play with dolls, their desire to get a doll might be just so they can feel close to the girls in his life and be invited to play. There’s no reason he¬†shouldn’t play with a Barbie doll, let him have his fun! Sometimes, though, when a child expresses interest in playing only with girl toys, dressing only in girl clothes and this behavior continues through the years, it may simply be that your kid is transgender. Do not panic and don’t put your on labels on them. But support them while they explore this vast and confusing world that is gender.