July 02, 2015

Q: My 2-year-old son loves playing with "girl toys" like dolls at other people's houses, but my husband doesn't like it. What should I do?

A: Stereotypes are powerful. Your husband assumes that playing with dolls will make your son less masculine, but extensive research has shown that it's healthy for boys to play with so-called "girl toys." Playing with dolls may help boys become more empathetic and affectionate as they grow older, and it doesn't affect their development in any negative way. If you refuse to permit your child to play with these toys, it will only make your son feel hurt and confused. Try to help your husband understand that toys don't determine a child's sexual identity. Even better, convince him to play with dolls along with your son. He'd be teaching your child a great deal about what it means to be a real man with a full range of emotions -- tenderness and caring, not just strength. --Sally Lee

Copyright 2004. Reprinted with permission from the June 2004 issue of Parents magazine, Updated 2009

Answered by Parents Team