Boys and Dolls “My son plays with dolls. Will it make him Soft or Gay?”

Boys and Dolls

My follow up to the fabulous  post by Kate from Picklebums on  “Boy’s don’t play with dolls or do they?

Future loving dad

I do get ask many questions regarding what appropriate toys, boys should be playing with, what long term effects it will have on them and my two regular questions are in the context of boys and dolls “Will it make him soft?” and “Will he be gay?” I can only put these questions down to naivety, curiousness, personal preference and just general dated / old fashioned hearsay or wives’ tales.

Many of the questions come from fathers who seem to presume that their son playing dressups, cuddling soft toys and playing with dolls will cause their son to have  behavioural issues in the future. Although they may not specifically say what behavioural issues they mean the tone really says it all. “It will make him soft.” “It’s a bit gay” “He needs to toughen up”

Boys and dolls any research?

I have been asked whether there is scientific research on this matter. No, there is not. When I asked my gay friends, did their  playing as a child with particular labelled gender specific toys,  influence them into being gay, bar from laughing hysterically and questioning why as a child behaviour consultant I was even asking and whether I was serious, their answer was no. They are gay because they are, not because they played with dolls or did threading activities. Most had not played with dolls as young boys ( it was definitely many years ago deemed as inappropriate, but that was then and this is now).

Pilot for sure

The scientific research there is demonstrates that by letting children learn through their chosen play activity they will flourish and learn the skills they need for adult life.

Parents are concerned about what sexual preferences their children will have, why? In todays society we are all equal and we have the freedom of choice to be who we want to be. What your child chooses to be is their choice when they grow up and not yours. Be concerned about the values you teach them, not who they will be partnering in adulthood.

We have to move on and stop stereotyping and classifying toys into specific genders groups.

A child’s development and their interests will guide them to what they want to play with.

I’ve even seen toys with stickers on saying “Awarded best girl toy of the year” It was a battery operated hamster. A friend of ours son had requested this as his birthday gift, it took me ten minutes to peel the sticker off as I did not want the seven year old boy to read it and think I cannot play with this, it’s a girls toy.

Career path set at two; Doctor and Nurse

Certain toys and games do impact  your child’s development and behaviour, research  proves that violent games can lead to aggressive behaviour, different toys develop spatial awareness, cognitive development, creative and language development and emotional competence and life skills. But boys and dolls being played with and girls playing with a construction set does not set their adult sexual preferences.

Where do bisexuals fit in then? Does that mean they played fifty percent of the time with so called boys toys and the offer fifty percent with girls toys?

If a child plays with empty boxes are they destined to live in the streets? If a child plays doctors and nurses is that their career path set in stone? No it is not, it is imaginative play, it is what you did as a child and what children do all over the world. It is how they learn the skills to develop their emotions and grow into happy and well adjusted children.

The variety of skills that boys and girls learn through their  interchanging and playing of so called gender specific toys is never ending. Our roles in society are no longer defined by our female or male gender, enrich the lives of your children and empower them to have a variety of play experiences that will teach them that its OK to be who you are and pursue what they like.  Let girls play hot wheel cars,  let boys play with dolls – children flourish in their playing, let them be kids, let them pretend, and they will have the best set of life skills ever.

Boys and Dolls it really is OK

So in my many years of working and observing children whilst they play , what they play with and how they learn through  play I can safely say that

Future Archeologists?

It’s OK for boys to play dress ups.

It’s OK for boys to help in the laundry.

It’s OK for boys to skip.

It’s OK for boys to express they want to marry mum.

It’s OK for boys to express they want to marry their buddy.

It’s OK for boys to play Disney trivial pursuit.

It’s OK for boys to cuddle soft toys.

It’s OK for boys to have 20+ soft toys on their bed.

It’s OK for boys not to want to play footy, soccer or cricket.

Will definitely be a Teen Goth

It’s OK for boys to play with doll houses (Mr 6 still does)

It’s OK for boys to dance and sing.

It’s OK for boys to love fairy tales.

It’s OK for boys to sew.

It’s OK for boys to do threading and beading.

It’s OK to be a sensitive, caring, nurturing boy.

Future Home?

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Nathalie Brown

Child Behaviour Consultant at Easy Peasy Kids
Child Behaviourist and researcher. Creator of "Less tantrums. More smiles". I look at the bigger picture and think outside the box when working with children and their behaviour. Their world is different. As adults we sometimes forget this. Happiness Creator in my spare time. Eater of chocolate and cake.

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  1. Great post!
    I remember so vividly the first time a father asked me to stop his son from playing in home corner at preschool… I was gob smacked and had no idea what to say. But after ten years teaching and educating parents on why all kinds of play is important I got much better at reassuring and informing parents that it is not only ok for their boys to play dress ups and their girls to play blocks, it is important!

  2. Renee Joels says

    I think it’s healthy. My three boys play with my daughters dolls and have tea parties really cute to watch and great interaction

  3. This is a great post as a part-time primary school teacher I encounter this often. I had parents of a little kindy boy complain because one of his childs friends would always hug him. It’s sad that people don’t understand that children gain knowledge and understanding through a variety of experiences and interactions.

  4. I love when my 4yo son “breastfeeds” his favourite teddy. Especially when his teddy went through a biting phase. LOL!

    • LOL! Gotta love the things these bears get up to. My munchkin worked out that mummies breast feed, so asked me to feed Teddy!

  5. Sylva Caracatsanis says

    The question presupposes being soft or gay is wrong. That’s where the trouble starts …
    All play is important, all positive human interaction is important and any displays of love and affection should be welcomed, applauded and encouraged. Tragic that we are still questioning that for boys.
    The further we go (I can’t use the word progress!), the more girls are being taught to be girly while embracing all that a man has traditionally done, and we fear for ‘soft’ boys but when they grow up to be tough men, we don’t like it. Pfff, I really am at a lost with humankind!

    • Hi Sylva I 100% agree with you that the question presupposes that soft or gay is wrong. Unfortunately I hear it atleast once a week because I use dolls, puppets and dressups when working with children and their behaviour, much to the shock of some parents. I’ve been working with children for over fifteen years and it does sadden me to say that this topic has made some progress but not enough. I am passionate about changing presumptions, limited beliefs and appreciate your very valuable comment. Thank you.

      • Sylva Caracatsanis says

        Nathalie, it is a wonderfully written article that doesn’t strike out, but rather calmly places things in context – obviously in much the same way you work with children 🙂
        So, actually, thanks go out to you for all you strive to do. Keep writing and contributing small blocks of change. I’ll be doing some of the same over this side of the oceans (I live in Athens, Greece).
        Have a great day 🙂

  6. Love this subject…I totally agree with all of you..I have written a couple of posts about this as well…

  7. what a fabulous post – i have quite a few friends who struggle with their husbands not wanting their boys near anything ‘pink’ or ‘girly’. having worked in early years education for many years, i have seen first hand that some boys can be more effeminate from a very young age and that has nothing to do with the toys they play with or the dress ups they choose…

    i am also currently lecturing in a creative arts subject (education students) and sadly, when i launched into a vincent van gogh inspired ‘sunflowers’ screen printing activity on monday, one of the students (amazingly not a male) said that the activity was too girly and that someone should write a book of ‘boy’ themed art activities!! i (as well as the rest of the tute group) was horrified! it seems that this strong gender bias is going to unfortunately pervade through our classrooms for years to come, if this is the attitude of our upcoming teachers!

    thanks for the great post 🙂

  8. What a great post! I let my 4 year old son do all those things, and get asked “all” the time by other parents (both mums and dads) why I let him play with dolls, dress up or leave the house with his hair done up.
    It wouldn’t occur to me not to let him do these things, it is all part of growing up. I was often called a ‘tom-boy’ growing up as playing sports or catching snails was all I wanted to do. I didn’t play with dolls as they were no interest to me, much to the dismay of my 3 sisters. I am such a girly girl now, no one believes when I mention this.
    I really don’t believe it has any baring on ones sexuality, and no I am not concerned my son might be gay. He will be who he wants to be, and playing with dolls as a child isn’t going to sway this one way or another.

  9. Hi Nathalie…I forgot that I was here before LOL…this is a great post…we are on the same wave length:)

  10. Raelene Graham says

    I couldn’t agree more!children are children and just love to play,we are encouraged to get children to use their imaginations yet then some try to control how they use it (no dolls or girly toys!)
    What I also find interesting is it seems to apply to boys so much more!,if a girl plays with more boyish toys at the most she may be a bit of a tomboy,her sexuality never in question-nor should it be,but if a boy plays with girly toys people somehow can see into a crystal ball and make the huge assumption that he may be gay or his parents encouraging this will some how make him gay!
    Let children be children free to explore and discover and leave the adults hangups where they belong

  11. Karen Barrett says

    Great reading this. We are expecting our second child anyday now & have been preparing our now 20 month old ds by talking about babies & role playing what will need to be done. This came about because he showed the initial interest in ‘copying’ what I was doing for him. I have had some strange comments from other parents that their son won’t be playing with girls dolls which has shocked me a little. Does that mean they think I shouldn’t allow my son to either?It’s so beautiful watching him feed his toy babies, ask them if they are ok & give them a big cuddle. 10 minutes later he’s pushing his tonka around & hammering wood.

  12. Lisa Townsend says

    I like my boys playing with dolls because I hope it will make them a bit ‘softer’ so to speak and not so rough.. I live in hope anyway 🙂

  13. traceyb65 says

    as feminists, we celebrate girls playing with trucks, but still blanch at the thought of boys playing with dolls … give me a break! when pregnant with Bubba 2, i bought my son an anatomically-correct boy baby doll, with baby jumpsuits and nappies … he named it Hayden (the name we would have called our 2nd baby if it hadn’t been a girl) and considered it the little brother he never had. when i was clearing his room ready for highschool he wouldn’t hear of me getting rid of him … and i couldn’t be prouder!

    have you seen the website ? i think i will (metaphorically) punch the next teacher who tells me my boy needs to ‘toughen up’ … because the current breed of ‘tough’ men running the world are doing such an awesome job! ok, off my soapbox now …


    and ps. gay friend once told me his Dad refused to buy him a doll as a child in case it would ‘turn’ him … food for thought!

    • Fab site thanks for sharing the link. It still amazes me when I get asked this question but I’m happy in the knowledge that I’ll keep plugging away it may make a little difference. My Mr 6 plays with the dolls houese dressed up as a pirate with a set of fairy wings on, he is sensitive and learning to be who he wants to be. 😉

  14. Melanie Grace Henderson says

    Hear, Hear!

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