Here’s why it doesn’t matter which toys your children play with!

CafeMom

My 15-month-old son exploded with personality right after his first birthday. Although he’s always had little quirks, we’re now getting to see his genuine interest in things. He loves “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” he seems to be really into playing catch, and he loves to “clean.”

It started with him stealing the baby wipes. As soon as he could pull himself up on the coffee table, he’d snag a wipe and begin buffing. From there, any time I pulled out the broom and dustpan or ran the vacuum, he’d watch with wide-eyed fascination. When walking was part of the equation, he’d grab at the broom or wipe or whatever I was cleaning with at the time and pitch a total fit when I didn’t let him have it. 

I was in Target one day and stumbled across a Melissa & Doug playset that was actually perfect for my little cleaner. 

Target pan, broom, and mop play set

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It had a him-sized broom, brush and dustpan, and mop all on a neat little rack that was just his height. I snagged it and showed my husband, and we were both so excited to get it for him. 

Not thinking much of it while we were in line, I gushed to my husband about how excited I was to give him this set. Our cashier looked slightly surprised. 

“Aww ‘he,’ huh?” was all she said. 

I happily replied it was for our son, got his new toy, and went along my way.

Melissa & Doug Let’s Play House! Dust, Sweep & Mop 6 Pc Set ($21, Target)

We scooped him up from day care, got home, and I immediately set to work on opening it. 

Learning through play

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Once I freed the broom from its package, I saw my son’s eyes light up like a Christmas tree. He squealed his happiest little yelp and quickly “went to work.”

It wasn’t until an hour (yes, one solid full hour) of watching him play with it that I replayed the cashier check out situation in my head. By no means was the cashier rude or inflammatory — but the vibe I got was that she was genuinely surprised I was picking up such a toy for a little dude.

Under bizarre social construct, it’s ingrained in us that there are “boy toys” and “girl toys.”

Boy in green t shirt with green broom

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Boys should be all guns and sports balls and STEM building skills, whereas girls get the domesticated toys of baby dolls, Barbie houses, and tea sets. But the truth is, children learn primarily through play, and how else will my sweet boy learn to be a fully functioning adult if I don’t give him space to do so?

My son is only 15 months old, but we already practice a lot of basic life skills. 

Learning through play

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At night, we take turns brushing his teeth and combing each other’s hair. After I’m done with him, he takes the comb and holds it up to my head. I ask him to go ahead and brush it, and although he thinks it’s the silliest thing, I’m hoping he’s learning that this is how families care for eachother. Any time I wipe down a table, I still toss him a baby wipe and he does his part. We clean up toys together, and if I am feeling particularly saintly, I let him help me mix up things in the kitchen.

Cooking, cleaning — basic domestication is what is going to make my son a “real man.”

And hopefully one day when his future partner is frantically rushing around the house to clean before their kid’s first birthday party, he’ll pitch in without being asked because he knows what to do. It’s how we cultivate well-rounded individuals. So if my little guy wants a Barbie or baby doll, you’re darn right I’m going to get it for him. Learning through play is essential and gender has nothing to do with it. Period. 

So dear future kid-in-law: You’re welcome. And if he acts like a lazy schmuck, you have my full permission to remind he wasn’t raised that way. 

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