Everyone has preferences, even children. And these preferences influence their choices, from the food they enjoy eating down to the toys they like to play with.
Unfortunately, there is a big disconnect between kids and toys.
Most of the time, their toy choices are made for them. Toy stores label an aisle “for boys” and dedicate another for girls. While in some cases, parents select the toys they think are appropriate for their children.
But Dr. Valeria Risoli, a clinical psychologist, believes that children should be allowed to choose their own toys because this restrictive segregation can be problematic due to gender stereotypes and can potentially limit the cognitive, social, and emotional development of a child.
The parenting process is meant to prepare children for adult life which includes independence and decision-making.
That said, should kids choose their own toys?
Let’s find out here!
The Importance of Choices for Children
Everyone, including children, likes to have some control over their lives. Although some parents may say claim "there is no choice, some things are non-negotiable."
My child has to go to school. They need to brush their teeth daily. Doing homework is a must for my kid.
Having choices doesn’t mean your child gets to rule the roost. It’s about letting them get involved in small decisions.
Allowing your child to make choices shows how much you value their worth, empowering them. It enables them to be responsible in their decision-making and realize the relevance of every choice they make, no matter how small.
According to clinical psychologist and life coach Dr. Megnha Singhal, letting your child make their own choices builds their confidence in dealing with the world. On the other hand, suppressing decision-making opportunities and micro-managing may make them feel inadequate, dependent, and gullible.
For example, the Indian culture enforces obedience among the young, to the point of equating obedience to respect. However, Dr. Singhal added that this system fails miserably as countless research papers suggest that children are less likely to follow a rule when they have no say in it.
The same principle applies when choosing toys. If you don’t want your children to lose interest in a toy, allowing them to select their desired toy is advised.
If you’re still unconvinced on why should kids choose their toys, we listed some of the best reasons below:
Why Should Kids Choose Their Own Toys?
1. To free them from toxic gender stereotypes
Realistically, every child is labelled according to the gender that society has appropriated for them. For example, girls are “meant” to be like macaron colors while strong and punchy colors fit the boys. When it comes to selecting toys, Dr. Risoli said that children would naturally identify their toy preferences with the parent sharing their gender, say:
• Girls are more likely to choose role-playing toy sets where they can do what their mothers do, like cleaning, cooking, taking care of children.
• Boys tend to select toys that replicate the tools they see in their father’s hands.
But the clinical psychologist opted to let children choose their toys because breaking gendered stereotypes on toys can help develop skills that wouldn’t have been possible with gender-specific toys.
Like boys can learn compassion when playing with dolls or developing a liking for the culinary arts when engaging in pretend cooking. On the other hand, allowing girls to play with robots can awaken a love for STEM, a field largely dominated by males.
2. To encourage more imaginative play
Children can maximize their creative potential when more tools are available for imaginative play. Limiting the allowed toy selection to what parents perceive as appropriate or trimming the options based on gender stereotypes may stymie their potential future.
For example, going back to the gendered toy categories, Dr. Bruce Carter’s research on Cognitive Aspects of Sex-Role Development suggests that gender-specific toys significantly influence sex-role development in children. And if history serves us right, gender stereotypes attribute stronger power to males and often helplessness to females, as per the research paper on patterns of gender development.
If we impede a child’s choice to freely select toys, we can potentially thwart a young boy from becoming an artist or a girl from being an engineer.
3. To boost their morale
Enabling a child to make decisions can uplift their confidence.
When you let your child choose between a kids microscope or a construction set, they feel valued. It shows that you trust their judgment and have confidence in whatever they choose. It’s a simple example, but you’re impacting their lives remarkably.
And if your child’s decision-making goes well, they will feel even more capable and confident to take on bigger decisions in the days to come. On the other hand, when their choices lead to unfavorable outcomes, it will teach responsibility to your child and the long-term impacts of their decisions.
4. To cultivate respect for the elderly and others
Most parents might not realize this, but choices beget respect.
When you give your child the opportunity to choose, you empower them. As a result, they will not feel the inkling need to exert power or control over others to get their way. Additionally, they will refrain from breaking the rules behind your (or their teacher’s) back to feel in power.
Giving children choices allows them to be compassionate. Because when their desires are respected, it’s easier for them to respect others’ desires too. In the same way, they don’t grow up to be selfish; instead, they weigh everyone’s opinion and consider their needs before making a decision.
5. To hone their problem-solving skills
As mentioned in #3, not every decision your child makes will bear positive outcomes. When their decision results in an undesired response, your child can learn to work through the problem and be more cautious with their decisions next time around.
For example, if you ask your child to choose between a battery-powered robot and a simple open-ended toy, they will typically choose the former because of its dashing looks. But upon playing, they will soon realize that simple toys are better in the long run because they don’t dictate how a child should play, as observed in electronic toys.
The next time you get them a toy, your child will be keener to select open-ended toys over the deceiving and flashy looks of electronic toys.
What Are the Roles of Parents
• Assist them in searching for toys
Kids are kids, and they’ll pretty much play with whatever toy we get them and use their imagination to fill in the gaps. But when we assist them in picking out their toy, make sure to select ones made with premium materials like a kids’ microscope enveloped with a shatter-proof build to keep kids safe as they play.
• Steer their choices towards productive ends
At the end of the day, you still know the best for your children. Although were empowering them to make choices, make sure that their selections are productive. For example, instead of bringing them to the robot toy aisle, keep their choices enclosed in the STEM toy section. This way, you can use the toy to your child’s advantage.
• Guide them based on their interests
Unlike adults who know what they want, most kids get easily swayed by toys with sparkling lights and irresistible sounds. Before they fully get magnetized, remind them of their genuine interests so they can select toys accordingly. A toy-high quickly fades, but you can be confident that they’ll consistently play with toys they truly love.
A Gentle Reminder for Parents
Letting kids choose their own toys doesn’t mean letting them take the lead. You’re still in control, so you call the shots. The primary goal here is to give your child a calculated level of autonomy to instill a healthy level of independence.
So Let Them Choose the Right Kind of Toys
Undoubtedly, the best toys for children are STEM toys. And if you want to maximize the learnings that kids can get from toys, our ultimate STEM toys buying guide can help you out!
And if you’re looking for a durable and thought-inducing STEM toy, the STEMscope kids’ microscope is a splendid place to start.