* girls toys

Girls Toys

Figure 1.--The children in this German nursery school about 1960 were allowed to choose what toys they wanted to play with from a well-equipped play room.

Some toys almost always indicate that the child is a girl. Some girls' toys do provide useful clues as to the gender of the children in unidentified photographs. Thus they can provide information. Of course toy information is not absolute. Some younger boys pklayed with dolls, especially if they had sisters. And girls plyed with hoops and balls. Other toys were enjoyed by both genders. There are some toys, however, that were primarily associated with girls, including dolls, doll houses, jacks, paper dolls, and others. Some feminists claimed that such gender stereotyping is culturally enduced. This may explain coutry differences. And this appears to be partially true. It is also clear that children do have inate gender preferemces for certain kinds of toys. Not all girls like dolls, but a lot more girls like dolls than boys. And the same is true about toy guns and boys. Some of the toys even provide helpful fashions information. One of the most obvious is paper dolls, but doll clothing is also interested.


Almost always a doll meant that the child was a girl. There were, however, some exceptions. Boys raised with older sisters would be more likely to play with dolls, especially if they were schooled at home. Similarly girls raised with boys would be more likely to play with boys' toys and take an interest in sport. Also boys in orphanages might play with dolls as the orphanages sometimes accepted donations and the boys might have few other options if dolls were donated. It was the Matel Toy Company that finally broke the doll barrier for boys when they created G.I. Joe. Apparently a doll engaged in warfare was quite acceptable. One interesting use of dolls in highschools is to give teenagers an idea of what is involved in having a baby. The students, oth boys and girls, in the class have to carry around a baby doll for a set period of time.

Doll Houses

I m not sure when doll houses first appared. We see them throughout Europe and North America. The German term is Puppenhaus. Doll houses were oiginally made from wood, or at least heavy pressboard, not from plastic or metal. Sometimes they were built by a parent or grandparent of the owner. They did not come with their own residents. They did not require the further purchase of a sportscar, swimming pool, or stereo system. The furniture was also cleverly made of wood, with little doors that opened on some of the pieces. If you were really fortunate, you had a set of painted plaster food, and tiny wood or metal dishes. A turkey, fruit, and bowls of'mystery food' may have been a part of part of the set. Doll houses were of course a girl's toy. There were comparable boys' toys. A boy might have, for example, an autombile garage (work shop). I recall as a boy having a Western set which was like a movie Western street sceen, perfect for staging gun fights. I don't recall furniture in the different shops along the treet, I think it was mostly a backdrop for stageing gun fights, but it has been 60 years--so my memory is a little faded. I'm not sure if there is any generic term for this kind of toy. An English reader tells us, "I played with my friend's sisters doll House when I was a boy. Unfortunately. it got took over by an invading army so there was always battles in it when I played. Fighting meant that the nice furnishings got knocked over as the soldiers did hand to hand combat. Mum bought me a fort in a jumble sale to take to my friends so that battles could be at Castle Fergy instead of Rose Cottage. Boy was my friend's sister happy."

Jump Rope

There is evidence that jump ropes date back to ancient times. Here the history is incomplete. Unlike clay toys, rope toys quickly deteriorated. We know they were used in ancient times because Egyptian tomb paintings Egyptians show children jumping over vines. Some historians date this to 1600 BC. It is likely the same was true in many other ancient cultures although not recorded by paintings. Junp ropes were also reported in ancient China. Aborigines are know\n to use bamboo to skip. Medieval European paintings show children jumping through hoops. We are not sure when jump ropes first appeared in America. The fact that they were such a simple device suggests it was fairly early. Our earliest image comes from the late-19th century. There are many games that children cam play while jumping rope. At the turn of the century we note children singing jump rope rhymes while jumping at the same time. We are not sure about the gender conventions. Jump rope was essentially a girl's activity in the 1940s, at least in America. A factor here is that boys were more involved with sports. We are not sure about earlier years. Jump roping declined in popularity at mid-century, but there seems to have been a revival in the 1970s. We note mostly girls particupating in Double-Dutch competitions.

Paper Dolls

Paper dolls are cut-out figures. Separate, cut-out clothes allowed little girls to try on different outfits. They could be fastened with tabs bent around the edges. Paper dolls originated in the early 19th century as inexpensive playthings for children, and remained popular for the next 150 years. The first sets were expensive hand-colored engravings, which evolved into the delightful full-color lithographs of the early 1900s, and later still, into the beautiful books that many recall from childhood. The fashions depicted for the paper dolls, especially when depicting contemporary clothes, provide useful information on fashion.


Many od the specifically girl toys are items associated with dolls, like doll houses. Another is the pram or babby carriage so little girls can move their dolls around. Our English reader writes, "I pushed my friend's doll pram too. I wheeled it around town. A nice gester on a little Beau Gust's part? Hardly. It was nearing Bonfire Night and her pram contained a Guy. [For our American readers that means a effigy of Gut Fawkes to be burned on Bonfire Night.] I pushed the pram around town calling Penny for the Guy. She became my first girl friend. after spooling her peaceful playthings that was remarkable. We still speak of those times now that we are grown up. Friends for ever."


A close relative to an ancient game formerly played with stones. You bounce a small ball and, while it is in the air, you pick up a certain number of markers or 'jacks', catching the ball before it makes a second bounce. There are ten jacks in the set. The pieces are six-pointed, so that they can be scooped up easily. The old-fashioned jacks were made from some kind of heavy metal. Modern types are coloured, and made of a lighter alloy or plastic. The lighter ones are much harder to scoop up. Two things about jacks: if you play on a rough surface, like cement, you will end up with bloody knuckles; and if they are not gathered up after the game, they are extremely painful to step on. More pain may be experienced by the owner of the jacks, if they happen to be stepped on by a parent. Back in the days when there were 'boy toys' and 'girl toys', jacks were considered to be girl toys.


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Created: 9:00 PM 1/17/2009
Last updated: 1:44 AM 10/31/2009