Mattel Thinks Moms Do Not Understand How to Play With Cars
Society talks a good game in the media about gender equality in play, but a peak behind the toy marketing curtain makes the dividing line between pink and blue clear. Companies frequently send me press kits with one sheet labeled "boys' toys" and another labeled "girls' toys." That's supposed to be for press only though. Pay no attention to the aisles of pink dolls and tea sets kept separately from the action toys and tools.
When Mattel recently invited mom bloggers to explain how they should play with Hot Wheels cars with their sons, there was a backlash. As if moms didn’t already understand this very basic concept!
Is corporate toy marketing the root of the gender divide in toys? Or is it merely a business-savvy recognition of reality?
Personally, I was a tomboy who played with transformers and G.I. Joes. I have a harder time understanding my girly-girl's love of dolls than my two boys' desire to smash cars into the wall.
What is painful to a toy-lover like me is that this easily could have turned into something 100% positive. Modern parents struggle to play with their kids (note the gender neutral terms, here). I am constantly impressed with the games my mother comes up with when she plays with the kids--after all, she managed to keep me engaged and mostly out of trouble in an era before tablets and Netflix streaming. Like other parents, I also turn to books and websites to remember how to play. Some of my favorite mom bloggers have cool posts about using cars to make art, building painter's tape roadways for toy cars, making car crafts, incorporating cars into cool gifts, and using cars, trucks, and trains in literacy, math, and physics and engineering activities. Who says moms don't know how to play with cars?
Which is not to say that fathers and mothers do not tend to have different styles of play. I admit that my tree-climbing past aside, I tend to make crafts with the kids and my husband tends to be the one to toss them in the air, if only because he physically can. My point is simply that we can all benefit from connecting with our children through different ways of playing.
I suspect that many parents both of boys and girls would be interested in information about the role toy vehicles play in child development, tips about how to play with cars, and ideas for how to turn a passion for automobiles into learning lessons. This initiative could have been an opportunity to communicate with parents about play without patronizing them.
Do you think moms need to learn how to play with cars? Or is Mattel spinning its wheels?