Girls Toys That
Might Not Make You Gag
by Adrienne Reynolds
Im going to let you in on a little secret. Its quite
shocking and may possibly generate mail, but here it is: boys and girls are different.
Yes, thats right, despite the best efforts of liberal-minded parents everywhere,
girls still do "girl" things and boys still pretend a crust of bread is a
semi-automatic weapon. If encouraged, boys and girls will play with each other and can
even learn to recognize their gender without feeling morally superior to the other. (This
will probably only last until puberty, after which survival of adolescence makes each side
feel like the other couldnt possibly have had it as bad: but thats another
But heres where the real problem lies: toys. All childrens
toys made today are either "Boy" toys or "Girl" toys. The industry
does this on purpose and doesnt design anything unisex aimed at children over the
age of three.
Boys get the cool toys. They get laser cannons and spaceships and
erector sets and action figures, radio-controlled vehicles, comics, trading cards, model
kits, racing sets, Matchbox cars. Heck, its obvious that boys get all the fun stuff.
Dolls and Plush are marketed towards girls, so even potentially cool
stuff like Barbies radio-controlled Lamburgini is designated a "fashion doll
accessory." But GI Joes radio-controlled tank is listed as a
"radio-controlled vehicle." By these odd standards, the industry considers the
action figures of the two female Power Rangers to be "Male action figures."
Polly Pockets Safari playset is a "Mini Doll," but Mighty Max, made in the same
scale from the same concept, is a Mini-Figure Male Action Toy.
Boys get action figures girls get dolls. Oh, they occasionally
call them other things, but dolls are what girls get. Not a single exploding laser cannon
in sight. Their playsets somewhere feature the word "fashion." And in the last
decade some marketeer decided that little girls only see two colors: pink and purple. The
toy industry shouldnt be surprised that their stereotyped "Boys" toys
outsell "Girls" toys: Star Trek, Exosquad, and Power Rangers sell
because these toys are exciting, while "My Little Angel" and dolls that
transform into jewelry are BORING! Plus, pink, purple, and fuchsia can provide only
so much visual interest. I never thought Id miss Smurfs, but at least they were
How Does Barbie Afford It?
As a young girl, I wondered where Barbie got the money to live her
lifestyle and invest in all her retail businesses. Mattel provides the answer with the
Barbie Dream Bed. This pink canopy bed draped in lace features a rotating disco light that
projects moon and star patterns as it rotates inside the canopy. Barbie is pictured
lounging in a transparent white nightie. All those jokes about GI Joe on leave take on new
meaning . . .
At this years toy fair, lines of "Boys" toys
outnumbered "Girls" toys five to one. The "Girls" toys usually looked
alike. By Christmas time, the little girl in your life may be asking for dolls and plush
toys (after all, not every little girl wants to play with the seaQuest DSV sub.)
So, for those looking for a "Girls" toy that wont make you gag, I have
sifted through the offerings and found toys that all contain pink, but are playable and
marginally related to the "fantasy" genre.
The Best "Girl" Toy
Kenners Fairy Winkles are far and away the best
"girl" toy on the market this year. All of their playsets are gimmicky and have
hidden panels and compartments that develop both motor skills and sneakiness. They
actually use a few colors besides pink and purple and look like everyday objects when they
are put away.
Fairy Winkles look like Victorian flowerpots and figurines and jewelry
boxes, but hidden inside are the Fairy Winkles (about 1" tall) and their tiny friends
the Wee Winkles (about a 1/2", if that). Some of the hiding places are so devious
that they have false empty compartments. When you open up the jewelry playhouse it can
actually hold jewelry, but you have to know its secrets to get to where the Fairy Winkles
The Winkles have silk wings made of the same materials as silk flowers
and the cherubic design of Fairy and Wee Winkles borrow heavily from Victorian Greeting
cards. All of the detail is captured with excellent molding and painting. The only other
Kenner line I like as much for ingenuity and construction is the Pet Shop Pets.
They playtested well with girls under nine. Most boys older than five
wouldnt go near the things. "Thats for girls," was the reason most
frequently given. Average play time was about thirty minutes to an hour. More, if they
have more than one set. Prices range from $4.99 to $26.00. Most are at the lower end of
the price scale. These feature Fairy points to send away for Jewelry that hides the little
Dragons from Galoob
Galoobs whimsical and colorful Magic Kissing Dragons
feature "extended hair play." Translation: they have manes that you can brush.
These kissing dragons drink from flower petals full of scented water; when you squeeze
them, they give you a little scented kiss. Dragon accessories include a car, a wishing
well, and a castle. All are well designed, even if they are pink. The Wishing Well is the
best playset; the children imagine all sorts of situations by making wishes, leading them
into more unusual play. The Dragons kiss lights up the well and changes the colors
on the magic butterfly and baby frog. Children play traditional house with the castle, but
its still neat.
Boys responded a little better to the Magic Kissing Dragons than the
Fairy Winkles. But for both boys and girls, you are dealing with a very low age range.
Unless specifically requested by the kid, dont purchase these for anyone older than
seven. Prices range from $5.99 for the dragon and go up to the mid-twenty dollar range for
My Little Angels - Just Say No
In the Just Say No department: AMT / ERTL is taking its first
stab at the girls market with My Little Angels. These toys bring a new meaning to
the word "tacky." I do not know who thought it would be a good idea to have
their eyes glow in the dark, but Im certain that they will be featured in some
future Stephen King novel. There are two kinds of angels: 1) the cherubs and 2) the
"grown" angels who look like they are about eight years old and belong to a
Each angel has a "dominion" that sets gender roles back about
a hundred years. Theres a kitchen angel and a nursery angel and angels of designing,
music, and love. Another angel assortment features angel careers including bride,
cheerleader, teacher, ballerina, and doctor. The doctor, "Miss" Casey,
doesnt even have a stethoscope, just a band-aid theme to her tiara. There is a
daybed that looks like it comes from the same house of ill-repute as Barbies.
My daughter has already seen the commercial and asked for these
horrible little creatures. I have held firm and will remain so. Its one thing to use
lace and pink and purple, but it looks like ERTL took every stereotype of a
"girl" toy and market research on the angel craze of last year and put their
taste and brains on hold. In my book divine beings have better things to do than wear
bottles on their heads like a tiara. I do not believe that in heaven cherubs would wet
their color change diapers.
The scary thing is that in the fall there will be a cartoon featuring
these simps. I have a feeling its going to make Strawberry Shortcake look
progressive and avant garde.
So, there you have it. My house will be filled with Fairy Winkles and
tolerant of Kissing Dragons, but Ill have little demons that skate on ice in my
bathtub before My Little Angels show a stardust-filled wing here.
All toys should be washed at least every six months to help prevent grubby hands from
spreading too many grubby germs. Plush toys (stuffed animals and rag dolls) may be cleaned
of dust and pollen allergens by running them in the dryer on fluff. This will also
maintain their appearance and color. If you have allergies, run your toy animal through
the dryer every other month. Dont worry about the ASPCA: teddy bears love it. You
can also throw in a dryer sheet to keep them aromatic. l
Collectible Kids Column:
About Educational Toys and Collectables that are Fun to Play With!
Articles written by Adrienne Reynolds:
ABOUT COLLECTIBLE KIDS: The Collectible Kids column ran in
Strange New Worlds in the early 1990s. It reviewed and recommended children's products
that encourage imagination, creativity, a love of learning, a sense of history, and a
belief in the future. Plus, any toys listed as "recommended-to-buy" should also
be just plain fun to play with. Products were play-tested by actual children. Testing was
performed with three different child groups: 1) Coed, ages four through eight, 2) Female,
ages eight through fourteen, and 3) Male ages eight through fourteen. Depending upon the
toy, a fourth group may be used: Coed, ages eight through fourteen. Following the
play-testing, all toys were donated to charity.
ABOUT ADRIENNE REYNOLS: Adrienne Reynolds is the
creator and editor-in-chief of "Gateways Past, Future . . . Sideways," a
quarterly magazine of character-based stories with a sense of the unexpected. A writing
instructor, Ms. Reynolds ran the Fantek Writers group.