My Son Only Wants to Play with Girly Toys, Help!

05 October, 2020
Q My son is 4-year-old and enjoys playing with dolls and “girly toys”. Last week, I found him putting rouge on him and walking in my high heels, imitating me.

We try to give him cars and other toys, but he is not interested. His behavior makes me worried. Or is this normal?

Answer

In this counseling answer:

•When the child boy plays with girly toys it is means he is very attached to his mother and trying to imitate her.

•Don’t worry because your son has a creative mind and just imitating you.

•You can swap out the toys for either gender-neutral or boy-oriented.

•Just make sure it aligns with what he is interested in and not something that won’t catch his interest.


As salamu alaykum,

Thank you for writing to us. Your son sounds like he has a very creative mind! At this age, he is very attached to you, his mother so it is normal that he may be trying to imitate you.

At this age, oftentimes little boys are more attached to their mothers and little girls to their fathers.

While his choice of playthings may be upsetting to you, it is likely a passing phase. He does not have the cognitive ability at this age to determine what is appropriate and what is not.

Imitating his mother 

And, who is to say this is not okay?  For instance, cooking is typically done by women, or expected to be right?  Well if you look at a lot of the great chef’s, a lot of them are men.

Additionally, we as moms often ensure our son’s know how to cook. Some of my sister’s husbands do brag on their cooking skills at a social get together!

Additionally, sewing is also seen as a gender assigned task, yet look at all the men who are tailors and have sewing shops.

Lastly, the Prophet Mohammad (saw) used to sew his socks. I bring this all up sister to show you that a lot of what we see as inappropriate is really a just exploration of a creative mind and the children often grow up perfectly fine doing a craft they love that is socially acceptable.

It is my feeling your son is just imitating you, or an auntie or perhaps another sibling in the home, at playtime or in other social settings. This is normal, dear sister.  

My Son Only Wants to Play with Girly Toys, Help! - About Islam

The whole scenario of playing with dolls, putting on makeup and walking in high heels is just what you said-an imitation of you! And that is okay. He is just experimenting and playing house so to speak.

The fact that he identifies with you, his mom at this age is normal. 

Feminine behavior

In fact in The Psychology of Sex Differences states that as children of both sexes spend more time with the mother they will at first acquire and imitate feminine behavior.

However, as boys grow older and are more males they will then begin to take on more masculine behaviors and interests.

The fact that he is not interested in cars could be due to the limited ability to do creative things with it. 

I would kindly suggest that you buy him crayons, water paint, coloring books-things he can create with and things that are changeable. 

For instance, as he like dolls it could be that they remind him more of humans, and it is easier to pretend more with a doll than a car.

Boys dolls

I remember going to my daughter’s daycare and a lot of the little boys were playing with dolls. 

The dolls, however, were male dolls and action figure dolls so if you are uncomfortable, you may want to replace the dolls with these types of “boy” dolls. 

Also a “Build a Bear” toy might satisfy that possible desire to play with things that are more “alive” like in their presence as well as encourage his creative abilities which will be a benefit to him in school.


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Your son sounds like a very bright little boy sister. I would not worry about his choice of toys at this point nor the fact that he experiments with makeup or women’s shoes.

He is insha’Allah just imitating what he is exposed to. If you are really uncomfortable, just begin to replace it with things that are similar, but more gender identifying.

I recall seeing pictures of my brothers and other peoples bothers as little children. They dressed up in their mom’s or sister’s shoes, clothes, and wigs.

We laughed, thought it was cute and no one ever made a big deal over it.  However, today we live in a world wherein any deviance from what we as a society feel is “normal” is a cause for alarm. 

Normal action

This hyper-vigilance often does more harm than good. As many children go through phases of playing with and doing things out of the social “norm” wherein for their age and cognition, it is normal.

preschool teacher states that “I am a preschool teacher and the boys love to play with the dolls as much as the girls do.

Preschool-aged kids enjoy playing pretend and using their imaginations Playing house.  It is a great way for them to recount what happens in their homes. Or at least the way they see it.

The boys in my class enjoy pretending to be fathers to the babies. I am also mom to a 15-month old that plays with baby dolls. And I have an almost 3-year-old nephew who does too.

It is completely normal. It is fun to see my son try to put the baby to sleep the same way we do… shushing and patting. It shows you a lot about your parenting when you see your kids playing house.”

Giving other alternatives

I would kindly suggest that if you are concerned, just swap out the toys for either gender-neutral or boy oriented. 

Just make sure it aligns with what he is interested in and not something that won’t catch his interest.  Thus my suggestion for action figures or male dolls or build a bear type of toys.

Lastly, please know that insha’Allah as he grows and develops he will insha’Allah  lose these interests and develop new ones as he experiments more with the world around him.

We wish you the best sister, you are in our prayers.

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees are liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.