Last Updated on March 20, 2018

One of the things that years’ of research with men and women, boys and girls, has taught me is that the genders are just (gasp!) different.  It always stuns me when people push back against this idea – as if acknowledging differences will somehow suck our society through the space-time-continuum, back to the bad old days when there were “Want Ads for Men” (engineers and doctors) and “Want Ads for Women” (grade school teachers and secretaries).  (Yes, that did happen in the 1950’s and 60’s believe it or not… but I think our culture has gone just a teeny bit beyond that at this point.)

For those of you who haven’t seen it, there is an uproar over the new Lego line for girls, called “Lego Friends,” which focuses on more realistic girl characters that girls can both build around and play with as they engage in the type of fluid storyline-based play that girls tend to do automatically.  Only some people are screaming sexist as a result, since the new line features sets like cafes and beauty parlors rather than dungeons, skyscrapers, and spaceships.

As one outraged woman asked, “Is Lego telling my daughter that she has to run a beauty parlor rather than be an architect someday?”

Actually, no, they’re not.  The problem is that this concern ignores the reality that Lego is simply giving many girls (not all, but many) what they actually want.  And they want it because their girl brains are simply wired differently than boy brains in many, many different ways.

Let me take a second to give you the back story to why the new Lego line exists – a back story which I found fascinating, and which we can learn from if we are willing to do so.  After almost going out of business a few years back, Lego cut its costs and focused aggressively on boys in order to do one thing well and return to financial health.  I read a really interesting article in Bloomberg business magazine  about how Lego then began an effort to reach out more to girls – but to do it in a way that would create Lego toys girls would actually want to play with.  Because giving girls pink bricks instead of blue just wasn’t doing it, and while political correctness plays well on Facebook, it doesn’t sell Lego kits. So Lego began a long term sociological / anthropological study, embedding researchers into the homes of families around the world to watch how boys and girls actually played with their Lego toys in the real world.

As the mom of a (currently) 11 year old girl and a 9 year old boy, I had noticed for years that there just weren’t a lot of Lego options that appealed to my daughter during her “Lego years.”  She played with them of course, but with nowhere close to my son’s enthusiasm. When our family visited Disney World three years ago, and the kids brought their saved-up chore money to buy a few presents of their choice, my daughter walked into the Lego Store, looked around while my son began intimately examining his glistening options with almost agonizingly exquisite detail (Ninjago!  Star Wars!  Castles!), gave the little pink ghetto of ‘girl-colored’ Lego sets in the corner a desultory look, came over to me and asked, “can I go to the Princess store instead?”

And therein lies the problem with the sort of old-school political correctness that tries to say that girls will always be engaged by the same things as boys if you just give them the right options: it’s just not true.  I’m convinced that my daughter is going to be an engineer of some kind – she is a math whiz and does visual-spatial reasoning problems far more naturally than I can.   She loves mysteries and suspense books about knights and castles — and yet she wants to play with dolls in the castles instead of building impersonally with them.  She loves the idea of the new Lego Friends toys – although, she quickly adds, it’s too bad that she’s too old to really take advantage of them now.

We do our girls no favors by trying to pretend that they aren’t different from boys – don’t we talk about embracing our “female strengths?”  How can we encourage our girls to embrace who they are – who God made them to be! – without acknowledging, encouraging and celebrating that they learn differently, lead differently and yes, play differently.  Those things that appeal to girls, do so because, I believe, that is the way God made them – made us!

Yes, everyone is an individual (as my little tomboy math-brain girl knows) but that’s just the point: respecting how we are each made and designed, rather than trying to put us in a box, will always lead us to God’s best for us, and for our kids.

I’m sort of hoping that some of the daughters of the upset moms will start asking for Lego Friends, and give the moms a chance to see that for themselves.

What do you think about this new line for girls?

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  1. railroad momma says:

    I think they are great! LEGO doesn't teach our daughters they need to fill stereotypical female vocational roles – the princesses do enough of that! My 3 1/2 year old just got her first LEGO set (Hello Kitty) and she's thrilled to have her own instead of trying to play with her 7 yr. old brother's sets. I think it's interesting how LEGO gets blasted for this but companies like Disney can send the wrong message to our kids about gender roles with all their ridiculous happily ever after stories. Kudos to LEGO!

  2. My girls love to play with their daddy's legos from when he was a kid. My 6-year-old received some of these for her birthday and it just makes legos that much more fun! We also have Harry Potter legos and Toy Story legos along with all the other basic legos. Maybe we should be more concerned with actually teaching our children what we want them to learn than criticizing every company out there for everything they do. I'm going to focus on my home and we will embrace the opportunity to let my little girls play with legos that appeal to them!

  3. My little girl asked me (about 20 years ago) "Why do all the mommies die in the movies?" She meant Disney movies, and nobody raised a stink about that! Yeah, I love the new Legos for girls! For my grandkids!

  4. Sheri Sprague Wilcox says:

    I love them! We have three girls in my house, 7, 4 and 18 months – these new legos will go nicely with the old ones we have! My girls are not by any means taught or coached or nurtured to avoid "boy" things – but they do love a nice purple & pink hair ribbon! 🙂

  5. Well, seeing as my daughter has spent just over $100 of money she'd saved up from various holidays and chores on the new girl Legos, after having never paid them any attention before, I'd say they are on to something good!

  6. As with anything, there will always be people who rage against change and polarize a simple thing into a serious offense. This is a perfect example. Not only is it a smart move from a business perspective to expand their line to appeal to more people, but, like someone else said, "it makes the experience that much more fun!" To call it sexist feels to me the same as calling Crayola sexist for adding more variations of purple or pink to crayon boxes!

    I have 2 girls and a boy and always subscribed to the nurture vs. nature line of thought when it came to their interests and preferences. Since birthing them and watching them grow, I have eaten my words. There is a spectrum of preference for those things labeled girl or boy toys within each sex.

    I am glad Lego has now expanded its line to be inclusive of more preferences. Now those boys or girls who prefer pinks or purples or more domestic/society mimicking toys will now have an outlet to play with lego's that is ultimately appealing to them. And, they can blend these with the existing Lego lines to create all kinds of imaginative creations.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Your post is spot on! Thank you for being one to speak up. My daughter is very excited to have something to build up her Lego collection to contend with her brother. I think it matters more what the parents are communicating to their children than the toy companies out there.

  8. I've seen these girl Legos and while I like the idea, I would actually prefer to have the Lego girls look a little more Legoish. They are super skinny and just don't look right. I may buy something like this for my girls if they really seem to express an interest in them, but right now they love to build the Lego houses and act out their own stories with what we already have.

  9. Could not agree more w/everything you have to say in your article… Growing up I played w/legos… all the primary colored ones. I loved to construct homes, farms, communities and to this day have a passion for design from architecture to scrapbooking. Your comment re: your daughter wanting to play w/dolls in castles vs. building "impersonally" w/them really resonates w/me. As a mother of four boys, I am very passionate about teaching & exposing them to experiences that require them to be engaged, compassionate, respectful, and thoughtful of others… these are characteristics everyone should possess regardless their gender, occupation, or colors they prefer. God's plan for us is already written, and if it includes pink legos, I am thankful we can get our hands on them! Thank you for your article….

  10. I love Legos! My children are older now and I actually miss always having Legos around. A few years ago, they came out with Clickits; a little different than regular Lego blocks but still building and creating tools. My daughter was so upset when she could no longer find them. She even wrote to the company a few times. If that was a time the company was in financial trouble, now I can understand cutting back. We were so disappointed to see them targeting mainly boys though. So THANK YOU for this article. We happened to go into the Lego store again the other day and I was so glad to see a new line for girls. I don't like to divide toys based on gender but companies do need to know how different children play with the toys. I'm impressed with the amount of research that has gone into it all. I do hope they continue to try to attract older girls (they did have the line for preschool girls) to continue to encourage girls to play and create as they get alittle older.

  11. I LOVE the new Legos for girls! Currently we have two boys (who absolutely adore Legos!) but we are pregnant with our third. We don’t know yet if we’re having a boy or a girl, but I can tell you this… if we end up having a girl, we will be buying these new Legos for girls for sure!! They are so awesome!!!

  12. Love the article! My daughter (almost 12) loves the new girls line. We waited a long time for these. My son, is a Lego nut and can’t get enough. It has always seemed odd to me that they didn’t have sets geared more toward the female gender. I would agree with an earlier comment about the girls looking more “real” rather than looking like the “normal” Lego people. Our girls don’t need to be hit with more “anatomically correct” dolls. They get plenty of that everywhere they turn. Just let them play!

  13. I think that a girl’s Lego line sounds great! I honestly would find it offensive if they were trying to sell it based on the fact that the bricks were pink… Girls and boys are distinctly different in that girls relate face-to-face while boys relate side-by-side. Girls play “house”, tea party, Barbies, castle princess/warrior etc. They play at forming relationships with the toys they have, or they create imaginary friends to BE and play WITH – my imaginary friends were the Ninja Turtles, and my friends and I often played Power Rangers. lol. Boys do things together and focus on the act of doing, not on each other. They play video games, fish, build, and generally adventure. When we become adults we STILL do these things. Rarely do you see men simply go out to chat and have coffee together casually; men get together to watch the game, discuss a particular project, or do some other activity together. Women typically get together to relate to each other; coffee, shopping, creating, planning, or just to talk.

    Growing up I had a LOT of legos (for a girl, at least). I had pirates, castles, dungeons, and I absolutely LOVED them. (Now I play Minecraft…) One day my dad brought home a Megablocks Castle (generic Legos, but they still work together) that happened to have a princess character with long blonde hair and blue eyes, and a king with dark hair and a mustache and beard. I instantly decided that the king was my daddy and that i was the princess. I set up the castle with a dungeon (complete with trap door), a forge, a treasure room, AND the princess’ bedroom and dining hall. It gave me something more emotionally attaching and I could be creative at the same time. While I didn’t always play-act with the characters, it gave me an emotional attachment and a desire to play with the castle even more. I also had another Lego-type set, designed for girls, that was purple and had stickers and things to set up a flower shop. I enjoyed that one, but not nearly as much as the Lego castle!