As the New Year launched so did a brand new line of LEGO toys, LEGO Friends, an entire line of LEGO building blocks and play sets aimed at girls 5 and up. Bricks in shades of pink, lavender and other pastel colors dominate this new LEGO Friend world. The LEGO Friends minifigs have been updated to appeal more to girls as well. The new girl minifigs are longer, more realistic in shape, and while 29 in all will be released in 2012, there’s a core group of five main characters each with their own biographies, personalities and names. The new collection is set in the fictional city of Heartlake, which comes complete with a salon, a horse academy, a veterinary clinic, a café and more. LEGO Friends is LEGO’s sixth attempt over many years to lure as girls into the mostly boy-saturated LEGO world, but some don’t like that the company has seemingly gone out of their way to create an entire LEGO world just for girls.

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The Argument Against LEGO Friends

From what I can gather, there are a couple of major arguments against this new pretty, pink collection. First, some say that there are already LEGOs for girls – i.e. any LEGOs already on the market. Some parents seem baffled as to why LEGO finds it necessary to single out a special just-for-girls line, when there’s so many sets on the market already. The other argument is that some people feel that it’s just plain sexist to target girls with pink toys or toys that shows girls baking, doing their hair or decorating a house. For example, one reader comment at BabyCenter states, “It annoys me when people feel the need to make “pink” or “girly” versions of everything. We can play with the real things too! ugh.” However, comments like this make me wonder why “pink” or “girly” toys are not considered “real things” or a viable option for girls (or boys).

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Arguments for LEGO Friends

Although parents all over the web keep saying, “Legos were perfectly fine for girls just as they were,” research says differently. As one article points out, LEGOs are the hottest toy for boys, but girls simply aren’t as impressed. While it’s true that plenty of girls do adore LEGOs, the market is quenched with stereotypical boy sets and boys buy more sets than girls. The other argument for the new LEGO Friends is that LEGOs do offer untold benefits. Research shows that young children who play with blocks score, on average, 15% higher on language tests. According to the same research, tasks such as building a LEGO structure allows kids to begin to grasp the world around them, plus kids who engage in imaginative play may have better impulse control and longer attention spans. According to other research, blocks help kids learn skills like math, spatial relationships, fine motor skills, creativity and problem solving. All-in-all, if block makers want all kids to benefit from blocks and building, it’s a smart move to create sets that may appeal to more kinds of kids.

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I’d Have Been First in Line for LEGO Friends

LEGO did some extensive research into how girls play, while designing the new LEGO Friends line. LEGO found that girls favor toys that encourage role-play, storytelling and rearranging pieces as well as beauty, friendlier colors and a high level of detail. They nailed me as a kid. I LOVED pink and lavender. Barbie, My Little Pony, nail polish, frilly dresses and sparkles were all I wanted. I did exactly what the LEGO research said too; I’d act out stories, rearrange my Barbie house, and I wanted toys with super tiny details. I had some LEGOs as a kid but rarely used them. I didn’t love LEGO colors and I was sick of all the tiny figures in hard hats (all boys). LEGOs were not made for the kind of little girl I was. Had LEGO Friends been around when I was little, I’m sure I would have wanted to play with LEGOs more often.

The pink deal wasn’t due to my upbringing either. My own mom was pretty much the poster child for women’s rights. She’d distinctly point out that I didn’t have to have pink. In fact, she’d have liked it if I’d been drawn to neutral toys. Problem was, I wasn’t. My sister, raised by the same mom, liked so-called “boy” toys and would try to sneak transformers into my Barbie dream home, much to my dismay. My brother had cars and Barbies, playing somewhere in-between my sis and me. Of the three of us, only my sister played long-term with LEGOs. Who can explain why kids like what they like? I do know that all three of us grew up to believe women and men deserve equal rights. I do know that liking pink didn’t turn me into a pushover. I’m not waiting for a prince charming and I don’t act shy and giggly simply because I liked pink princesses as a kid.

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Why Can’t Kids Have Options?

I have one, very boyish son. Knowing me, you’d think he’d like “girl” stuff. I bought the kid dolls and gender neutral toys, yet all he’s ever wanted are toy cars, play swords and yes, boxes and boxes of LEGOs. My best friend, a raging tomboy her whole life has one daughter. My friend is raising her with all kinds of toys, but Bella is determined to get her little hands on anything pink and glittery she can grab, something my friend is confused by, but she allows it, because that’s what her daughter wants. LEGO offering more choices is just that, more choices. I doubt LEGO’s goal is to keep girls out of the White House or teach them that they can’t be astronauts. They are simply offering choices that some kids might find more appealing than the vast sea of aliens, cars, ninjas and monsters that currently rule Lego world. Those choices are hardly gender-neutral by the way. Yet no one is freaking out and saying, “Hey, quit making boys think they have to fight green monsters all the time!” Perhaps pink and purple LEGOs may even inspire more girls to become architects, engineers and industrial designers, which are all still male dominated industries.

If all boys and girls played the same, and liked the same stuff, there wouldn’t be an issue. LEGO could toss out a big box of all white bricks and kids would be a-ok. However, all kids do not play the same, sometimes in spite of how their parents may be raising them. I don’t think LEGO Friends are sexist. These blocks aren’t saying one gender is better, they’re simply acknowledging that different kids like different toys.

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