Diane Pham

LEGO Rolls Out a Line Targeted at Girls - Progressive or Regressive?

by , 01/05/12

lego friends, lego for girls, lego for boys, new lego sets, lego 2012, lego and gender, gender free toys, lego designs, new lego designs, lego designs for girls, new lego figurines, gender neutral toys, toys and gender

Over the holidays, Lego released their Lego Friends series – a selection of colorful new building sets geared towards young girls. While some may consider Lego to be gender neutral, the company’s marketing over the last 6 years has been slanted towards boys – from elaborate battle ships and alien conquest scenes to Star Wars cruisers. Many people believe that these toy sets can still easily cross gender boundaries, but studies have shown that boys and girls engage in play in very different ways, and many argue that the toy falls short when it comes to fostering creativity and analytical skills in girls. So pretty and pink aside, is Lego’s move to create a more “girl-friendly” toy a progressive or regressive one?

Is LEGO's new line of gender specific toys progressive or regressive?

  • 130 Votes Progressive - LEGO's new line will get more girls interested in building
  • 126 Votes Regressive - LEGO should be a gender neutral toy and not target either sex

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lego friends, lego for girls, lego for boys, new lego sets, lego 2012, lego and gender, gender free toys, lego designs, new lego designs, lego designs for girls, new lego figurines, gender neutral toys, toys and gender

We’ve always considered Lego blocks a great way to build creativity and foster positive development in children (and even adults), particularly when it comes to math, spatial relationships, fine motor skills, and problem solving. In 2005 Lego deliberately focused on boys, and the short-term effectiveness of this strategy has given way to excellent results. Now Lego has shifted gears, and is designing sets to reach “the other 50 percent of the world’s children.”

The company has created a set that works with the way girls are inclined to play – namely the way they engage during the building process itself. Girls enjoy placing themselves in the scene they are creating, letting things build into a story, as opposed to boys who tend to be more “linear” with their play and only begin to project in third person, once they’ve completed their models to look like the picture on the box.

To fill the gap, Lego’s new girl-oriented kits focus in on the details. This means larger and (slightly) more lifelike mini-figures with a backstory, the addition of quirky/cute details to the interiors, extending the color palette to a softer range, and even providing a carrying bags for the different pieces so that girls can begin to play even before a block touches a flat surface.

Twenty-nine mini-doll figures will be introduced in 2012, all 5 millimeters taller and curvier than the standard Lego man. There are five main characters and each will come with a name and backstory. The figures were also designed to meet cultural differences. “We had nine nationalities on the team to make certain the underlying experience would work in many cultures,” Nanna Ulrich Gudum, senior creative director, told Business Week. Rosario Costa, a Lego design director, added “The girls needed a figure they could identify with, that looks like them.”

This is not the first time that Lego has attempted to grab the other half. The company has also tried necklace-making kits, beach scenes and “Belville” fairy princess series, but unlike the new set, these failed to work with the psychology of how girls play. Painting something pink does not make for a girl’s favorite toy.

So will Lego’s new venture find success? Time will tell, but it appears that their new approach is much more on point than their previous attempts.

+ Lego

Via Business Week

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5 Comments

  1. Jen Dockter December 31, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    The 9 year old girl in me despises crap like this. I had loads of legos as a girl [and played extensively with duplos when I was a tiny child/baby]. I don’t know why any parent wouldn’t think that space ships or city scenes or really anything couldn’t be “for girls”, too. My favourite building system of which I had the most “sets” aside from just generic multi-coloured bricks was probably the Lego Pirates. I think they were one of the first sets to come with women lego people—all brazen ladies with cutlass swords and sporting sly smirks! My second favourite was probably the castle system, but I never really got many figures for that because I mostly just liked building castles.
    I think largely Lego needs to move away from so many single-purpose large pieces and back into kits that have multiple configurations because they’re comprised primarily of bricks. I think that would foster more creativity for all genders.

  2. angelathebutler January 1, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    I’m a bit torn about Legos. I loved them as a child and love them for my kids. The sets offered now, however, are ridiculously boy-oriented. It’s fantastic that my 6-year-old son can build toys to play with along so many themes in which he is interested. And I love the idea of building a spaceship to play with versus buying it. However, there are slim offerings for my 7-year-old daughter. She’s been highly creative with blocks since a young age, and she has aptitude along with my son in putting together intricate Lego sets. However, the kits are not neutral and the new girl offerings are somewhat insulting. Way too “pink” and way too simple in their assembly. I’m all for avoiding the kits and just building creatively on one’s own, but I’ve found it challenging to accumulate reasonable amounts of the standard bricks – it’s all so kit-focused. For my daughter, I’d love to see a complex horse stable and horses or adventure-focused scenarios with non-princessy characters and smart, strong scenarios like a variety of cultural settings (w/ appropriate buildings, landmarks, etc.) or environments such as a mountain setting or rainforest. Ever since she’s been born, I’ve been frustrated with toy ads that depict boys playing with logical/thinking toys and action toys and girls wearing boas. It’s not my style, and it’s not my daughters, nor her friend’s. They’re feminine and clever but not so pink. :-)

  3. amintzes January 14, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    This is regressive. Lego is gender neutral and should remain so. These stereotypes are sexist and offensive. The only thing I see is that it will make some parents buy and encourage their daughters to play with lego where as their previous ambivalent attitudes towards their daughters and lego would have discouraged them.

    “Girly” is a learnt social behaviour, same as “pink” and “blue”.

  4. Diane Pham Diane Pham January 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    I can’t say i think this is a bad idea. For whatever reason there are girls who are just more drawn to “girly” things — and for those that aren’t, the other sets still exist. For the girly girl, Lego Friends is definitely better than picking up a Barbie doll and brainlessly acting out dream dates with Ken. Whatever the final packaging, Lego still promotes thinking, problem solving, etc. And who’s to say girls won’t cultivate a greater love for the toy and go after the more elaborate sets like Wright’s Falling Water in the future?

  5. sarahmcclure January 7, 2012 at 4:42 am

    This is definitely progressive in my opinion, and a great direction for Legos. Especially given the fact that Tyco had some short-lived success in the ’90s with “Dream Builders.” A Lego-like collection geared towards young girls, including through the use of pink- and purple-colored blocks, and femme-targeted structures like building your own shoe store. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDqCSiNS4pc

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