January 17, 2013

Admiring her imagination, hoping it's enough

A personal post today. Two art posts in the queue coming this weekend.



I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Ada.

Ada, aged three-and-a-half

 Last week I entered our living room to discover this:

It's the crane her uncle gave her for Christmas. She has placed two figures in the crane. 

But here's the thing. The construction set to which the crane belongs came with these figures (hello fellas!):

Construction Big Site by Kid Connection

She didn't use these figures. Instead, she took this figure...


...and one figure from this set...

Melissa & Doug

...to use in her construction play. Problem solved. At least according to the child.

I didn't put her up to this. It has just become more and more important to her over time to play with the figures she has that represent her own sex.

Ada dreams of being a fireman when she grows up. This Christmas, her grandparents bought her the Melissa & Doug fire truck set, above. I tried to tell her the female was a firefighter-in-training. She poo-pooed my idea, telling me instead that the girl was getting rescued by the firemen, which of course she is. (Those are her words. I always say "Firefighter.")

We have a lot of old toys around saved by Grandma. These toys are so impressive. The figures here...

Fisher Price "Little People"

and here...

Playmobil (truck is unrelated to these figures, of course)

...have defined genders but each can still  play any role a child might want.

Toy manufacturers have improved in terms of race. Look at those black firefighters and construction dudes! You used to be lucky if you could find one person of colour in your toys.

But my daughter, who loves trucks and tea sets equally, has been nudged out of such roles. And yet, in real life, there are more females occupying more roles than ever before. What gives, toymakers?

As a mom of two (I also have a nine-month-old son), I have to tell you that I don't like the fact that she has to make do by cobbling together what she can scrounge out of the toy bin. It's not fair.

It's embarrassing and sad. Especially when in every other way all these toys are just awesome. I just want to see one woman in each of these sets. And I really don't want her to be the one getting rescued! Please help, toy companies!


Lia Hiltz


  1. Dear Lia,

    Thank you very much for this interesting blog post! We appreciate it much, when parents share their personal experience with us.

    Please be assured: We are doing our best to give girls like your daughter Ada the chance to find female characters they can identify and play with across our whole product range.

    We got female pirates as well as police officers and dock workers. And of course, girls can make their favourite princess drive a truck or turn the figure easily into a brave firefighter only by adding some accessories.

    In the world of PLAYMOBIL it's all up to child's imagination! :)

    We hope Ada will have many more hours of fun playing with her PLAYMOBIL.

    Best regards from PLAYMOBIL headquarters in Germany,
    Anna - PLAYMOBIL Social Media Manager

  2. Anna! Wow, thank you for writing me back! I assumed no one would. Female dockworkers -- that's terrific. Thank you so much for caring :)

  3. Great post, Lia! Granted, I'm acknowledging as such nearly a year later...

    The fact that Playmobil responded to your concern affirms in my mind that writing down our thoughts and sending them out into the world still produces results. We get so inundated with social media and everyone sending everything out into the world to the point where we become disconnected and complacent because there's just so much to sift through-- it's sensory overload. However, sometimes the right piece makes it to the appropriate destination and elicits a reaction.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. Now, if only we could have a Barbie with normal bodily dimensions and a mining hat. :)