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Girls' Legos Are A Hit, But Why Do Girls Need Special Legos?

Posted by on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:11 PM
  • 75 Replies

Girls' Legos Are A Hit, But Why Do Girls Need Special Legos?

4 min 38 sec
  • Olivia's House is part of the Lego Friends series.
    Olivia's House is part of the Lego Friends series.

Two years ago, in 2011, 90 percent of Lego's consumers were boys. A tough statistic to swallow for those of us who grew up playing with Lego's gender-neutral buckets of bricks. But the statistic came straight from Lego, which was then focused on boys with franchised sets based on properties like Star Wars and The Avengers after weathering a disastrous period in the 1990s that left the company on the brink of collapse.

"Construction had never worked for girls, for whatever reason," says Garrick Johnson, a toy analyst for BMO Capitol Markets. "It took [Lego] four years of research to figure out how to address the girls' market, how to attack it the right way."

Lego Friends turned out to be one of the biggest successes in Lego's history. They're five adorable little dolls with distinctive names and storylines and sets that encourage girls to build karate studios, beauty parlors and veterinary offices. The line doubled sales expectations in 2012, the year it launched. Sales to girls tripled in just that year.

Johnson says the company carefully studied differences between how girls and boys play. "When boys build a construction set, they'll build a castle, let's say, and they'll play with the finished product on the outside. When girls build construction sets, they tend to play on the inside."

And research showed that girls loved little details, says Lego brand relations manager Amanda Santoro. "When we were testing this, we asked girls what would you like to see in a Lego school?" she said, as she showed off the line at Toy Fair, the massive industry event held each year in New York City. "Of course, they said an art studio. So we see a lot of detail here with the different paint canisters and the canvas here [a Friend] is creating."

David Pickett blogs about Legos at , where he's criticized the Lego Friends' gender implications. "Their legs can't move independently, so they move as one big block," he points out.

That's not the case with "minifigs" — the classic Lego minifigures with stocky little torsos, snap-off heads, and feet designed to click onto Lego blocks. Additionally, Lego Friends cannot turn their wrists.

"That sort of sends a message about what we expect women being able to do physically," Pickett notes.

Lego Friends triggered the ire of Joy Pochatila, a scientist and mother of two small girls. Her first reaction to the line was dismissive. "Why can't they just play with regular Legos? Why does it have to be girl-driven?" she wondered.

But Pochatila also was dismayed by how many of the regular sets revolve around male superheroes. "You don't see a Wonder Woman set," she points out.

Her husband, Davis Evans, is a staunch Lego defender. When presented with the minifigs' skewed gender numbers, he argued that the androgynous figures could be read as female. Pochatila said she'd prefer a few more specifically female figures, ones that reflect a real-life ratio. And it's hard, she admitted, to argue with Lego Friends' appeal, the complexity of their sets and their overall message of empowerment.

The success of the girl-centric Lego Friends has led to little girl dolls popping up in construction sets all over the place, including pink ones from Mega Blocks and Mattel's Barbie. That's great, say fans, for developing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills for girls. But critics wonder, would it be so hard for Lego to develop — even market — toys for girls and boys to enjoy together?


*NOTE FROM OP*  While in the past girls played with dolls and boys played with cap guns, there were things that were more gender neutral, like legos USED to be. It seems that this has shifted and become more divided along gender lines. The strict gender rules that have been imposed children's toys is something that I find frustrating. Walking into Target or Walmart when the toy isles are literally colored blue or pink actually makes me a little ill. I grew up in a time when this toy was not centered on gender at all.
I even read somewhere recently that art supplies were for girls. REALLY?!?!

Thought I would throw this 1970s advertisement in to aid in this discussion....Heck, not only is this girl playing with "plain legos"...You wouldn't see her dressed this way now in an advertisement. It isn't "girly" enough.

Neon Washable Paint

by on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:11 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Lcherniske
by Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:17 PM
1 mom liked this
I think girls can play with regular legos just fine but i am a supporter of appealing to girls to increase their use of toys that are construction based to develop that portion of their brain. To me it seems similar to marketing dolls to boys like-" my buddy."
turtle68
by Mahinaarangi on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:20 PM

I disagree....boys have played with different dolls.  Girls have had access to boy and girl dolls ..they like the girl ones better.

Girls like pink and frilly....why not make the product something that girls like.

I see nothing wrong with it :-)

FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:23 PM

Meh, I like it.

It doesn't really bother me that they have 'girl' legos.   


Donna6503
by Platinum Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:27 PM

While I definitely understand the sentiment; I have to step back and say, "Do kids' toys really need to be politically correct"?

JMmama
by Bronze Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:30 PM
2 moms liked this
We have Legos of all types coming out the ying yang here. We have a bunch of "normal" Legos and duplos and a couple sets of duplos that have some sort of farm/zoo theme. We also have a lot of "sets". My oldest (a boy) was seriously into Star Wars for awhile, so we have some of those. We have buzz light year and zurg that I got on clearance. We also have a huge castle set and some type of Atlantis giant thing that I also bought on clearance. My 3 year old has a Cars duplo thing.

My DD does have a couple of the friends sets. She does play with the regular Legos but she really loves the friends ones. She could not have been less interested in building the Star Wars ones because it just wasn't interesting to her. The article hit the nail on the head with boys playing on the outside and girls on the inside. That is what DD really loves is all the little details that the friends sets come with. She shares a name with one of them (Mia) which is why we bought them to begin with but they have held her attention longer than any of the others.

I don't really get the issue here, honestly. To me, it seems like Lego did a lot of research into what girls wanted out of Lego, as opposed to a lot of companies who just spit out the same product but in pink or purple. I am sure there are girls that are interested enough in Star Wars or what have you to pick those sets but why is it such a bad thing to have sets geared towards what other girls like?

I can see the argument that the sets never should have started to begin with. That Lego should have just stayed with the tried and true generic building sets and never gone down the Star Wars, etc road. However, I honestly don't think they would have remained competitive or at the top of the market if they had. Another company would have moved in and done it and Lego would have lost out big time, IMO.
Aestas
by Gold Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:33 PM

Wow, that ad really brings home how much things have changed in terms of kids' toys and the way they're marketed. I had tons of Legos as a kid and LOVED them. My daughter has always had a fondness for all things pink and princessy (which makes me a little crazy, but she gets to be her own person), so I was happy that I'd managed to get her interested in Legos, which I saw as more gender-neutral (and help her "play" at something other than cooking, cleaning, looking pretty, or taking care of other people). But as soon as she found out there were "girl" Legos, she went crazy for them. She has some of the "girl" sets, but I mix them in with her other Legos. She likes to build towers, castles, and houses and make up stories with them.

But yes, it irritates me very much how toys are divided into boy things and girl things, and the division is so much more rigid than it used to be. If you look at the stuff in the aisles, you notice the girls have dolls, play houses, play kitchens, play hair salons, princesses, and so on, while the boys have building sets, superheroes, puzzle-type games, and action-y things. And it's so hard as a parent to combat the cultural messages your kids get from books, movies, TV, peers, and just seeing the toy aisles themselves. I let my daughter choose what she likes and be who she is, but when I play Barbies with her, my Barbie is always a rocket scientist. :)

JMmama
by Bronze Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:34 PM
I agree. My three oldest kids are almost 8, almost 6 and almost 4. The middle one is my girl. She plays differently than the boys. She has been raised the same and exposed to the same toys. We do not tell or imply to the boys or the girls that certain toys are boys toys or that certain toys are girl toys. They gravitate towards different things. Even my oldest (a boy) who likes to play princess dress up plays differently in that dress than DD does.

Quoting turtle68:

I disagree....boys have played with different dolls.  Girls have had access to boy and girl dolls ..they like the girl ones better.

Girls like pink and frilly....why not make the product something that girls like.

I see nothing wrong with it :-)

jllcali
by on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:37 PM
A lot of girls like pink and unicorns.

My daughter likes dinosaurs, cars, superheroes, disney princesses, painting, dolls, horses, etc. She will play with it all wearing a pink tutu. It's a freaking explosion of pink in her room.
Lottie925
by Bronze Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:42 PM
My dd got a set as. Gift and built it from scratch on her own. She really enjoyed it. But she loved duplo before that. I liked the duplo for the ease of just creating large buildings etc. but when it comes to smaller detailed sets, I'm glad for the fairly sets. My dd is just fairly. It's natural to her. Yes she pays in dirt, climbs trees, and finds bugs interesting, but she's into rainbows, unicorns, flowers etc.
turtle68
by Mahinaarangi on Jun. 29, 2013 at 9:45 PM
1 mom liked this

its in the genetic makeup.  My kids were raised the same as yours.  I didnt own an iron or ironing board for years and when I went to take my then 4yo to daycare she ran over to the iron and picked up a shirt and starting ironing.  She loved that kitchen stuff as well as the cleaning crap.  She is 23 now and has gone the complete opposite...wont cook or clean *sigh* LOL

Quoting JMmama:

I agree. My three oldest kids are almost 8, almost 6 and almost 4. The middle one is my girl. She plays differently than the boys. She has been raised the same and exposed to the same toys. We do not tell or imply to the boys or the girls that certain toys are boys toys or that certain toys are girl toys. They gravitate towards different things. Even my oldest (a boy) who likes to play princess dress up plays differently in that dress than DD does.

Quoting turtle68:

I disagree....boys have played with different dolls.  Girls have had access to boy and girl dolls ..they like the girl ones better.

Girls like pink and frilly....why not make the product something that girls like.

I see nothing wrong with it :-)


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