Do Legos have to Be Pink & Curvy for Girls to Play With Them?

Did you play with Legos as a kid? Do your kids play with them? Probably billions of those colorful little plastic bricks have been sold worldwide. (And I’ve personally stepped on at least 100 barefoot in the middle of the night – ouch.)

Recent articles on the company reveal that while the tightly engineered, “click-fit, clutch power, plastic bricks” are unchanged since their invention in the late 1940’s, Lego has been giving a lot of thought to how the toys are played with, at least by little girls.

The company’s name comes from two Danish word “leg godt” meaning “play well.” Per the website, their Mission is to “Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow’, with a Vision of “Inventing the future of play.”  Certainly a good start, for boys and girls…

Building with Lego bricks has been shown to assist children in developing spatial, mathematical and fine motor skills, allowing the use of imagination for hours of quiet, independent play. A good set of skills for boys and girls…

Now my daughters played with Legos a lot. They loved the castles, the Robin Hood forest, the city, the outer space sets…they had no problem being girls playing with Legos.  Despite “being for girls and boys” as listed in Lego’s top ten corporate characteristics, the company focused on the market for boys, doing very well, topping $1 billion in annual sales worldwide. They’ve made periodic attempts to create “girl” Lego kits but didn’t put much thought into it, in my opinion and experience. And predictably the “pink” sets didn’t do well at all. My own daughters pretty much ignored the sketchy “Paradisa” kits in the 1990s, preferring the richly detailed sets I mentioned above.

Is boxy “ Minifigure Man” a hit or a miss for little girls? Lego researchers learned to their shock that the iconic man was a flop with girls. The all purpose plastic man with his swiveling legs, yellow jug head, and painted on face just didn’t cut it in the world of girl play.

In the research reports, the Lego team said boys tend to play with the minifig in the third person. Girls saw the minifig more as an avatar, projecting themselves onto her. Lego is now going to introduce 29 mini-doll figures, who will be 5mm taller than the standard minifig, with more curves. There will be five main characters, with names and backstories (Remind anyone of the American Girl doll series? Just a tad…).

According to the Lego anthropologists, girls need harmony (a pleasing, everything-in-its-right-place sense of order), friendlier colors, and a high level of detail. Boys tend to be “linear” – building the kits exactly like the picture on the box, maybe even racing against the clock to see who could build faster, while girls prefer to take breaks along the way, to start storytelling and playing before the kit is finished.

The Lego team does have some concerns about the fact that to break down stereotypes about girls playing with legos, they are reinforcing other stereotypes – girls need pretty and pink in their toys. Additionally, kids pick up on the cues in television commercials and elsewhere as to who plays with what. “Legos are for boys,” said many little girls the company surveyed, even as they happily played with the new Lego Friends line.

My own daughter, now grown, says, “I’d like to know what little girls they were talking to. All that stuff about harmony, order, blah blah. My fav games involved dinosaurs and time travel and shark chases and rogue centaurs. I even made my Barbies jump off buildings.”

Major department stores in the U.S. plan to display the Lego Friends in the girls’ toys sections, not with the massive classic Lego kit displays.

So will this new iteration of ”Legos for girls” – pastels and curves –  work better than previous efforts?  Is it really even needed? What do you think?

*Quotes and statistics drawn from “Lego’s Billion Dollar Girl,” by Brad Wieners, Bloomberg Business Week,  12/19-25/11, or from the LEGO corporate web page.

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17 comments on “Do Legos have to Be Pink & Curvy for Girls to Play With Them?

  1. I remember buying a “girl” legos kit for my daughter. she enjoyed it, but never got into legos like my son. I’m not big on the kits where you build the item on the box cover (or a few variations). I preferred to buy the big buckets of legos of all sizes and shapes and let the kids have at them.

    Girls like primary colors, too!

  2. I found it disturbing when somebody revived a Legos ad from 1981, with a little girl in jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt, people were making comments about her being dressed “like a boy.” (Don’t know if this link will work, but am giving it a try: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150440365398303&set=a.10150097508983303.274727.9171233302&type=1&theater)

    She was dressed like a CHILD, for active play. My quibble isn’t giving girls items in pink or purple or allowing them to wear those colors – it’s the STEERING of them to those colors only, the idea that they are supposed to be ONLY pretty, not also strong, capable, smart, creative…

    • Agree, children should be free to just be kids and play, as my daughter did with all her dinosaurs and sharks and etc. She also did the pink stuff, as I quoted her, but even there it was with an adventurous twist.

  3. I had the big bucket of primary color Legos and a “minifigure man”. I don’t recall every wishing for different colored blocks or a different figurine. In my experience, most kids build their masterpiece, leave it around the house for a week or so, then demolish it and build something else.

  4. I had a chance to see the ‘girl’ (aka Lego Friends) sets this Saturday at one of our local Toys’R’Us, and I was actually quite impressed. Each of the characters had their own theme set, which ranged from what appeared to be a doggy day care, to a stage, design school and a science lab/inventor’s workshop! If it had all been pink and puppies and shopping malls (*cough*Polly Pocket*cough*) I would have been completely put off. But I think it’s an interesting start to the range. (And besides, there’s nothing stopping a parent buying a Lego Death Star or a few Hero Factory robots to go with that inventor’s workshop. 😉 )

    • Good to know the themes are so well thought out, with many choices. I like the science lab/inventor workshop for sure! Thanks for adding to the information and I’m totally with you about adding a few Star Wars or other legos to the set.

  5. I think your daughters are spot on, Veronica!

    My daughters are still in the lego phase, and their lego kit includes a small suitcase full from when I was a kid as well as new additions.

    I’ve seen the new ‘girls’ lego in stores and just don’t like it, so my daughters will just have to stick with castles and pirates and all the fun boys’ stuff on the market!

  6. I don’t think LEGO is in any way thinking girls have to have pink bricks and boys have to have blue bricks – they just see another potential market. There are, after all, girls out there who are very into pink and Barbies and frilly things who may have no interest in LEGO Star Wars or LEGO pirates, but may be very interested in LEGO pink unicorns. How about a good round of “to each her own”?

  7. Legos were my favorite toy when I was a kid. I never had enough Legos! I don’t really care for the elaboarate themed sets they market these days, prefer the ordinary boxes of rectangular bricks, although I did want a Moonbase when I was a kid. I’m not sure they need to make pink, girly Legos so much as market regular Legos to girls in a girl-centric way.

    Oh, I enjoyed PRIESTSS OF THE NILE, by the way — I got it on Netaglley. I am a librarian. Looking forward to more “Tales of the Nile.”

    • I like your idea – market the legos in a girl-centric way! Thank you as well for the kind words on the book. I’ve got a couple of longer Tales of the Nile in various stages of editing and submission. Have my fingers crossed!

  8. Pingback: Is Gold the New Pink? GoldieBlox! | Veronica Scott

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