Emma Waverman writes about the chaos of modern family life in the kitchen and out of it. She has a weekly food column on CBC Radio One, Here & Now. She is the co-author of the family cookbook Whining and Dining: Mealtime Survival for Picky Eaters and Families Who Love Them and is hoping to one day finish her certification as a parenting coach. She lives with her three kids, ranging from tween to university student, and husband in Toronto. Emma has written for a variety of national lifestyle magazines and newspapers. When she's is not making typos, telling you what she thinks, and thinking about dinner, you can find her on Twitter at @emmawaverman and Instagram. You can contact Emma at embracingchaos@hotmail.ca.

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All Pinked Up and Nothing to Build: Lego for Girls

We love Lego here at Chaos. There are Star Wars sets and headless minifigs lying all over the house. There are corrupted cars and colourful towers piling up in the corners. And we aren't alone.

What parent hasn't had a nostalgic moment putting together a Lego set? What parent hasn't shouted with frustration after finding a misplaced piece near the end of the instructions? And what parent hasn't screamed with agony after standing on a tiny brick lying on the ground?

And yet, Lego is one of the few toys that kids and parents both love. We feel good about the educational and motor skill development that comes from playing with the little bricks, and experience a moment of parental pride in our sons' obvious brilliance when they complete 87 steps in a short time.

But what about the girls?

Over the last few years, Lego has become more and more boyish -- the themes, the colours and the lack of female characters scream boy toy. And Lego has admitted that they have been focusing on the boy market after some failed forays into the girl market. But all of that is going to change in January 2012.

Lego has devised a whole new line -- Lego Friends -- aimed squarely at the girls. According to an article in Business Week, Lego has spent many hours and dollars on researching the line. They realized that girls like to play differently than boys -- they put themselves in the story more, they aren't as linear. But Lego forgot one thing about girls when they developed Lego friends:

Girls like to build too.

When I read the Business Week article I felt hopeful. Despite the fact that I think toy stores should do away with the pink and blue aisles, I would buy girl Lego for my daughter because she likes to build and she isn't attracted to Star Wars or Alien ships.

In fact, I have already bought her the pink Brick Box which she adores. (Yes, I appreciate that there is some hypocrisy in my attitude towards this.) I was hoping that Lego Friends would be a separate but equal approach to the building toy, filled with cool pink cars, fire trucks with female firefighters and space ships with female touches. But instead it is dumbed down Lego.

The "ladyfigs" are curvier with sparkly clothes and huge mascara'ed eyes. The characters who live in Heartlake city have names and "occupations". They have the super-important jobs of beautician, socialite, inventor and veterinarian. Only one of the characters is described as smart, but, hey, there is an animal lover.

Darth Vader is no socialite and he can't do nails but at least he has some power. As Melissa at PigtailPals says in a mock letter to Lego on her blog:

Your research showed girls like to project themselves onto the toys they are playing with, so instead of giving them Dr. Sally Ride or Hilary Clinton or Dian Fossey or Septima Clark or Margaret Mead or Amelia Earhart or Dr. Hattie Alexander, you gave them Kim Kardashian.

According to the pictures, the sets themselves are no more than a bricked-up Polly Pocket set with very little building to be done. The sets seem to be lacking the complexity of the sets that are littering my house. Sure, my daughter could play with them but she wouldn't get the same sense of accomplishment that my sons get from putting together a multi-faceted spaceship. The sets also don't look like they can be reformatted into creative play very easily.

I showed the pictures to my six-year-old daughter who is firmly in their demographic. She loves to build and she loves pink which makes her a perfect Lego wannabe. She looked at the curvy Emma sitting in the pool, drink in hand and said there wasn't enough to build.

So it looks like Lego's perfect little builder isn't interested. And she is not the only one, the outcry all over the web and on the Lego Facebook page has been universally negative, there is even a Liberate Lego petition. I wonder if Lego will listen to what girls and women in the real world are telling them.

Will you buy Lego Friends for your girl?

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Reader Comments (8)

girls can like starwars and ninjas too. they don't need a hot tub and a nail salon.
December 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmma Waverman
When I was little, I used my brother's pirate lego sets, made 5 first mates wear identical striped shirts and bandanas, called them quintuplets and built them custom lego houses with all of the beds, chairs, everything, in perfect rows of 5. I loved them.

No, I wouldn't buy this kind of lego for my daughter. Hopefully she can get into something like pirate lego (like I loved) or Harry Potter lego or something. I would happily buy her pink bricks or something if she's into that.

My 5 y/o niece is really into the Pirates of the Caribbean lego sets this year. There's one that comes with mermaids, and she likes the Johnny Depp and Elizabeth Swan figurines. And she is as girly as they come!
December 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate
Why do all the lego stuff come in sets these days. I don't remember that many theme sets when I was a kid in the late 80's-90's, you could get legos with just the bricks and then your imagination could make it whatever you wanted. Last time I was in a toys r us (granted it was a couple years ago) I couldn't find any legos like that, it was just different sets, llike pirates of the caribbean, star wars, etc. Do they still sell buckets, or boxes of just the bricks?As per your question: I wouldn't buy Lego Friends for my niece or young cousins (I don't have a daughter).
December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSelah Beth
I remember back in the late 90's you could buy a huge tub of traditional coloured lego, with the black, yellow, red, blue, and green pieces. You could also buy the exact same tub of lego in purple, pink, white, and baby blue. The woman I babysat for had a boy and a girl, and she bought a tub of each. The pieces all got mixed in together and nobody cared and just built whatever came to mind with whatever blocks were there. That's what I wish I could find today!
December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea Ribbon
The Lego stores offer bricks in all colours of the rainbow. They also offer mini-figure building stations where my daughter made herself and bunch of girls to go in her Lego Kingsom sets (which she loves!) She has also re-purposed some Pirates of the Carribean sets to fit in with the medival theme... We love Lego!
December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJane
I am a man, who played with LEGOs growing up and I have only daughters. That has not discouraged us from building anything. None of us are interested in the themed sets like Ninja or Star Wars or any other sets. We like to build and play. I tried to interest them in the "girl" LEGOs but none of them appreciate the people. "Those aren't LEGO people" they say. So we stick to the standard build sets. Pink bricks are fine. The LEGO Friends "girl" sets are not.
December 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan
I love that you chose one of the few "accessory" type sets to focus on. Then you went ahead and ranted about the lack of pieces to build with. Why aren't you showcasing sets like "Olivia's House", the pool or the pet salon? Instead, you choose an $8 set and compare it to $200 sets. Thats pretty biased. Maybe get off your soap box and realize that little girls like the beauty salons, the horses, the camping sets. My niece has all the Lego Friends sets and is always more than willing to show them off. That being said, she would not hesitate to build the Star Wars sets if someone was spending time with her to do it. Maybe quit being so self righteous in your writing.
December 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristine
Agree with Christine! We have bought several sets of Lego Friends, and our daughter loves them all. It is not about the toy, it is about the interactions you have when you are playing with her. I am sure she would happlily play with Star Wars or other boy sets, but she is drawn to the Friends sets. Probably because she is a girl, and they were designed to attract girls....
December 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDon

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