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(WFLX) - Playthings, traditionally considered "boy toys", are now designed for girls who have previously passed up this aisle in the store. What's driving the trend and will it have an impact on how girls and boys play?
Bella Spears is 8 and has just as much fun getting dressed up in play clothes as she does with her blaster toy. "She likes to play with both boy toys and girl toys. She likes to be girly [and] do sports," said Melody Spears, Bella's mother.
She enjoyed playing with her brother's Lego sets, but really likes the newer versions now available on store shelves. "They're more 'girly-er' than boy stuff, and I just like playing with girly stuff instead of boy stuff," said Bella.
A new trend in toys is designed to appeal to girls, like Bella. From reinvented tinker toys to Nerf Rebelle to GoldieBlox.
Some "boy toys" are going pink. "It really is about the message that 'Yes, you can be Belle and you can be Cinderella, but you can also be a strong, empowered female'. Girls want to be just like Katniss from the 'Hunger Games'. And why not? She changed an entire society."
The Lego friends line has been so popular, it's expanding, and toy insider Laurie Schacht says it's not the only toy line thriving by going 'girly'. "Toy companies are realizing that by tweaking these toys, by changing the design a little bit, by changing the color, suddenly it's going to appeal to the other 50 percent of the market that many of these toy companies have missed out on."
Play therapist and professor of counseling psychology Dr. Sharon Lamb says some of these toys could have a positive effect on play -- showing girls that being assertive is ok.
But she isn't a fan of feminizing them. "They're 'pinkifying' it. And it's as if they're giving a message that 'Sure you can be empowered, sure you can be strong, but you have to do it daintily and in pink.'"
She feels toys should be tailored to the individual child. "Somebody shouldn't go into a big box store and say, 'I need a birthday present for a girl. Show me what girls like'. I think that people should describe the individual kid and then be shown gender-neutral toys."
As for Bella, even though she likes her Legos with female figurines, she says, she doesn't care what color her bow and arrow is. "It really doesn't matter to me because I like it just as much. I think it's the same exact toy but in different colors.
Toy makers aren't the only ones getting in on the trend. Schacht says video games, like Angry Birds and Skylanders, are incorporating more female characters, and that those female characters are expected to be featured in bigger roles in the coming months.