Should boys be given dolls to play with and own?  Why would a loving parent give a boy a girl's toy?  Do these parents think about the teasing their son could receive?

Searching the internet one can easily find so called modern mothers and child development experts touting the benefits of giving dolls and other traditionally girl toys to little boys to play with.  While the idea of dolls for a boy seems counterintuitive to a thinking person, these modern parents feel that doll play gives boys a wider perspective and that playing with dolls is not harmful but beneficial to little boys.  Let's examine these assertions one by one:

Fitting in With Older Sisters

A boy with an older sister may like to model his older sister's behavior as a way of learning.  The older sister likely owns dolls and they may be a big part of her life as she mothers them like she sees her own mother care for little brother.

Giving a doll to little brother facilitates these mimic actions.  He can hold the doll and talk to his doll.  As one writer put it though "He also sometimes tosses it across the room and uses it as a hammer."  Two year olds of either gender will play rough with their toys, and dolls are no exception.  

It is important, however, that little boys and little girls start understanding gender differences which include the type of toys that each child should focus on.  Without a clear difference developed in the minds of little boys they will not learn respect for girls and women, to stay out of the ladies room, or that boys and girls dress differently.  

Avoid Teasing
While they are mostly caring and loving, big sisters are known to be mean to little brothers sometimes.  Making your little boy look like a girl with a doll has the potential to give big sister (and other kids he knows) the chance to tease a little boy over that doll.  No boy needs to be taunted and ridiculed because he has learned to love a doll thanks to a well meaning but wrong thinking parent.
We pick names and dress our kids carefully so that they avoid being bullied, and this care should extend to the toys we give our children to play with.
Positive Effects of Doll Play for Boys
At the core, a doll represents a little girl's opportunity to be a pretend mother. Little boys don't need to practice that skill but rather need to practice to be leaders in the family. Sure, boys and girls both learn by watching and practicing what they see around the home, an argument used to support giving dolls to boys to help them learn to be good parents.  But this is unnecessary for boys at a very young age.  
One author said "Having a doll to care for also gives your son a sense of responsibility and establishes a foundation for him to learn the skills necessary to take care of himself when he is older."  While there is truth to this, caring for a toy car or a stuffed puppy can have the same effect without feminizing the boy. 
Before a New Baby

Some parents give their son a doll before the arrival of a new baby.  They feel that this can help ease the resentment that can arrive when a new baby sibling is born.   Conversely, keeping a boy occupied with small age appropriate tasks around the house can accomplish the same thing.  Encourage him to be a man and take responsibility for real people, not to become a mother to a stuffed baby substitute.  
Playing with dolls may diminish your son's masculinity, just as refusing dolls to a little girl will make her less inclined to view motherhood positively. 

Appropriate Toys for Girls

A wide range of toys are appropriate for both boys and girls.  Cars, blocks, Lego, Playfoam and Playdoh are all great toys to stimulate creativity.  Buy a barrel of crafts or coloring books to encourage the kids to make their own toys.  Max and Ruby books are great for modeling siblings playing together in relative harmony.  Most puzzles, coloring books, and sticker books are great for both boys and girls (just avoid the pink princess stuff for your son). There are so many gender neutral toys available that your kids can share.
Sex Appropriate Clothing
When a new baby comes into the world (or even before birth) the first thing the parents want to know is boy or girl?  All the family and friends want to know what the gender is, even before the name.  As a society we place great  emphasis on the baby gender, and for good reason.  No one wants to buy a pink bonnet for Jack. We love to put our boys in little baseball player outfits and our girls in pretty pink dresses.  This logic extends to toys too.  Stuffed bears are fine, but a baby doll is just not the right toys for a little boy. 
So In Summary
Just give the boy toys to your son and the really pink girlie stuff and dolls to your daughter. If they decide to play with her dolls together, great. There is nothing wrong with children sharing toys, even dolls.  But make it their decision to share and play together without placing expectations on your son that he should care for a doll. Your kids will grow up better adjusted to their appropriate gender roles.
Do you think that my perspective is incorrect?  Should we be giving dolls to boys for toys?  Feel free to comment below.  
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