Lego toys are a big deal in our house. My husband still has boxes and boxes of the Lego blocks that he played with as a kid, and over the years, our girls have enjoyed spilling them out on the floor so that they could build, build, build to their hearts' content.
When Lego came out with its Creationary board game a little over a year ago, we were first in line to get it. And even though I was not nearly as good at building as either my husband or my daughters, I happily played along and thought of ways to build everything from a spider to a bicycle from LEGO blocks.
So you can imagine my anticipation — and then disappointment — when a toy brand I had come to love announced a new line of "girl toys," only to find out that the toys were essentially dumbed down models of Lego toys that embodied nothing about what I truly love about Lego.
I was not alone in my disappointment. The new Lego Friends line is drawing criticism from both parents and kids. I recently showed my 9-year-old daughter the new Friends lineup — toys that Lego is specifically marketing to young girls. I promise you that I said nothing, NOTHING, about the toys to her before she spoke as I wanted to get her honest-to-goodness, 9-year-old opinion. Here is what she said:
"I would have loved these toys if they came with something to build. This is just a dollhouse. That's not Lego. That doesn't make sense. Don't they know that girls like to build, too?"
Out of the mouths of babes, right?
Turns out, my 9-year-old and I have plenty of company in our dislike of the new Lego Friends line. Online petitions have been started to protest the toys, which includes a Butterfly Beauty Shop (comes complete with lipstick accessory!) and a Your Fashion Designer Workshop.
The Denmark-based Lego Company has responded by saying that the company is just making what moms and girls have been asking for:
"We heard very clear requests from moms and girls for more details and interior building, a brighter color palette, a more realistic figure, role-play opportunities and a story line that they would find interesting," Mads Nipper, executive vice president of the privately held firm, said in a statement. "We want to correct any misinterpretation that Lego Friends is our only offering for girls. This is by no means the case. We know that many girls love to build and play with the wide variety of Lego products already available."
I see what they're getting at, but I think they missed the mark on what they think moms and girls asked for. Just because they asked for a brighter palette and more interesting role-play opportunities, does not automatically mean that they wanted a beauty shop dollhouse that doesn't involve building.
Ann Garth, 14, put it very nicely in her recent post on the matter for the blog, Reel Girl:
"... I was so disappointed when I recently heard of Lego’s horrible, totally misguided decision to make and market a line of (very pink) Legos for girls, complete with a girl brushing her hair in the mirror, a bottle of perfume, and more. This is problematic for only two or three MILLION reasons, but let me pick the first, broadest, and most obvious: the idea that if you want to market a line to girls, it cannot involve any movement, adventure, or activity."
"Please bring back real Legos. If you want to appeal to girls, create more sets. Expand your horizons. But instead of expanding into stereotypical girl territory, try hooking a bunch of boys as well by creating a library set, a computer room set, or a boat set. What about one with a soccer field, or a pool? Or — and I know that this may be shocking — what about simply giving kids the same old blocks in the same old colors and letting us make beautiful?"
Couldn't have said it better myself.
What do you think about the new lineup of Lego Friends toys?
MNN homepage photo: Bill Ward's Brickpile/Flickr