I was going to do this whole well researched blog entry with statistics and quotes from scholarly journals. And then I realized that just wasn't my style. I figure I had no early education-toy-children training when I began this job. I learned as I went, from experience and observation. I will never claim to be an expert on anything, but this is something that I know.
Let me begin this by saying that one of my biggest pet peeves in here is when a mother or father says to a boy: "Don't play with that, it's a girl toy". The other pet peeve is when someone asks where the "learning toys" are. THEY'RE ALL LEARNING TOYS. Children play pretend. They create their own little world. It is one way in which they learn about the world around them. They look around their life and repeat what they see in play. If they see Mom cook, they pretend to cook. They see Mom with baby, they find a doll and pretend they have a baby. This is how they originally learn how to do things.
This is my hypothesis. What boys and girls choose to play with depends on who is around them and how they genderize toys. Let me preface what I am about to say with I know I am going to the extreme here. When a mother/father/provider, etc. tells a boy not to play with the kitchen, you're telling him not to cook. When you tell him a baby doll is a girl toy, you're telling him not to be a father. And I fear they keep these lessons throughout childhood, what to play with and what not to play with, more than anything else.
Here is another tidbit, just an learned observation of mine, and by the way it's kid of an AH-DUH. Boys and girls play differently. For the most part, I can leave a group of girls in the toy library without hesitation. They are just going to continue playing dress-up, or kitchen, or games, whatever. They won't even notice I'm gone. On the other hand, unless it's a select few guys, I can't leave them alone. They get all wacky and crazy like. Between the basketball hoop, bikes and scooters, they won't stop moving. And while they may or may not notice if I am gone or not... they are just more volatile than the girls. They show their "appreciation" for their friends differently. They will probably wrestle before talking. And they get so mad at me when I tell them to stop.
All of this is just about the energy the kids have and how they need to express it. I have noticed more and more (especially around this time of year) that there is an abundance of energy in these kids. I want to bottle it up and sell it. I can't, but we still need to do something with it.