21 answers

Five Year Old Son Playing Barbie and Dress Up.

I have two sons, younger one will be five next week, older one is 9. They love to play boy stuff together like rough housing, swords, chase, etc. However, my younger one loves to play Barbies with the neighbor girl who is 3, is very curious about my breasts, loves to draw princesses and has dressed up in my clothing occassionally. He said last year his favorite color was pink, but now it is green. My older son was all into superheroes, my younger one is not at all and has only mild enjoyment for Spiderman. He was enjoying wearing a Batman cape and chasing my older son, then I caught him wearing the cape backwards like a dress. He also has a collection of model horses (we have a horse and he loves to ride) but he seems to enjoy pretending the horses are female. He also wears blankets like dresses. He loves to fish with my husband and play baseball, was excited to get a suit and tie for a wedding and wore his "tuxedo" for picture day at Pre-K. He has a good boy friend and a good girl friend at school. I am conflicted as he truly seems to enjoy girl stuff as well as boy stuff, but sometimes I worry he gravitates towards girl stuff more. Has anyone out there experienced this with their son? Does this suggest gender nonconformity?

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I am new to this website and am amazed at the information and support I received when I posted my question. I truly thank all of you for your candid and supportive replies. I can't tell you how much better I felt after reading all of the responses. This is such a wonderful website and one I am sure I will reference for parenting information again. Thanks again to all of you moms out there!!

Featured Answers

It sounds to M. like coming on this website was the best thing you could do. I was afraid what answers I'd see, but they all are pretty much on the mark.

That said, if you hadn't heard it from all these people, who knows what you'd have thought because it seems like "out in the 'real' world" everyone has a different opinion than on here. My son loved pink from the day he was born. His dad used to tell him if he kept liking pink he'd get beat up at school. Son very wisely changed his favorite color---to magenta. hahahaha!

1 mom found this helpful

He's too young to be worrying about it now! Let him go and let him play with what he likes. Sounds like a creative, imaginative little guy to me! Enjoy his zest for life!

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What? Is your real question,"Is my son gay"? Short answer, who knows.
Also, why does it bother you?
Anyway- I played with trucks, climbed trees and loved playing with my dad's tools when I was little. Now, at 34, I am the one who fixes things in the house, I watch action films and like to rough house with my two boys. Does that mean that I have "gender nonconformity"? Does that mean I'm gay? Uh, no. My five year old boys favorite thing to play is princess. He also can be a dinosaur or superman.
Honestly, I'm not sure what to do with this question. Shouldn't you be more concerned with whether or not your kid is kind, intelligent and caring? He will grow up to be who he is supposed to be (sexually) regardless of what you want.

5 moms found this helpful

I agree with the other posters, but I would question why you're sure that playing with horses and dolls is exclusively "girl stuff." Vets, cowboys, rodeo riders - all can be men. And certainly daddies are men, and they play with little girls, who dolls are supposed to represent. Sounds to me like your son is well on his way to being a well-rounded person, and that's the most important thing. Frankly, I think if a whole lot of us experienced a little less "gender conformity" we'd all be a heck of a lot happier. Let him be who he is.

2 moms found this helpful

Does it matter? He's your son, please just let him be who he is without imposing your own "gender rules" upon him. You are his mama and it's your job to make him feel safe in his body and with his preferences no matter what they are. He sounds happy and healthy and those are the most important things to be.

2 moms found this helpful

as a therapist, i suggest asking yourself why it appears to be bothering you. sounds like you have a happy, healthy boy who is good at making friends. good for you! a lot of boys go through that stage, especially if they have friends who are girls (my brother did bc he had me and two girl cousins to play with). i would not make a big deal of it with your son, bc whatever reason the "girl stuff" interests him, you don't want him to feel bad and "wierd".

2 moms found this helpful

He's just playing/exploring. Playing with Barbies and dress up is fun! I used to watch a boy that as soon as he came over - he was in the Cinderella princess heels. :D He loved the sound they made as he would run around the floor. Eventually, he stopped wearing them and playing with Barbies - around the time he headed to Kindergarten.

My oldest daughter (12) still loves boy toys, boy games, and wearing boys' clothes. Nothing wrong with that either.

If I were you, I'd relax about it and let your son be himself.

1 mom found this helpful

Don't judge him or agonize within. Leave him alone- they are toys. Not boy toys or girl toys, just toys. I have a four yearold who plays with dolls. He "mothers" them and cares for them daily. I asked the doctor, and the above was his response, and that its parents that impose gender conformity upon kids, and they will define themselves in time.

1 mom found this helpful

I had a childhood boy friends who played Barbies with us girls until 6 grade. We had elaborate fashion shows and weddings. They did the lighting, music and stage work. We even painted our nails! We also baked cookies and did lots of girly things. None of them are gay. Most of them are now wonderful husbands and great fathers. He may like girl stuff because he has great women in his life!

1 mom found this helpful

It sounds to M. like coming on this website was the best thing you could do. I was afraid what answers I'd see, but they all are pretty much on the mark.

That said, if you hadn't heard it from all these people, who knows what you'd have thought because it seems like "out in the 'real' world" everyone has a different opinion than on here. My son loved pink from the day he was born. His dad used to tell him if he kept liking pink he'd get beat up at school. Son very wisely changed his favorite color---to magenta. hahahaha!

1 mom found this helpful

My kids all like playing with everything... 6 yr old girl & 5 & 3 yr old boys. They all play with cars, truck, trains, dolls, dress-up clothes, kitchen stuff, horses, ect. We don't tell them they can't have or play with a toy because it's a "girl's toy" or a "boy's toy". We will be happy no matter what our kids end up growing up like as long as they are happy & good people (meaning respectful of others, kind hearted, lawful & productive in some way).

All my kids do like to walk in on momma taking shower, baths or changing - I don't know the last time I actually got to take a shower or bath without someone coming in and bothering me. And yes I'm asked questions from all of my kids about my breast & if they walk in on daddy - he is asked about his "item" also. We don't remember my oldest (now 15, but doesn't live w/ us) asking about all this stuff, so we laugh & say it's because the younger 3 were nursed, so they have been a little more "exposed" to mommy's breast then my oldes was.

Please let your child play, have fun & enjoy whatever it is that he loves. Kids need to learn from doing everything in life... like I said mine play w/ everything, because someday they will be grown & have families of their own. I hope that they are like their dad & help w/ diaper changes, cooking & cleaning and like their mom & help with painting, home repairs & minor car stuff (mainly just fliud stuff), but we both help eachother out & my kids see this - which is why I think our family don't have issues with the girl's & boy's stuff... cause in the end in a 2 parent family, both parents have to play both roles at points & kids play helps them to get ready for that in the future.

1 mom found this helpful

It's hard to know, but I will tell you my youngest played with Barbies....because they were there. My niece said that she was taught in psychology class this would mean he is gay. LOL! He is 19 now, and trust me.......he is very straight!

Bottom line, however, is that it doesn't really matter. This is your boy and you will hopefully love him just the way he is. Whoever that is. So don't label him and don't crush who he is. He sounds like a wonderful little boy!

The short answer to your question is "no" (I had to look up gender nonconformity first, since I have never heard of it). Parents tend to worry about a lot of things when in reality our main concern should be for the health and happiness of our children. Don't stress yourself -after all if the answer was yes, what would you/could you do about it (that wouldn't negatively impact your child)?

Gender is a social construct. He is working on figuring out how boys act and what he likes. He is very young for you to worry. Good for you that you let him be who he is! The important thing is that he grows up healthy and able to be a happy well adjusted adult right? How much does it matter to you how much he "conforms" to societal expectations? We have come a long way in believing that girls can do whatever they want, but now we limit boys. Girls can wear dresses, skirts and jeans. Why can't boys? Girls can be princesses and doctors and firefighters. Why can't boys want to design dresses or be artists or kindergarten teachers? Sometimes having a kid who is smart and awesome is hard because they challenge us to reconsider what we believe. He sounds like a great well balanced kid. Congratulations!

Some kids don't clue into the gender likes/dislikes till they are older. To him, pink is just another color like blue, green, purple, yellow and orange. Why shouldn't he like it? Maybe he likes it because his 3 yr old friend little girl likes it. Men have been wearing togas, tunics, robes and cloaks for centuries. I read an article a while ago where some parents had to explain to a school board that a kilt was part of their family heritage and was not considered to be cross dressing when their teenage son was reprimanded when he decided to wear it to school.
I've always been a tom boy, and it's always bothered my Mom. She feels I'm not feminine enough. I've never been a frilly female, pink has never been a favorite color of mine, I love comfortable shoes and it doesn't bother my husband at all. My son loves it that I build with Legos and play with him, and I was the one to teach him how to jump in puddles. I'm much happier in overalls mucking about in my garden and I don't care about painting my nails. I've had to tell my Mom to get over it and accept me for who I am and stop wishing I was some other way.

It suggests your son is very creative at this point. I would not be concerned until you find him trying to wear "real girl clothing" to school etc... When my sons were little my youngest son wanted a doll house more than anything in the world. he was 5. My inlaws were horrified that he was thinking he was a girl etc.... I would just let him be and see what happens. don't try pushing "boy" stuff at him any more than you would push "girl stuff" there is nothing wrong with a little boy liking to play house or barbies etc... anymore than there is anything wrong with a little girl wanting to play cars and trucks. enjoy your son in all his phases and wait till he is older to worry about stuff like that.

when i was a little girl (well younger) lol.(only 22) i can remember playing with toy guns and matchbox/hotwheels and well "boy toys" if you will and i by no means have gender nonconformity... let him be..its probably just a stage!!!

he is doing what happy healthy kids do, exploring, learning and experimenting.

Oh my gosh! I am so glad that I am not the only one that has a similar experience where my son loves to play with his 3 year old sister's toys. After reading the responses, I feel better and will try and not show any signs of concerns...he draws mostly princesses and too swirls around like he has on a dress. He is at the stage of exploring but our society has caused me to react but will try not to and let him be who he will become. One person said it that our boys may grow up to be very loving and sensitive husbands plus of course have a macho/rough side too! ;)

My now 21 year old son asked for a Molly American girl doll for Christmas when he was 8. It's all he wanted. He played with Molly for over a year then got into Lego's and Star Wars. He is now in the Navy, has no "gender issues". He had a good happy childhood.
That same year Grandma gave him the Arielle Barbie.

My girls play with trucks and lego's. We all fish, the boys have had gymnastics and dance classes. My oldest daughter is a scuba diver with her daddy
Stuff is stuff. He's just a kid.

He's too young to be worrying about it now! Let him go and let him play with what he likes. Sounds like a creative, imaginative little guy to me! Enjoy his zest for life!

Nope, I don't think it suggests anything at this point. All kids like dress-up, and let's face it, "girls'" dress-up is more interesting than boys', because of the variety. My brother liked to play with Barbies, too, mostly because that was what I played with, but then in high school he got into martial arts and weight-lifting. Your son could be doing this because he has more girl friends than boys, because he's a bit of a mama's boy and wants to relate to you, or he could just be particularly creative! Please don't worry about it, and please don't try to change your son. Kids go through phases, and most of them don't mean anything. As long as he is happy, comfortable in his own skin, and has friends to support him, even if this does mean something, he'll be all right.

My son just turned 4yrs old, has a 9yr old sister and I'm a SAHM (compared to my DD I worked till she was 4yrs old) and plays with Littlest Pet shops of his sisters. We've even bought him his own so it keeps him out of her room. He takes his blankets and wraps them around him saying he is a little princess, has a baby doll the took care of better than his sister did when she was way little and his favorite colors are brown (always) sometimes pink some times purple.

My daughter hardly ever played with her barbies but preferred hotwheels, rough housing, and what hot! With your son, he is probably more interested in the things he doesn't have at home. Most kids will play forever at someone else's house because they have different toys there. Him and his little girl friend are probably imitating the male/female roles that they see displayed between their own parents though the dolls. That's a pretty good imagination for the both of them!!

Don't stress it about what your son plays with. He is 5 and learning (and noticing more) about the difference between what makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl which it totally normal. You don't have to encourage him playing with barbies but don't discourage it either. Him learning about the female side might make him a independent male and a better husband in the future!

Good luck!

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