Boys and Girls are different.
The governing characteristic of maculinity is strength, just as the governing characterisitc of femininity is beauty. This is why boys play at strength, and girls play at beauty.
Boys play to understand and use strength. This is why they climb, jump, break things, blow things up. Thet enjoy loud machines because they sound like strength.
It really is an important part of a boy’s education to climb on rocks and jump off. He learns about his body, his strength, and his abilities — long before he knows what or why he is doing.
In the same way, girls dress up. In this way they get comfortable with their bodies and their beauty. They learn about colors, textures, shapes,
If it ok for girls to play in their mom’s makeup and put on her shoes, it is ok for boys to play with their dad’s tools and jump out of trees.
The smart mom will involve herself at the first hint of dress-up, and the smart father will involve himself at the first hint of physicality.
In fact, a smart father can pre-empt his son by roughing with the son while the boy is an infant in arms. He does this, not to “toughen the boy up” (a misguided notion if there ever was one) but to get the boy comfortable in wrestling with dad. In this way the boy’s physicality will be bonded to the father as he grows older, and the father can give encouragement as well as limits BEFORE OTHERS DO.
When my son was literally just weeks old, I would put him on a pillow on his back and flip him over on his belly. This was before he could even turn back on his own! I could tell he enjoyed it. I was not so much trying to make him tough as I was trying to let him enjoy his physicality under the protection of a father.
The impulse to “toughen the boy up” is, in my observation, a father trying to make up for earlier neglect and this usually ends up being cruel.
Girls admire their own beauty, and boys admire their own strength. This should be encouraged, not discouraged. Mothers should not try and warn their daughters about vanity; they should teach their daughters to be beautiful, then connect that sense of beauty to the love of their future husband. Beauty will not lead to sexual promiscuity if the future husband is holy to the girl. (And the same for boys, in whom sexual misbehavior is equally a fraud on the future wife).
Beauty is a characteristic directed at another person, while strength is a characteristic directed at the world of things. Girls’ focus is the universe of persons, boys’ focus is the universe of objects. So, when little girls get together, their talk is dominated by the web of relationships in their universe. Hence, cliques. A clique is a group whose purpose is to enjoy itself.
When boys get together, they talk about things (how to break things, how to make things). They gang up in teams. A team is a group whose purpose is to compete.
There is of course no hard boundary between masculinity and femininity, and they do not conflict. Boys should learn cooking and decorating from mom, and girls are fully capable of climbing trees and throwing rocks. The point is not to put them into a mold; the point is to celebrate their natural strengths, which come from God.