Toys for girls and boys

Archive for May, 2012

Guess the gender: scene from our house earlier today

Our children had a friend to play. Mine are a 5-year old boy (J), and a 3-year-old girl (L) and the friend is 6 years old (S). See if you can guess the gender of the friend…

Picture it:
6-year-old (S) dressed up as a knight
5-year-old (J) dressed up as a viking
3-year-old (L) dressed up as a cuddly dalmatian dog

On seeing the viking getting a toy axe out of the dress-up box, S said: “I wish I’d brought my sword!”. When a spare sword has been found, a “fight” takes place in the living room. The cuddly dalmatian tries to sort out a lead for herself while the fight is taking place.

While working in the kitchen, I see them walking past in a little parade: dalmatian (L) on the lead attached to a bright pink buggy that’s being pushed by the knight, with viking proudly marching behind. They walk around the house like this for a bit. When I next see them all in the living room, a tea party is in full swing.

Seconds later, they all run past me in the hallway to the trampoline outside (still in costume). All the footballs (my partner is a football coach), basketballs, tennis balls etc end up on the trampoline to be kicked about.

Next they run back in, and stop in the kitchen to think what to do next. My son suggests they play “mums and dads and babies” (an old favourite, as long as he can be mum). 6-year-old dismisses this idea and suggest they go to the giant blackboard in the hallway instead for “scribbling”. All happily join in with this idea. The 2 older ones do this for quite some time, filling the entire black wall with curly squiggles, while the 3-year-old pours a drink for all the children.

At the end of it all, as the friend is picked up (as is so often the case, to get children to leave without too much fuss), the friend asks to borrow the roaring dinosaur toy we got from the Natural History museum over 3 years ago (one of our best toy buys, but I can’t find a link to it!)

So… is the friend a boy or a girl?

Does it matter? To me today stood out, not because it was an unusual scene (it’s not), but because this was such a lovely contrast from a boy who visited us earlier in the week. This 5-year-old boy angrily dismissed every dress-up item my daughter suggested to him as being “girly” or “not for boys”. But also, trying to find a knight’s outfit for a girl to illustrate this story has only thrown up ones that specify that it’s a boy’s outfit! I want this to be a positive blog, so I won’t rant, but I really don’t get why we limit our children’s play, their imagination and their friendships even by making them believe there are ‘correct’ toys or dress-up clothes for their gender? *sigh*

So added to my To Do list are a post on dressing up clothes (as suggested by Esther from Stella Blue in a comment on this blog) and a list of the fantastic people, blogs and websites that are fighting the limitations and gender stereotyping that toy manufacturers are putting on our children.

(Friend S was a girl, by the way)


Tea (and other toys) for two

There are some toys that just invite children to play with someone else, be it boys or girls.  The three types listed below are always popular in our house, with boys and girls, and the children usually team up with another child or an adult to play with them.

Tea set

Children love playing with tea sets (do they still see people pouring tea in cups from a pot?). It’s easy for another child or children to join in the game, and that makes it a great ice breaker, I’ve noticed, when new children come to play.  The look of the tea sets can sometimes be quite girl focused, unfortunately, even though boys like playing with it just as much, especially in a makeshift tent or den or hiding place. But there are plenty of non-gender typical ones: here’s a selection, but hopefully you can find others fairly easily (amongst the pink or flowery ones…)
We have three or four play tea sets in the house. My favourite is something similar to this, and not only is it genderneutral, it also neatly packs away in the little basket. Perfect for travelling too. [Ours doesn’t have the pink ribbons, but they look easy enough to take off]

  I just love the look of this colourful one! And the fact that it’s a metal one makes it so easy to play with for various ages. They can pour proper drinks with it, wash it up, it doesn’t break etc. Tea sets are also great bath toys (we have a plastic set that lives in the bathroom), but do mind that your kids don’t end up drinking their bath water! We store our tin one in a little suitcase, and there’s a plastic set in a basket in the bathroom, as it needs to dry after use.

Shop till

The simple little shop till we have also very much captures children’s imagination, and you can get them very cheaply. Our son and daughter always play this together: one as the customer, one as the till person. Anything in the room can be part of the shop.

This one is a classic (the grandparents have an original that still works): our kids both love it, even though they don’t so much pretend to have a shop with this one. It’s more of a sorting toy for them. Just getting the coins to fit in and come out again seems to be interesting enough.

 The more modern version like this one is very popular at home. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve played shops. I love most that they don’t think anything of charging you £58 for an apple, or 50p for (your own) mobile phone… Most of the additional bits that came with the till got lost along the way, but they aren’t missed and the till remains popular all the same. The till can be as elaborate as you like – you can go for a whole shop if you want – but I like to keep it simple. As long as there are buttons to press and a drawer opening for the (pretend) money, the kids will get the idea and play for hours.

Doctor’s set

And finally, a doctor’s set. One of the toys that children bring to their parents to play with, so not so much a co-operative toy to play with other children with (not many children like being the patient, they all want to be the doctor somehow). Another toy that tends to come with its own storage solution: brilliant, as it’s easy for travelling and tidy up time.

Imagination, or lack of it

I thought I would share this on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day. Loesje is organizing a special and international action day, called “World Sticking Day” (Loesje = a world wide collective of people who want to make the world a more positive creative place: you can find more about them here:
Who is Loesje?

Loesje is an idealistic organisation which aims for a creative society based on own initiative and active citizenship. The objective is to exchange ideas and opinions, to stimulate people to create their own ideas. Loesje mainly uses posters with short but strong texts (one-liners), which shine a different light on particular subjects. Their main activity is to create such posters, together with their members, as well as with people from other organisations. The posters are spread on the Internet, around the streets, in community centres, schools etc. The aims of the organisation are to spread black and white posters to colour life and to create possibilities, in which participants of Loesje activities can start and support progressive social initiatives.

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