Toys for girls and boys

Foolproof gender neutral

It’s maybe not your first port of call when you need to think of a present, but I’m always impressed with how IKEA manages to have such genderneutral toys! The same goes for their children’s bedroom furniture, morrors, lights, etc: all round a good one for gender neutral-ness.

On their website, they describe how their dolls were designed:

Gender, too, was a consideration with LEKKAMRAT. The decision between IKEA and Annie was to make the dolls gender neutral. “The children will give them a gender,” she said. “It’s nice if one doll is a girl and for another child it’s a boy.” Annie gave the example of her daughter, who had a ‘very pink’ baby doll – ‘Everything was pink’ – but called him Olle. “I think that will happen with these dolls, too,” Annie said.

http://www.ikea.com/jp/en/about_ikea/newsitem/pr_august_lekkamrat

As we don’t have an IKEA nearby, I tend to buy in bulk the times I go there. I make a list of birthdays that are coming up, to see if any of the toys there would suit the birthday boy or girl. Or the fingerpuppet packs can be split up and used for party bags, for instance. I also buy by age: we get invited to birthday parties all year round, so I’ll buy toys for children of a similar age to mine, store them out of sight for nosy children, and they always come in handy!

Why gender neutral toys?

This blog is to log any good gender neutral toys that I come across. I am one of three girls myself, and now that I have 2 children, a boy (5) and a girl (3), it is very interesting to see how their interests overlap and differ in the games they play, the toys they choose, etc. That was the same with my sisters and me, of course, but in the case of a boy and a girl, there seems to be more gentle pushing behind it, or things are read into their behaviour more.

I have no intention to completely exclude anything pink or blue, wheels or dolls in our house or on this blog, but I want to find a balance. Everything in moderation: I don’t want everything to be done along gender lines. Not more Hello Kitty things for my daughter (easter eggs, shoes, lunch boxes, magazines) and more Cars things for my son (suitcase, coats, bedding, cups), but things that they both feel they can play with. We have plenty of gender specific toys, and they have a place in play: many of them I and the children love. But it is almost the norm now: not just in terms of pink and blue, but pirates or fairies, Peppa Pig or Postman Pat, flowers or trains. Everything is assumed to be for either girls or boys, not just for a child. Not only is it wasteful (things can’t get passed on as easily for instance), but it is also unneccessarily limiting for everyone!

I want to give others, family members, friends and myself a place where we can quickly find present or play ideas that offer an alternative to this. There will be links to toys that my kids both play with, or that I’ve seen both boys and girls play with at playgroups, toys or books that would be good options for a birthday or Christmas present, but I also hope to include observations, research, into gender differences. I’m also interested in toys and books that challenge the gender stereotypes: books like Meggie Moon for instance, which we recently found in our local library and we all love!

Due to my children’s age, it’ll probably start out with things for babies/toddlers/preschoolers, and grow with them. I’m finding it out as I go along, as with all the parenting issues.

So if you have any ideas, especially for older children, I would love to hear your suggestions!

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