Fighting against stereotypes is hard!
I have two boys and right from the beginning I have tried to teach them that anyone can be anything and everyone can like everything. Boys can like dancing, girls can like blue and there is nothing to stand in their way. But man, it is hard work sometimes! I look at our playroom filled with dinosaurs, cars, trains and superheroes and think – did they choose all this stuff? or was it me? or society? or the media? Am I playing right into the hands of the stereotypes!? Probably, yes.
But then maybe it is just who they are. My five year old love cuddly toys. He cuddles them, he sleeps with them, he tucks them into their homemade little beds (I say homemade, I mean Nannamade). But, he also role plays battles and heroic rescues with them – traditionally ‘boy’ rough and tumble fighting. He does the same with little small world toys. He is more than happy to play house or pretend they are a family but then ultimately there will be an almighty battle and one of the figures will have to step into save the day – usually the guy with the snorkle and flipflops.
I guess the point is to make sure they have a choice. This is brilliant summed up by Elise Gravel on her Instagram today. No toy should be out of bounds because it is “for girls” or “for boys” and then it is up to them. It is the same with activities, colours, songs, TV shows, everything. My son doesn’t like pink and as long as he knows that is his choice rather than what he has to think because he is a boy, then surely that is ok? Equally, he needs to know that other boys can like pink just because he doesn’t.
But how do you get this message across as they get older and there lessons about the world aren’t just coming from home? My eldest is definitely coming out with a lot more stuff about things being for girls (or being too babyish) and it makes me sad!
When I run preschool craft clubs, the mix of boys and girls is pretty evenly split and they all have a fab time. But there are certainly more girls at my after school clubs. While we are setting up there are always a few boys hovering waiting for another club to start. They want to know what we are making, and how you do that, and what is the plan for next week. I wish there was more I could do to make them come and join in. To show them that gluing, sticking, colouring and making are just fun things – for boys and girls.
I was shocked when I tried to buy my son a nice set of pencil crayons for Christmas. A quick scroll of the internet showed me ‘Cool Girl Crayons’, ‘Fashion Design Studio Pencils’, ‘Unicorn Colours’ all in the brightest pink cases the human eye can see. Since when were pencil crayons for one gender? Kirstie Allsop spoke at the beginning of the year about a lot of craft products being branded for girls and she is so right (and it is so wrong!). Kids like making stuff – boy and girls. There is absolutely no reason why it should be any other way. Sure, make a craft kit with bright pink colours, but let’s make sure there are other choices too.
We just have to keep chipping away and give our kids choice at every turn. This, and the confidence to make decisions based on what they like rather than what they ‘should’ like. Surely then we are onto a winner?