If you haven’t yet heard about it, Greens Senator called for a ‘no gender December’ where parents were to stop giving their kids gender based toys.
My first reaction was ‘are you kidding’!! Don’t we already have enough to worry about as parents?! If my daughter loves Barbie and my sons love trucks then when it comes to present time, why not? Why do adults continuously push our hang-ups on to young kids? Could you imagine Autumn’s face when Santa decided it was time for her to have a helicopter? Eek.
Kids need to be kids, they need to play with whatever they are drawn to because when they are at the height of stimulation in whatever they are doing, they are engaged and learning the most. Get to know your child, find out what makes them tick and work with that. Pink or blue, gender specific or not, it doesn’t matter at all. Just let them play.
To discuss this issue further I spoke with early childhood practitioner and parent educator Tina Holtom. I heard Tina speak at a Happinest seminar with Maggie Dent and I immediately resinated with her philosophies. She is extremely passionate about children and raising them to be resilient, confident and happy.
Here is what Tina has to say about the ‘Gender Blender’ debate, I love the part about her boys and the toy kitchen….
I just wish that for all children’s sake, parents would stop interfering and just let them be.
Boys play with dolls, girls play with cars, and parents just need to understand that kids don’t realise any difference. The fact is that they are only exposed to certain toys because of parent influence so when they see something they haven’t got, they just want to play with it.
In these early years all that children are really doing is imitating their parents, they love copying, its how they learn. My son used to love pretending to be on his laptop like mummy while wearing my stilettos. This is the same child that felt sorry for me when he realised that Mummy must have lost her penis, “poor mummy, how will you ever wee again?”
Almost all healthy toddlers and young children will copy and enjoy behaviours of the other gender. This kind of play is expected and desirable. Often children will imitate many activities of the opposite sex. In one study, 22.8% of boys and 38.6% of girls enjoyed 10 or more gender-atypical behaviours (Nelson Textbook of Paediatrics, Saunders 2000).
You see, its all very NORMAL…it is what I like to call “innocence”. It’s about encouraging children to experience play on all levels, not just those specific to their gender. Yes I bought my boys a play kitchen with a tea set; we had the best conversations over a nice cup of tea every day. They later turned it into a pizza shop as they happily fed their Ninja Turtles.
The reality is that after observing thousands of children at play for more than 10 years, I can honestly tell you that they all just want 1 thing…they just want to play. Some days they’re superheros saving us from the baddies, and the next day they’re pretending to be babies that need cuddles. Child’s play is so much more than boy or girl toys, or boy and girl specific activities. I think one of the cutest images I can recall is that of 4 children sitting around the home corner in the classroom – the 2 little girls dressed as Spiderman and the 2 boys in tutus. The boys baking cakes and nursing the dollys while the girls worked on mastering their web weaving skills. They’re in Year 3 now, and guess what…YEP you guessed it, they’re still normal.
Its really not complicated, WE complicate things. Parents are getting in the way of children having fun. Can we please just let them be? Let the kids experience play exactly how it is meant to be, in its purest form of fun, excitement and wonder. Who cares what form that fun comes in? If I ever see a Dad in an Elsa costume from Frozen, I solemnly swear to find my best scratch n sniff sticker and award it to you because that would be SUPER awesome!!!
Can we please keep the spark alive for as long as possible because before we know it little kids turn into big kids and all of those important early connections need to shine through. That is what we should really be focusing on…
To read Tina’s full story head to her page and read “My sons wearing fricken nail polish”.
What are your thoughts on ‘gender blender’? Has it changed what you will be buying your kids this Christmas?