There have been a few points lately that have made me inwardly scream whilst I smile and walk away.
Each one is because of gender stereotypes.
The eldest has always loved kitchens. He loves cooking and tea parties. He’ll set up a teddy bears picnic quite happily. The other day, when I got back from dropping the older two at the germ factory, I found Bernard neatly tucked up in the Moses basket for a nap. He’s taken to wearing shirts since the husband started his new job, to be more like Daddy.
The middle one is actually feral. She might carry herself with poise and even look quite delicate, but do not be deceived. Her favourite toy is a stick. Leave a screwdriver unattended and her magpie-like radar will kick in before you’ve had time to blink. Occasionally she’ll wear a dress. Provided it isn’t too pink. Best success would be if it featured elephants. She’s super excited about the upcoming jungle bedroom.
The littlest has a thing for paper at the moment. Going shopping is interesting because if she gets hold of the list the rest of it has to be done from memory. The concept of “boys toys” or “girls toys” really is irrelevant. She just wants to know if you can eat it. “Can” is fundamental different to “should”.
Someone shared a photo post about “raising boys” on Facebook and I didn’t see anything in those photos my elder daughter hasn’t been in the thick of. The littlest would happily be too if she could move!
So when we’re talking to someone at Lego land and they start saying the girls and boys play with Lego differently, I’m not so easy to convince. Did all this research take into account the social constructs the child had been influenced by prior to the point of being given the Lego?
My son’s first Lego imaginative construction was an ice cream machine. My daughter’s was a car. The littlest would just love to get her hands on the Lego at all!
Having a grandfather who was a professional chef, grandmother who could drive a tractor and parents who happily let me play with trains and use a small set of woodwork tools, I’ve not really divided toys into girls vs boys, our storage system is more “baby”, “jigsaws”, “duplo”, “trains”, because toys are just that, toys. Indeed when looking for a toy kitchen my greatest frustration was the sheer number that were pink. I wasn’t expecting that one. Fast forward a couple of years and finding that all Thomas merchandise for boys has Thomas on but girls get Rosie actually came under the heading “expected”. Next time you see clothing with The Gruffalo or Peter Rabbit or Dear Zoo on you’ll notice something similar. Thankfully a jumper is a jumper and she can wear her brothers old one. When it’s not in the wash…
So do girls and boys really play with Lego differently? Or do they simply get taught to do so. The Friends range is all about houses and such like, City has the emergency services, jungles and the great outdoors. Friends is a lilac box. City is blue.
Why do children get told how they ought to play with the things they’re supposed to play with?
How is my son going to leave home able to cook, clean and generally look after himself if he’s discouraged from playing in, let alone using(!) the, kitchen? At four, he already has rudimentary capabilities with the washing machine and knows how to clean the toilet. He may be more enthusiastic than thorough, but he’s four!
How will my daughter’s get on with basic home and car maintenance if they’re never given tools? Before the littlest was born, I had help assembling the cot. In fact any time the toolbox comes out she is there. I have a lovely photo of her with her Godfather debating who should be in control of the electric screwdriver…
Left to their own devices I don’t think they play that differently they need different Lego collections. I’m sure I could teach them to, but I don’t think I’d be doing them any favours. The world needs more boys who can be masculine whilst helping around the home and girls who can be feminine holding a toolbox.
Long may they fight over who builds / plays with the fire engine!