Thinking outside of the toybox

Talking on twitter about children’s toys led in turn to a chat with DH this morning, which led on to a plan. So here is the thing:

I am a fan of #LetToysBeToys and have been for some time. I am old enough to remember when the ELC (Early Learning Centre) first came into being, with an advert blatantly decrying Action man and Barbie as unfit for its shelves. Promising parents and children alike a toy shop that was different, where there would be no ‘war toys’ no ‘girly’ rubbish, just sensible well made, mentally stimulating but fun toys for children of any gender and any age up to about 8.

But according to a twitter friend all that has long since been vanquished by pink for girls and action for boys. Knights and swords it seems are back, pink princesses are what you should aspire to if you are female, that or a lifestyle of beauty products, babies and cleaning.

Why do online stores insist on allowing us to search by gender?

But this isn't about bashing a specific retailer, ELC is actually one of the 'least bad' . The comment that annoyed me most was on the gendering of toy food in some toy shops. Food FFS! How can an aubergine be a gendered product!?! But it is if you box it in pink, and tell children it’s for girls, either subtly by suggesting you can ‘be like mummy’ or by making the box over pink and sparkly, or blatantly by declaring ‘for girls’ and ‘Girls love to cook!’ on the box.

Which led DH to comment. “When I was a kid you were lucky to get a toy in a box, toys were just loose.” And that was the moment of the lightbulb flash! Why do we keep letting ourselves be dictated to? – lets grab back control. Buy our kids what they like, but unbox it before gifting it (I loathe the words ‘unboxing’ and ‘gifting’ btw and was violently sick as I typed that)

Let’s use just a tiny bit of crafting skill to sew a personalised bag maybe, to fill with wooden bricks, play food, toy cars, dinosaurs, toy money, etc Sew the child’s initials or name onto the bag to make that toy theirs, not a ‘girl’s toy’ or a ‘boy’s toy’ but their toy. If you have no crafty bones in your body you can buy personalised items easily online or just buy a gift bag from a 99p or Pound store and pop the items into it. You can often get shoeboxes free if you ask at a shoe shop and these are easy to cover with wrapping paper, magazine pictures etc, you could even use last years washi tape skills!

Why haven’t I thought of this before? (Now you’ll all tell me it’s what you’ve all been doing for ages, in which case why didn't you tell me!) Suddenly a girl can play with her toy garage without seeing a box with pictures of only boys on it and the wording ‘Boys love a garage’ or similar, and boys can be chefs with a bag of play food that no longer tells them ‘Girls love to cook!’

Thank goodness some retailers still manage to #LetToysBeToys but for those that don’t, those gender dictators, let’s grab back the power, destroy the box, make your toys child specific not gender specific.

 If you are sitting there thinking it's all silly and doesn't matter - have a read of this, to see why play and gender stereotyping do matter

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