blogging

Gender Stereotyping and Child’s Play

Another blogger raised an interesting point about gender stereotyping, the availability of toys to young children and whether this influenced them in any way.

With my own children, dolls were never much on the agenda.

The boys thought they were uninteresting as they didn’t do anything – which I guess is not all that surprising. For a very short while, one son played with an vintage doll that I myself had as a child, but it did not sustain interest for him. He preferred clocks and mechanical toys that he could pull apart and see cause and effect. The other boy was similar but did enjoy pretend paly with stuffed animals, preferably knitted by his Grandmother, but never dolls.

One afternoon when the boys were 6 and 3 years old, a school friend came over to play. He brought his Barbie doll with him. He had two sisters and we thought nothing strange about his Barbie doll.

When his Mum came and they left to go home, my eldest son found the friend’s Barbie doll tucked under the covers of his bed, propped up on his pillow. He was completely perplexed about why his friend was interested in the doll and what to do about it.

We phoned the Mum and let her know the doll was still at our house and that we would return the doll at school, the following day. She mentioned that her husband was very worried about her son and his penchant for Barbie dolls. We could not really see too much of a problem if he liked them.

Princess

My daughter was more interested in Teddy bears than dolls. I didn’t direct or stereotype her play, merely let her preferences dictate play, in the exact same way I had done with my sons, but would introduce things to her and let her take it from there. They would pick out their toys at the shop or at home. She never chose or wanted a doll. Bears were much like dolls in terms of imaginative playthings, anyways.

One day I noticed something interesting.

It was my practice to make little cardboard car ramps with my sons so that they could roll their toy cars up and down in a safe corner of our large country kitchen, whilst I was preparing meals or working. They loved this and they made all sorts of twisting and turning ramps with sticky tape this way and that. They played for hours rolling down various toy cars and trucks and loved the activity.

When my daughter was around 18 months or 2 years old, I grabbed some cardboard and made a small car ramp for her amusement, as the boys were off playing older boy games in the backyard, by then. When I rolled a toy car down this makeshift ramp and made a whooping sound when it rolled off the end, my daughter cast it a cursory glance, grunted a little and swiftly turned away to play with something else. The cars and ramp game held absolutely no interest for her.

It was a Eureka moment for me. “You are not like your brothers,” I thought. And I didn’t think I had any influence on that. I hadn’t conditioned her to like cars or to dislike dolls. We still had had the vintage doll in the cupboard, but she never voluntarily touched it. The boys were more interested in video games by the time she was independently playing, so perhaps if they were still playing with toy cars, she might have wanted to join in. Still, it seemed she spent more time playing with the toy kitchen, dress-ups or pulling plastic containers out of my storage cupboards engaging in pretend play.

But there was the collection of bears.

child with teddy bear

Each one had a different name, which sometimes changed from day to day or minute to minute. She might dress them up, give them tea parties or set up a bear wedding ceremony. Again, this had come out of her own imagination.

For birthdays, kindly friends or relatives would give my daughter a Bratz doll as a gift – the ones with the big eyes and curvaceous figures. The only time my daughter would touch them would be to cut their hair off pretending to be a hairstylist, after which the Bratz dolls would be ditched in the dark recesses of the toy cupboard, never to be seen again. She found them, ‘a bit creepy,’ she explained years later.

So whilst many psychologists or academics propose that parents instil stereotypes in children by guiding their play or limiting their toys, I don’t think I entirely agree. I do believe they make up their own mind according to their own personality preferences.

Do you see evidence of children following gender stereotypes in their play?

Has this changed?

Do you think children’s interest are dictated by nature or nurture?

Schnauzer dog
blogging, craft

Making a Råtta Dog Toy

Some of you may know that we have a new puppy in our house and like all new puppies they are a bit of work, but bring lots of joy and happiness. And must be amused!

The new puppy is not directly mine, but my daughter’s. Due to the pandemic, we are frequently required to help out training, feeding and puppysitting. Which is no problem at all.

We all know puppies like to chew and this little puppy is highly animated, energetic and intelligent so she needs lots of stimulation.

Being a schnauzer, she likes the stuffed rat toys in IKEA’s range of toys.

Maybe it could be because that was their original purpose – i.e. as ratters on German farms. Whatever the reason, Schnauzers develop an affinity towards toy rats!

To this end we went to purchase an IKEA ‘Råtter,’ to keep the pup amused, but Ikea had no stock! The råtters are too popular!

No problem, I thought.

I can make something similar. Dogs aren’t too fussy about what kind, shape or colour their stuffed chew toys are? Surely?

My homemade solution included finding scrap fabric for the rat’s body,felt fro the dubious looking feet, wool for the eyes and whiskers, a string handle from a cardboard merchandise bag for a tail, (I think it came from Ella bache cosmetic purchase), and 5 to 10 minutes on the sewing machine.

It ain’t pretty but it is functional.

This is the result of the Råtta experiment:

Instead of being a furry rat, my home made version looks like a mutant platypus but what does it matter?

The puppy really likes it. Humans attach meaning to stuffed shapes, so as long as it keeps the pup away from chewing my socks, toes, shoes, furniture etc. Then all is good.

Butter would not melt in its mouth.

Community

Last Minute Christmas Ideas

Decorations are in the shops from August in some places, carols are playing over the speakers in shopping centres, and Christmas comes earlier and becomes more commercialized every year.

Even kids are organized early, these days. When my children were younger, a lengthy Christmas wish list of various items ranging in price from in expensive to earth shattering out of my budget, expensive, would appear on my bedroom wall, about a month before Christmas Day. Just in case I was unsure of what exactly to buy for them for Xmas. 

Kids growing expectations of Christmas gifts

There is expectations around gift giving now. Mind you, can’t really blame the kids for trying, even if the follow through does not reach such dizzying heights.

Humbling was the child from a family, at school, who said, when asked what they got from Santa, “A new lunchbox for school.”  Did this pull at my heart strings?  Oh yes, indeed. Makes me think of many possible alternative options for low cost or free activities, as gifts, that one can request and give for Christmas.

(Write these up onto pretty gift cards, placed in a “surprise bag” and could be pulled out by each child/ adult, as a kind of lucky dip/Christmas game)
* A warm and cosy evening/day spent doing whatever each child wishes, one on one, without disturbances from computer, phone, mobile phone or Ipod, Ipad etc etc.  It might be a board game, cocoa and a chat, playing games, like hide n seek, or pictionary/ monopoly.

* A Christmas themed movie or power-point presentation for Grandparents and/or extended family

* Building a cubby house, go cart, or raft together. This can be as complex or as simple as you like: the full wooden hammer and nails bit, or a large cardboard box.

* Sewing or embroidering a calico/reusable plain shopping bags, with permanent markers or paint

*Make low cost decorations for the tree with pre-printed felt, ribbon and glue.

Embroidery star decoration
Simple – cut out printed felt or embroider and glue to make low cost decorations

* Making the Christmas cake/ lolly or cookie jars to give to others.

* Setting out tea light candles all along your street and letterbox dropping others on surrounding streets to do the same. We do this and call it ‘Santa’s highway’.

Tivoli

* Making a card or memory album for Grandma

* Constructing a year in my family chronicle to give out to family members at Xmas with recipes, funny stories, and photos.

* Challenge the kids to present a puppet show or play to family members on Christmas Day. Make a video to give to them when they are older

* A talent quest for family members with a Christmas theme

(Chocolate Prizes for all entrants)

* Swimming or running races or even Trampoline competitions if you have one

* A Forest hike

* A walk or play on the beach, perhaps with the promise of ice cream afterwards.

* If the kids are into books, a trip to the library or bookstore or book exchange

Lucerne christmas

There are plenty more ideas available on the net or in books, so these are just a few that came to me, off the top of my head. This kind of experience will stay in a child’s memory for longer than the short lived joy of getting a cheap plastic toy that may be broken/forgotten in a few months time.

Christmas need not be super expensive. Be creative and have fun, and still be giving a priceless gift that has the bonus of being environmentally friendly.

These activities will surely be something kids might ponder about when they reminisce about Christmas past.

Ways to save money this Christmas and still have fun with the family.

How do you manage Christmas spending?

Have you got a way to save money and still have fun with the children?