I actually started this post last year. As we approach the run up to Christmas 2016, I still think the point is apt. I might update with this year’s views.
As I sit here surveying the chaos under the Christmas tree that happens when you have a three year old, I’ve been thinking about the gifts we’ve gotten our daughter. And I realize they don’t necessarily fit all the “gender neutral, empower your daughter” guides I’ve been seeing online. As someone who considers myself a feminist, I wonder if that’s a bad thing. I’m sure some circles of the internet would say that I’m being a failure, but I don’t think so. Below is a selection of some of her gifts, along with the reason I (or my husband and I) chose them (or recommended them to family member when asked).
Belle doll (from Mattel, so Barbie style): She already has Elsa and was expressing interest in the Barbies at our grocery store. When I asked her which ones she wanted, this was one of the top ones. I figured it was better than some of the ordinary Barbie dolls in swimsuits she also pointed to.
Play Doh ice cream set: A toy she’s been saying she wanted every time we go the grocery store. She’s decided Play Doh is wonderful, and she LOVES ice cream.
Toy cars: She loves vehicles, so a no-brainer.
Wooden Bertie the Bus (from Thomas): Again, a vehicle. She’s into buses, and it fits with the wooden tracks and trains (including some Thomas themed ones) she already has.
Lottie dolls: I saw them online and really thought she’d like them. My mom got her Muddy Puddles Lottie because that’s the one she liked the best on the site. And we got her Kawaii Karate Lottie because I studied karate as a girl and wanted her to see it as a future option (and it was on sale).
Build your own castle: Total impulse buy I saw in B&Q. It has mini bricks and cement. DIY skills are great to learn, and she’s really keen to give it a go.
Paint your own tea set: Again, she saw it at the store and wanted it. This one surprised me a bit because she’s just getting into art and pretend play. I figure it’s worth encouraging these trends.
Shopping list: A memory and matching game she’s been introduced to in nursery. It seems like a good way for her to combine home and nursery in a fun way.
Magnifying glass and binoculars: I wanted to get her a preschool microscope and science set, but Toys R Us didn’t carry them. This was the best option there. She’s shown a bit of interest.
Toy broom and dust brush: I wouldn’t have even thought of this, but she was really interested in a similar set at another store. It’s not a bad idea to teach her help out in a fun way.
Blueberries for Sal: This was a book I had as a child. The way Sal picks and eats all her blueberries reminds me of taking my daughter to pick blackberries. And it’s a funny story of mistaken identities with wonderful illustrations.
Stickers: What three year old doesn’t love stickers?
Art kit: She’s starting to get more into creative play, so I’m hoping this will be fun for her.
Kid’s makeup: She likes to play with my makeup, so this is a way to keep it safe. It’s very colorful and fun for her to use at home. It’s kind of like using face paint, in all honesty.
Frozen hair ties and Elsa clips: She’s starting to want her hair pulled back sometimes. I want her to feel free to express herself in her own way, so I’ll let her have these as options.
Tube of dinosaurs: Dinosaurs are fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she plays with them.
Hello Kitty Trunki bundle: This was from relatives. We travel to visit my family in the States, so age appropriate travel gear is a must. And Trunki offers lots of good options. We had a used Trunki that was due to be updated, and I thought the bundle deal was a great one. I pulled up the website so I could get ideas to pass on, thinking she’d probably choose the bus. But she wanted Hello Kitty and the pink accessories. Again, I’m not going to minimize her choices.
Candyland: This is a game from my younger brother’s childhood. It’s often the first board game for many American children. So I wanted my daughter to have it. I was a bit disappointed it came with a spinner instead of the pictured cards, but I decided to give it to her anyway. She’s not quite sure what to do with it at this time.
In all, it’s quite an assortment of items, some that fit typical girl’s gender roles. And I’m fine with that because those were generally items that she wanted, not items that we forced upon her. I think that to be truly gender neutral, we have to respect the child’s interests. Too often, it feels that feminist parents and websites try to discourage any toy that is seen as traditionally “girly” or “feminine,” and that bothers me. There is nothing inherently wrong with beauty, homemaking, dolls, or the color pink. The problem is if those are seen as the only acceptable options for a girl to be interested in. My daughter has a range of interests, and I’m not going to discourage any at this time. I’ll introduce her to new experiences that I think will benefit her (including links to my childhood and hopefully my husband’s). I want her to see that she can have a rich range of experiences that are not limited by gender and that her thoughts and opinions have value. That will be my focus, not imposing an artificial “gender neutral” Christmas.