Text by Sarita Rajiv, Images courtesy Amazon
“I want a Barbie and a telescope, okay?” or “I’ll be good girl, but then promise me that you’ll get me a telescope and a Barbie doll okay?” For the past few months, every other conversation with my daughter is peppered with these statements that take on the form of earnest requests, strict commands or passionate queries depending on my little one’s frame of mind. It’s amazing how focused a four year old can be when it comes to birthday gifts that are expected months later!
Given my daughter’s current obsession with the 3Ps - pinks, purples and princesses, her request for a Barbie isn’t unusual. Pairing it with a telescope may however seem odd. But it makes perfect sense to us, her parents. We must be doing something right when it comes to raising her in an environment that isn’t ruled by the gender stereotypes thrown at us. My daughter loves her pinks and purples but, she also loves to romp in the mud, climb trees and hang upside down like a monkey. Sure she has her dolls and doll houses, but then she also has Legos, puzzles, cars and trains. We like choosing toys and books that defy the gender stereotypes we grew up with as kids. That’s why her request for a telescope seems about right.
So how does one choose gifts for kids that break or defy gender stereotypes?
For starters, you’ve got to ignore the targeted branding and colour coding by toy companies and publishing houses. A doll house (even in pink!) and a kitchen set can be fun for little boys too, just as a builders set or a car can be intriguing for little girls. The other thing to do is to choose toys and books that actively break gender stereotypes.
Like the Deluxe Roominate. This is no ordinary dollhouse. Alice and Bettina, two female engineers from Caltech, MIT, and Stanford have taken their passion for engineering and created the Roominate Deluxe Kit to inspire the next generation of female innovators. Meant for pre-teens, kids can build their own house – right from wiring and circuits to furniture and more. It may be aimed at girls, but who says boys can't have fun building their own doll houses?
Or The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jennifer Wojtowicz and Steve Adams. It’s a heartwarming story of Rink, a boy with a special gift -- he grows beautiful flowers on his body on full moon nights! It’s a tale of individuality, kindness and acceptance …beautiful concepts for little boys and girls to explore understand and own.
Or go with Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts. The book is about Rosie, a shy and quiet girl who tries to solve problems with her inventions. It’s got all the right ingredients – a fun grand aunt and dreams, perseverance, laughter and encouragement in just the dose needed to whip up a fun, interesting and thought provoking read.
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