The Importance of Gender Neutral Toys

I wasn't planning on writing about this topic. I figured that it was common knowledge that it is stupid to have a "girl" toy aisle with all the cooking toys and fashion dolls and a "boy" toy aisle with all the building toys and superheroes. Apparently, I have too much faith in humanity. 

If you haven't heard yet, Target recently announced that they are going to move away from gender-based signs in their toy aisles. While this doesn't mean the Easy Bake Oven will now be found next to Bob the Builder's Workshop, it does mean that you won't see a sign that says "Girls' Building Toys." Yes, that sign exists. 

My local newspaper asked their Facebook fans for their opinions on this announcement. There were way too many comments saying it is stupid or they don't believe that the gender distinctions matter. That kids can play with whatever toys they want. While that sounds nice, it just isn't true.

I have a 13-year old daughter. She plays both sides of the "girly" game. During the day, she is building bridges and solar powered cars, but at night she is decked out in a pink leotard for ballet class. Yet, if you walk through the toy section in Target, there is a definite divide between what girls play with and what boys play with. The girl section is bright and pink and, for the lack of a better word, girly. The boy section is a little darker and tends to be filled with blue and black hues. It is definitely a different world.

Let's look at one specific toy now. The almighty Lego. Lego has girl toys and it has boy toys. In the girl section, you will find Lego Friends. I'm pretty sure this is where Barbie went to die. The Lego Friends are a group of girls that play with animals, go on tour as pop stars, and hang out at the juice bar. You won't find any of these things in the boys Legos. 

Over in the boy section, we have castles and pirates and ninjas and Batman and Superman and pretty much every superhero you can name. Granted, no one is coming out and saying only boys can play with these sets. But it can be very difficult to tell a child that it's OK for girls to be ninjas or Batman or whatever. Heck, some adults don't even get that concept. I have seen adults give me the stink eye for buying my daughter something considered "boyish." 

Why is it important to have gender neutral toys? Because we, as a society, need to stop having this disconnect between what girls can and can't do. We have a serious lack of women in scientific fields. While I'm not completely placing the blame on gendered toys, keep in mind that the science kits are generally in the boy aisle of the toy section. There are a lot of adults that won't even walk through the aisles of the opposite gender of their child. Those kids may not even know that there are microscopes and building blocks and robots out there for them to play with. Let's stop making this a boy and a girl thing. Let's just make it a toy thing. Put the Hulk next to Elsa in the aisle. Put the Easy Bake Oven over with the tool sets. And stop making everything color coded. There are more colors in life than just pink and blue. Let's show our kids the whole world, not just the limited slice companies want them to see.  


Parenting: Fun For The Kids

pleasetouch Over the weekend, I took my daughter and one of her friends to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. While it is mostly geared toward the younger crowd (around 4 to 6), the older kids (7 to 10) will have some fun as well.

There are a number of areas to explore. The first floor has a carousel (which I didn't count as 'exploring'), a water-themed play area, a transportation area, and a sky-themed area. The water area has smocks for little ones so they don't get soaked. A river, which is arm-height for children, moseys around the area. The kids use various buttons and levers to move rubber ducks and boats through the waterways. The sky area has things like a two-seated bicycle that moves flat 'umbrellas' when you pedal. There is also an area where you can build an airplane out of foam pieces, send it up to the ceiling, and see how it floats back to the ground. In between the water and the sky is the transportation themed area. There are cars to build, a SEPTA bus to 'ride,' an SUV to fix up at the service station, and some construction vehicles to pick up balls.

Heading downstairs, the second floor (yes, I think it's weird that the bottom floor is the second) has an Alice in Wonderland themed area, a centennial area, and a...I'm not sure how to explain it other than a play area. The Alice exhibit is wonderful. There is a huge maze that the kids run around in to see various pieces from the story, as well as various characters. This was the biggest hit with our crew. Next to that is the centennial area. To be honest, this was the most boring of all the exhibits. There was little for the children to do and all of the historical stuff bored them. However, next up was an area filled with "dress up" areas. There was a construction set, a McDonalds set, a hospital set, a grocery store set, a shoe store set...and probably more that I forgot! In each set, there were costumes for the kids and various items for them to use to play pretend. However, it was quite crowded.

Amid each section, there were separate areas for children under 3 to play. However, we didn't have any children that young with us so we weren't allowed in those areas. There was also a very good puppet show that engaged the kids and their imaginations. I have to admit that I thought the kids would be bored there. I was under the impression that the museum was geared toward the 5-year old are group. While that is true, there are still plenty of things to keep the older kids occupied. It was a really nice way to spend a couple of hours.

Game review: Camp Funshine: Carrie the Caregiver 3

Ah, Carrie. How she has grown. First she was a babysitter. Then she was a preschool teacher. Now she is a camp counselor. The gameplay is the same as the other two. Drop the waiting kids to their seats, bring them the things they need, hang their finished project (in this case, tie-dyed shirts) to dry. The most complicated part of the game is trying to get everything done before the kids get angry.

I found this version to be more enjoyable than the preschool version. The things you were asked to deliver to the children made sense. You weren't asked to do things that they could do themselves. There are also some slight additions to the game. Some of the tables have two seats. Those tables require two people to be seated before they will start the project. If you don't have two children available, you can pull another counselor in to help the child. I didn't find it particularly necessary though. You know that those tables need two children so you just try to wait until you have two children. Otherwise, sit them at the one-person tables. Not a difficult task.

This series isn't my favorite time management game but this particular one isn't terrible. I wouldn't plan on wasting a lot of time on it though.

Game review: Babysitting Mania

When I first saw Babysitting Mania, I figured that it would be a time management game where you take care of babies or children. Feed them, change them...that sort of thing. It's nothing like that. You spend the entire game trying to clean up after a couple of hellion children while feeding/changing the baby. The goal is to get the entire house clean and the kids in bed before the parents come home. Sadly, that is really difficult because the children keep making more messes. You can put the kids in "time out" but that only lasts a little while. I was really disappointed that this game is more about being a maid and less about actual babysitting. In real life, I don't think anyone would be expecting their babysitter to do a lot of the things she does in the game. For example, one of your in-game chores is doing the family's laundry. I know that I wouldn't expect my babysitter to do the laundry while I was out.

In the end, it was a frustrating game that had nothing to do with the title. The only time you care for the children is when the baby needs to be fed or changed. The older kids are permitted to run around destroying things without any sort of punishment. (They go back to destroying the house after their "time out" so I don't consider that much of a punishment. It's intended to give you some time to catch up on your chores, that's it.) Definitely a game I will not be picking up.