What are the common top 5 interests for young children?
I asked at the local mums’ group to spam me with ideas what sort of interests are they daughters going through. I can call myself an experienced mum of a boy but I was wondering what girls are usually into. Please note the word “usually” which of course, does not mean “always”. Every child is different, however when I got through the comments I found out, there are 5 most popular toys/characters and I put them into the graph below.
Now, based on my observation and the fact 4 years ago we had some sort of explosion of boys in Reading, here is how it looks when you have a little boy.
Let’s now think about where they choices are from. What we could call top 3 influencers for our children when it comes to favourite toys:
What if we had no telly, (and it would be the same for all children from our nurseries/parties/friends)? Would children go more towards role-playing games? Would they explore more and get more imaginative? I guess so.
If you can call your own childhood and think how we were playing outdoors, pretending, making something from nothing? We were not exposed that much to the names, brands and characters but we still had some “heroes” from books and movies. So we tried to be like Robin Hood but it wasn’t much visible as we haven’t had all of the merchandising, which is available today.
Ok, and now think if you were more like a “girly girl” or a “tomboy”?
I had a big set of racing cars and a multistorey car park plus dozens of plastic soldiers. But at the same time, I loved playing with Barbie dolls, ponies and pink tea sets. If I could think about my influencers I am not quite sure as I had a sister.
Perhaps it was my cousin Thomas then. We used to spend summer holidays together with my other cousins (all girls). He usually “hired” me to defend his football attempts (ouch!) and we played war (ouch!!!) using his plastic soldiers. But hey, who influenced him if he grew up with us, girls? So it looks like we would have to analyse every single child’s story to found out where and how they personal toys-preferences started.
Back to the toys. On one hand, we have this, what I listed above. “Usual”, “typical”, “popular” or “common” situation. Some people would call them more like stereotypes. And this is where the other approach starts. So-called gender free, or non-gender related toys which can be put into groups here:
So these are “gender-free” toys. The problem is you could purchase each of them styled and designed to look like “more for girls” or “more for boys”. You know like a “gender-free” scooter painted pink or a play dough put into glittery-pinky-unicorny packaging full of branded characters. Here we go again. Media and their influence! This is why some organizations are fighting for toys to be toys, making sure you can get a catalogue with toys and you won’t browse boys pages and then separate girls pages. Also, you would be able to get to the shop and purchase a play dustpan and a brush and it won’t be necessarily pink.
But what should we do as parents? Boycott gender-related toys, argue over Paw Patrol and who it was meant to be for or leave it? Perhaps a balance would be the right word? Like “I don’t have a problem if my boy would like to have a baby doll and a pushchair” but at the same time I won’t feel offended if his games and preferences will reflect our family relations. Yes, he sees me in the kitchen cooking most of the time. But he also sees Jamie Oliver’s tutorials I watch from time to time. And trust me, when he starts “cooking play” he calls himself a MasterChef (my son, not Jamie). Yes, he loves all the characters from cartoons the boys are usually watching but he sees dad babywearing his baby sister and that’s a norm with him.
So if we can not really control the first two influencing factors (media and other children), we could perhaps be more mindful of the third one – us adults in real life.
Nothing wrong with your partner making cupcakes and no problem with mummy using the hammer (go, girl!:)). Nothing wrong with a pink t-shirt for a boy and nothing wrong with Thomas and his friends pants for your daughter (even if you purchase them from a “boys aisle”).
At the end of the day after your children’s play, you will end up with a…mess, no matter if they play with gender or non-gender toys.
So next time you have your friend’s child’s birthday coming and you are stuck with ideas for a present, here is what you can do:
simply ask, what their child is currently into (“typical stage” or “individual preference”);
go “usual” and pick something from the lists of common stages I mentioned at the beginning;
go rebel and buy something “opposite” intentionally, explaining you want to fight with stereotypes;
go safe and purchase a toy which is mobile, animal related, pretend and play, educational or creative. Personally I love this stuff (click)