What exactly is a “girl’s” toy, anyway?

Peter PanYesterday, John Lewis invited us to go and have a tour of their flagship London store and to meet up with some fellow parent bloggers. It was a great opportunity to fit in some Christmas shopping so Flea and I jumped at the chance.

We had a fantastic morning, including the chance to meet the other bloggers. Flea thought the John Lewis Christmas shop was the greatest thing she'd ever seen. "There's a whole wall of Christmas stockings, Mummy … That's just… Wow." she said, in tones of awe and wonder. 

After shopping up a storm in John Lewis, Flea and I headed up to Hamleys. Standing in the lobby, I asked Flea what she wanted to look at first. The signs next to the escalator describe what’s on each floor: construction toys in the basement, soft toys on the ground floor, pre-school toys on the first floor – and then there’s a floor for ‘girls toys’ and a floor for ‘boys toys’.

Where’s the Playmobil?” asked Flea.

Clearly, Flea doesn’t really think of toys in terms of being for boys or girls. And I admit that pleases me – I’ve always told her, “There’s no such thing as boys' things and girls' things. You can wear anything you like, you can play with anything you like.”

It seemed important because Flea’s natural inclination is for small toys that allow her to create imaginary worlds – so she’s always gravitated towards Playmobil but also small action figures, tiny dinosaurs, toy cars – things that would often be considered ‘boys’ toys.

It drives me bonkers that retailers like Hamleys and ELC are still insisting on dividing toys into boys’ and girls’ categories. It’s not a division that kids will naturally make themselves – but it’s certainly one they learn about quickly enough. I’ve lost count of the number of other kids who say to Flea, “Why are you wearing boys’ clothes?” or “You can’t play with that, it’s for boys.” 

Sooner or later, I guess peer pressure will kick in and Flea will learn to do what’s ‘appropriate’ for her gender. And I admit, I find it sad to think this might be the only year that Flea went to school on National Book Day dressed as Peter Pan when every other girl in her year was dressed as a princess.

I’m not arguing that being a princess is a bad thing, or that little girls shouldn’t want to play with toy kitchens. But if you’re a little girl who doesn’t want to be a Princess, and who doesn’t really like to play with dolls – I’m not sure you should have to buy your toys on a different floor of the toy store. What do you think?

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