Raise Your Kids in a Gender-Neutral Home: Easy Tips You Can Follow
If you are worried that your little lady wants to be as strong as Superman or as techie as Ironman, or your young boy knows by heart Frozen’s “Let It Go,” it’s time you read up.
Say hello to the concept of gender-neutrality, or the absence of gender-centric norms and tools that could impede your child’s development. Gender neutrality seeks to do away with stereotypes, like how young girls must always be nurturing or doing domestic tasks and how boys are expected to be strong and competitive; or pink is for girls and blue are for boys.
The idea of gender begins early in life, and toys and environment play a huge role in shaping this view. According to a study by Judith E. Owen Blakemore and Renee E. Centers published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, toys influence children’s future gender or role preferences and vastly affect their gender development.
If parents impose gender-marketed toys, kids might lose out on growth opportunities, Lisa Dinella, developmental psychologist has warned.
In a 2016 report in The Guardian, Dinella emphasized that exposing children to dolls and pretend kitchen, regardless of gender, help them develop cognitive sequencing of events. In the same way, building blocks like Lego and puzzles are beneficial not only to boys, because such play helps children develop spatial skills.
“Both genders lose out if we put kids on one track and they can’t explore,” the report quoted Dinella as saying.
Now, various studies urge caregivers and educators to provide gender-neutral choices and opportunities for children. But where does a parent begin when the society has encouraged a binary for decades?
Tip 1: Start with neutral colors.
Under the Montessori method, toys with neutral colors are encouraged. In this concept, furniture, materials, even clothing must not dictate society-imposed colors on gender.
For clothes, children must wear based on “function, comfort, and protection” instead of appearance or gender recognition. Go for comfortable whites, neutral ecru, or refreshing greens. And remember that blue is great for girls while little boys can look refreshing in pink, too.
Check out clothes on sale on Edamama here.
Tip 2: Pick gender-neutral toys.
Parents have a lot of toy options to choose from. But instead of indulging children with the usual playthings, parents can slowly introduce these gender-neutral toys.
In Blakemore and Centers’ study, they found that these toys were rated as among most gender-neutral, based on responses of 292 psychology students. You may use this as a guide.
Cash register (grocery play)
Mr. Potato Head
Magnetic time teacher
Foam Board puzzle
Crystal Growing set
Toys that offer mobility and encourage movement are also a hit with both genders, the study added. Try this half climber or balance bike for your active toddler.
Tip 3: Go for these themes.
For households with multiple kids, better invest in toys that can be enjoyed by either gender. Sciences make a good case of gender-neutral toys; try themes like solar system, animals, plants, insects, volcanoes; slimy experiments; and more.
Pick toys that also promote gender neutrality when it comes to career or social roles. Girls can become paleontologists and look for dinosaur fossils and boys can definitely do household chores (this cleaning set is a steal!).
Tip 4: Develop non-gender roles with gender-specific toys.
You can also utilize existing toys like Barbie dolls not just for prettify-pretend-play purposes. Barbie can be an athletic figure kids can look up to, or a chef even a young boy could emulate. Hulk can be a caring dad during pretend play. Do not underestimate your kids’ imagination.
Let your young boy build a Frozen castle, and develop your little girl’s spatial skills with a Duplo toy truck.
So next time you shop for toys, please remember what Sam Smethers, former chief of Fawcett Society, United Kingdom's leading charity campaigning for gender equality said:
“Sometimes it can be hard to find something a bit different for kids, but there are great gifts out there which challenge lazy stereotypes. Gender stereotypes lie at the root of problems such as limiting career choices for girls, or boys who have difficulty expressing their emotions, so what we give our children...really does matter.”