Ask Surly Amy: Non Gendered Toys For Those Noisy Neighborhood Kids
My wife and I live in kind of a poor neighborhood, and we’re sort of well-off by comparison. While we’re not friends with our neighbors, we’re fond of the local kids, who are loud but kind of sweet and open and friendly. We don’t and can’t have any kids of our own. Last year we had an excuse to buy a couple of the kids some gifts because we know they don’t have much, but this year we’d like to be able to do more for the kids.
Here’s the problem: I don’t want to reinforce any sexist stuff with the toy-buying. Last year we knew the sister and brother we bought for, and they BOTH got lightsabers. I know one of the littler girls wants my handgun, but as far as the rest I’m not sure. We don’t really know the other kids, but wewant to do right by them, plus we want to make sure that if they tell their friends about free presents at our house, we have enough for everyone.
So how do we do that without buying guns/cars for boys and pink crap for girls?
I am a fan of toys that also teach or encourage creativity so you can do what my family did. Buy cheap art supplies and let the kids make their own toys.
When I was a little tyke and I complained of being bored, my mother would just tell me to go make something. We didn’t have much money when I was a kid either but there was always something to draw on or something to glue together.
I highly recommend buying things that can become other things with just a little effort. Most craft supplies are non gender specific as long as you stay away from the craft sets. Sometimes those sets are geared towards boys or girls specifically and are often kinda lame. However, just your run-of-the-mill generic craft supplies are usually perfect and very affordable. All you need to add to construction paper, scissors, glue and colored pens is imagination and imagination is free.
If crafting isn’t your thing, and I know it’s not for everyone, then I suggest buying cheap toys that have no gender implications at all. I would avoid guns and other weapons or any kind of dolls and opt instead for activity based items. Maybe balls or water toys or other sport related items would be good. Or games that a bunch of kids can play together. Just try not to buy pink and blue items when you can. I am personally a fan of both of those colors but if you remove them from the options then kids won’t feel pressured into abiding by social constraints.
Kids can be awful and peer pressure will force a boy to pick blue even if he wants pink so it’s best just to remove it from the options if they aren’t your kids. If they were your kids you would be able to explain why pink is fine for boys and blue is great for girls but you can’t do that with neighborhood kids. Get purple or green or orange if you can. Just avoid colors that enforce gendered stereotypes. And if you can find any toys that teach or encourage science, like a telescope or microscope or chemistry set then 10 extra bonus points for you! And thanks for helping out out those noisy neighborhood kids. That is super swell of you!
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Photos © Amy Davis Roth