I’m always baffled about how and why the whole boy/girl dichotomy takes place.
I’ve always erred on the side of tom boy, growing up my closest friends were always boys (this was mainly due to geography and my parents friends who happened to have children at similar times were all boys). For my 10th birthday I recieved a bright shiny yellow tonka truck that is still at my parents beach house 22 years on. To this day, I still get on well with men and count some as my closest of friends. My oldest and bestest friend is a boy, so much so that I made him my ‘bridesman’ and whilst at the time he got a few laughs as he walked down the aisle (he refused to hold a bouquet!!) to me it probably wouldn’t have been the day that it was if he hadn’t been close by my side.
Don’t get me wrong I love a good pair of high heels and a dress, my house is filled with cut glass handles and chandeliers, I love fresh flowers and the odd velvet bow tied around drawer handles but at the end of the day I’m a loose jeans and converse kind of girl. As a result of this Goldilocks is also fast becoming a jeans and high tops kinda kid. I struggle to get her into a dress for special occassions and I sneak hair clips into her locks when she’s distracted by playdough! For all her dollies, prams and tea sets, she also has cars, trains and trucks. I think this combination is part of balanced play time.
I often laugh when friends come over, the first thing the little boys always go for is the pink pram and dolly and her jewellery box that is filled with a menagerie of brightly coloured plastic gems! Clearly I have no issue with this and they are yet to understand that on the whole men generally don’t wear alot of costume jewellery, but I laugh when a Dad steps in and says ‘so and so don’t wear a necklace….or….stop pushing the pram you big girl, people will start talking’. I quietly think, if ‘so and so’ had an older sister would you not allow him to play with her toys in an effort to make him more manly? One such friends son clearly agrees, he carries ‘Bob’ the dolly to many outings and another is particularly enamoured with his pink pram, so much so that we need to take our own pram over when we go to visit to keep the peace. My sister is a serious girly girl, a very stylish one at that with an incredible eye for beautiful things and objects that you wish you could imitate (I’ve tried, it’s impossible). As a result she showered my nephew (her first born) with dolls, dress ups, prams and the usual boy paraphanalia. Whilst this was all used for a while his fondest game was lying on the floor spinning the wheel of a folded up pram. We’d laugh when you’d be in the car and he’d point out all the names for tip trucks, lorries and other stuff excavation vehicles that we didn’t even know the terms for! So how did he learn this? Why is it that no matter what toys our kids interact with, boys generally end up spinning pram wheels and girls end up pouring cups of imaginary tea? I know once school starts there’s peer pressure and society dictates and diffuses into you little minds from a young age but isn’t it funny how we mostly all fall into our specified little categories no matter what toys we’re given to play with early in life?
One such play time activity that bares no marked gender line is that of reading. Mel and I huge advocates of reading to your children, from an early age. People would laugh when I’d read 3 month old Goldilocks a bedtime story. But we still follow the same routine and when the lights are low, the tv off and she’s snug in her pyjamas smelling like the bath this is a real quality 1 on 1 activity that we share together.
THI has a great selection of early reading books and I encourage you to take time to read with your children. Pink or blue, monsters or fairies books are a universal joy that illicit not only quiet bonding time, but also encourage a love of words and the expansion of the imagination. And let’s be frank…if as adults we had a little more imagining time the world would be a better place! So here are some tips to encourage you on your way;
- Start reading from a young age, even if your child can’t comprehend the story the sound of your voice has a soothing effect
- Make it part of your childs routine and read in a place that does not have lots of distractions. Make a special reading corner or nook where you both know you won’t be distracted by the tv, computer or mobile phone
- Read for short periods of time to maintain interest. There’s no point in embarking on Harry Potter novels at 12 months of age. There’s plenty of time for that later in life. So choose short books with recognisable, common vernacular words
- Do your research and read books that include subjects that are are of typical interest at the time i.e if they are into planes that month then read books about planes
- Don’t be afraid to read the same book over and over night after night, whilst you might end up knowing the pages off by heart, kids love repetition. It’s how they learn to talk and familiarise themselves with saying their first words
- Let them choose their own books. Whilst they rely on you to read the story, let them feel involved and independant in the reading activity, by choosing the story they want to read that night
- Invest in books that have activities and engage. The ‘That’s Not My..‘ range have been and continue to be a huge hit in our house. If you haven’t had experience with them, then do yourself a favour and try them out. They all follow the same formula but the repition of language combined with the touchy feel pages that incorporate different textures and colours have kept Goldilocks interested from a very young age, she still chooses them as part of our reading routine
- The younger the child, the sturdier book, teach them to respect their books but also give them the freedom to carry them around and give them some tough love, it gives them the opportunity to explore books on a different level whilst also learning to appreciate and look after their belongings.
- Last but not least, but definitely most importantly have fun! Don’t be afraid to adopt a high pitched screechy voice when the mouse talks, or a low thunderous roar when the dragon spit fire. This keeps everyone interested and amused!!!