Here I was, only a day or so from only my second post, and I was not entirely sure what I was going to write about. When a friend, who has a habit of posting (referring, relinking, liking etc…) interesting articles on, well, almost anything, linked to this.

The general feeling of the article is that due to the segregation in how we, the royal we, as in society as a whole, teach our young to play is already affecting their potential for things when they get older.

This hit me particularly well when I read it, and shortly after. Over the weekend Miss 11 and Miss 8 played in their respective basketball games, went out to watch the Avengers movie, then Miss 8 joined me and The Partner at a video gaming session while Miss 11 got a lift from home to a choir performance. Come Monday night I was having a discussion with Miss 11 about her ability to do the reading for her project herself and to have greater belief in her own abilities.

What does all this have to do with someone’s opinion on Lego toys? That little collection up there is a very good summary of what my children are like, and what they do. There is no real lean to either ‘side’ of activities, some would fall into the ‘boyish’ category, some the ‘girlish’, and the last is pretty much just being a child, but it hopefully demonstrates my belief in having my children try to overcome their problems on their own instead of just being able to rely on someone else.

But all of this is about the influence we have over our children. I am a firm believer in letting them choose things for themselves, yes, as children they will want to try as much as you will let them get away with. They will have no problem signing themselves up for basketball, dance, choir, three different musical instruments, circus school, chess club…the list goes on. Each time a parent chooses a yes or no answer you are going to be affecting what skill set your child is progressing, possibly at the detriment of other skills that may or may not be as equally as important. Choices you make would probably have ‘real life’ restrictions like time, money and location attached to them and I understand that they can not do everything, but always be careful what you dismiss.

Lego, being the referenced topic, was actually in short supply to start with for Miss 11. The sets that me and my brother had when we were younger had been given mostly over to a cousin and their own children, so the hand me down sets were out of the picture. We were also limited in new sets by one of those previously mentioned restrictions, money. But we bought a basic Duplo box with a range of pieces in it, sat down on the play area and created basic things that resembled real life objects in a very blocky way, which were naturally pulled apart quicker than we could make them by enthusiastic girls who just loved being able to influence their own things, the brightest things in the room normally.

So yes, we were the ones to introduce Lego, we were also the ones to introduce Harry Potter. My father has introduced them to the Beatles, and movie musicals, while my mother showed them Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket. I do not recall anything that my parents did share as being anything I particularly minded. Sure, Miss 11 singing songs from 1950 musicals a little too frequently, but that can hardly be classified as a terrible thing for a child who had already showed interest in singing.

We have tried to keep reading a bed time story to them a regular thing. All through the Harry Potter series, the first Spiderwick group of books, even Treasure Island (at great pains trying to decipher the pirate speak). And after each book I collect a few of the unread ones we have on the shelf and let them decide, or fight, about what to read next. You may notice there is a small push of influence there as well. The books that stay on the shelves are the ones I believe they could read themselves, while the ‘meatier’ ones chosen had been picked out previously to be something me or The Partner thought the children might like. So the art is collating what you find acceptable, then giving them the options within those parameters.

This of course is not reserved for the books that are read, even when Miss 11 and Miss 8 were too young to create a sentence I was careful as to what they would watch on tv. Shows with partially educational themes got to stay on (think Blue’s Clues, or even Play School) while shows which seemed to be taken up mostly with just random images and scenes got turned off (In the Night Garden, Teletubbies, Yo Gabba Gabba…that last one may have just annoyed me too much, it has been a while since I saw any of it).

The kids grow older and the educational shows fall to the side and their own tastes start to show. Their interest in the Marvel superheroes stemmed from the cartoon based shows on one of the ABC channels. The movie interest came from that and me and The Partner’s own interest in the films. As to the tv I still occasionally step in and inform them that a certain show is not to be watched for various reasons (Example of a show with an apparently Jamaican rat/mouse that can not speak english properly to save himself), and will try to explain why if asked. (something I think is important with kids, explain the reason behind things, let them think about it for themselves instead of just “Dad said no”) But it still boils down to the “you can watch what you want…from this select group”.

I took them to a basketball clinic. I have played basketball for most of my life and enjoy it still. This wears off on the kids of course. See daddy have fun doing Activity A? I want to try Activity A! They had not asked to go to this basketball clinic, but I surprised them with it after school one day. One day. After the one example I then gave them the option of going again. Granted, almost any activity thing they were taken too, assuming it was run with some form of competence, would be considered fun by a child, but I did continue to leave it to them as the weeks went by. After a while I suggested to them to join a team instead of just a clinic, and the first time it was suggested it was turned down by both of them. Six months, or a season, in junior basketball terms, later and they went to the grading tryouts and got put into teams and have not looked back since.

Miss 11 has been earning her own money, albeit not much, from helping her grandparents do some of the pamphlet money. And I am proud to say that while shopping with her own hard-earned cash, her stores of choice were EB Games, Dymocks, Target and similarly themed stores. Video games, books, and clothes. While looking through the used DS games to try to pick something out, she picked out a box that you could not tell what game was inside from the side that was showing. After flipping it over and seeing it was “Bratz”…insert the rest of the title of some Bratz game here, because I honestly do not know, she let out an audible “blech” type sound and quickly put it back. This from a girl who had already looked through clothes that day to buy herself. The game that she ended up buying was Settlers, a game about building a town/city, resource collecting, town planning…etc. Skills normally associated with the ‘girl’ gender, right?

Have I been rambling? Probably, but I see so much of this particular point in so much of my own life. My girls’ favourite movies include The Avengers, Sherlock Holmes, Three Musketeers and Tangled. They both play basketball, love their Lego sets and have been known to set up camping sites in their bedroom using their beds and pillows. When their bicycles are working they like to go for rides and spend a lot of time on the recently acquired trampoline. I tend to not spend that much time outside these days, and have not owned a bike since mine was stolen in high school. Some things they have chosen to get, or do are allocated ‘girl’ things, but a lot are not, and I would hope that is because the range I left open to them has allowed their own free choices, while I still got to keep some control over it.

The influences of the article’s pointed out ‘blue’ aisle and ‘pink’ aisle only stick if you yourself stick to them. If the first thing you do with a female child is take her down the aisle with only the Barbie cars and houses and you tend to skip the aisle with the aliens and castles and cars then you are enforcing the idea, not the toy store and/or company. Take the little extra time, take them down all the aisles, let them select from the wider options. By all means, if you have problems with the quality of what they select, or the particular toy (or the price), feel free to give them a reason and urge them to keep looking, but do not cancel out entire aisles based purely on the ‘blue’ or ‘pink’ ness of them.

(Note: aisles are not necessarily restricted to just physical aisles here, activities such as soccer and dancing could quite as easily be placed under this aisle theory)

Last thought: While re-reading parts of this I started to wonder if the books we have read are more of the ‘blue’ side of things, or at least the books that are available for choice. I will endeavor to see if I can get a more ‘pink’ option available to them next time it comes up.