OPINION: Children’s toys and clothes highlight gender neutral parenting debate

PUBLISHED: 08:13 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:29 28 November 2017

Sophie Wyllie and her son Alex. Picture: PA

Sophie Wyllie and her son Alex. Picture: PA


My most vivid memories as a child include playing for hours with wooden train sets, building Lego creations and driving my remote control car. I also recall being given a Sindy doll for my fifth birthday, putting it to one side and never playing with it again.

I have never previously thought about the difference between toys and clothes aimed at girls and boys.

But as a new parent of a two-year-old boy and with Christmas approaching, it is something I occasionally consider.

The issue of gender neutrality among children and young people is also a hot topic. The Church of England has got involved saying children should be able to try out “the many cloaks of identity” without being labelled or bullied.

It has given advice to staff at its 5,000 schools on how to support youngsters through this perceived complex issue.

An increasing number of parents worldwide are also raising their children as gender neutral.

To some, children’s gifts and clothes may seem like simple items but can cause debate and questions about your parenting approach.

Despite many shops offering more unisex clothing, there are still boys’ jumpers covered with dinosaurs, monsters and cars and girls’ t-shirts featuring pink, fairies, hearts and flowers.

When my son was a newborn, he wore a lot of second-hand clothes originally bought for girls.

As he has got older, more of his clothes feature dinosaurs and vehicles, blue or darker colours. I buy them because I like them 
but more often than not they are often the only option available.

However, I wouldn’t be too bothered if he wanted to try on a skirt or dress. It is part of growing up and discovering new things.

Toys can also be very much directed at the two genders.

But when I look at my son playing with his dolly, pushing his toy pram and playing with his pink tea set alongside his cars and trains, it makes me realise that children just enjoy playing with anything.

Maybe parents should learn from children and not worry about what the next generation wear or do?

I believe the vital question should be, are they happy?

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