David Kinnaird has been a professional Santa in Scotland for over 20 years. Here he reflects on how children’s toy choices have been changing in the last few years.
I’ve spent two decades ‘Behind the Beard’ – performing as and training Santas for sites around the UK. One of the first things I seek to instil in those entering the National Elf Service is that there is one question they simply Do Not Ask of the tiny travellers passing through their grottoes.
“What do you want for Christmas?”
When Rebecca Asher was researching her book Man Up, she found one message consistently came through loud and clear: the commonalities between boys and girls far outweigh the differences. She outlines for Let Toys Be Toys how the way we raise children and the gender stereotypes we bring to our parenting create and magnify any differences between the sexes.
I have never put much store by parenting manuals. Eight years into my career as a parent, I have turned to them on only a handful of occasions. Yet at the same time I have always been baffled by folksy advice to ‘rely on my maternal instinct’. I am not convinced that I have that instinct – maternal, parental, call it what you will. I love my children but I don’t believe that this love translates into always knowing exactly how best to meet their needs. Read more…
- "When I was a kid I devoured comics.The Beano, Dandy, Nutty, Whizzer and Chips, Beezer, Buster - basically anything funny I could get my hands on. The Beano was always my top read, filled with such favourites as Dennis the Menace and Roger the Dodger. However, The first strip I always turned to was Minnie the Minx. It never even occurred to me that I was reading about a girl! She was the funniest and, most of the time, the naughtiest. (Sorry Dennis, please don't set Gnasher on me!)This year I started writing for the Beano. My first strip was a Minnie and I couldn't have been happier. To me, Minnie is the Beano. Always was, always will be!" Children's and YA author, Cavan Scott
- "M loves his Peppa Pig books. His favourite character is Suzy Sheep."
- "As a child, I thought she was called 'Alison Wonderland' and I loved her adventures. It never even occurred to me that we weren't the same gender. Now, as a writer, I see that Alice is the first great character of children's literature: an iconic heroine who transcends gender, age and time. Every book I write owes her a debt." Author, SF Said
- "I love Daisy because she is so funny. She does silly things and always says it isn't her fault"
- "The Hunger Games is a brilliant book - a thrilling, thought-provoking story that grabs you from the first page. It makes you angry about injustice, stupidity and cruelty. And Katniss is the sort of hero we can all look up to." Children’s author and poet, John Dougherty
- "P loves reading about Sophie and all of the mischief and adventures she gets up to. Best of all she is also 7, just like him!"
- "When I was growing up, lots of my favourite characters were girls - Pippi Longstocking, Marmalade Atkins, Dorothy Gale, the Blackett Sisters. The book I'm reading here is called 'Travel Light', its about a little girl who's brought up by dragons before going out to explore the real world. It's a bit like 'The Hobbit', only backwards, and it's completely great." Author, Tom Huddleston
- "Since childhood I have loved Little My from Tove Jansson's Moomin books. She is subversive, dangerous, wise, and unlike any other character I can think of anywhere." Author, Illustrator, and TV Director, Joel Stewart
- reading Sophie's complete adventures on a long ferry trip to Spain
- "In childhood, it's heros like Matilda that really matter. She's only five years old but, by using her intelligence and imagination, takes on the formidable Miss Trunchbull and wins." Simon, London.
- 5yo Joe (who doesn't stay still!) loves Clarice Bean
- "As a boy I loved adventure books like C.S Lewis's The Silver Chair. Jill is the main character and she travels across the Wildlands on a mission to rescue Prince Caspian" Alan, Durham.
- "I always enjoyed getting Milly Molly Mandy books from my local library when I was a child. I never thought of them as 'girls' books." Barry, London.
- “September’s an amazing role model for all ages and genders, especially since she’s not tied down by stereotypes. She’s a fantastic character with a uniquely cynical personality"
Children’s publishers often say that boys won’t read about girls. We think it’s plain daft to think that boys aren’t capable of empathising with half the planet’s population, and irresponsible to market books in a way that suggests they’re not meant to.
We asked a few boys (and former boys!) to tell us about books that they love featuring girls. Read more…
Let Toys Be Toys campaigner Tessa Trabue reflects on what her son loves to read, and asks, if it’s true that many boys won’t read about girls, where are they getting the idea that they shouldn’t? Read more…
Dressing up ought to be a chance to let the imagination run riot, but marketing offers narrow roles for girls and boys to play. Megan Perryman takes a look.
Are you filled with excitement or dread as you plan your children’s Halloween costumes? For me, it’s a bit of both as I attempt to fight against the sexist messages that saturate the fancy dress industry. Read more…