Photo: Stocksy
Photo: Stocksy

PARENTING HONESTLY

A practical guide on buying kids’ toys and clothes that don’t gender-stereotype

Rebecca Schiller outlines the school shoes, books and tech toys that will inspire a generation of girls and boys

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By Rebecca Schiller on

With the blue and pink scales falling even further from our eyes (thanks to the BBC No More Girls and Boys documentary) the kids and I have been on the hunt for the best children’s brands delivering a riot of unisex fun in the nursery, library and playroom. 

Clothes and Shoes

Our favourite is upcycled clothing label Mini Magpie. The tiny company is run by Kimberley Golding who has taught her own sons that “there is nothing they can’t wear” so, as well as more traditional outfits they’ve, “asked for make-up, jewellery, wigs and skirts.” Her clothes hark back to the bright, unisex colours she remembers from childhood and Golding can even make them out of your old jumpers and shirts.

The high street is a dangerously polarised jungle if you are trying to keep your kids away from gender bias but Mothercare’s Little Bird range has a deliberately unisex approach. My two love the bright, soviet-gymnastics-team-at-rest colours and focus on comfortable, fun clothes that promote running around and getting grubby for both girls and boys.

Smaller brands generally do unisex much better than the heavy hitters. Slugs and Snails make tights for any kid who wants warm legs while Kelly Eckhardt of Girls Talk to Boys believes “there shouldn't be limitations on kids’ personal preferences” so has designed her collection of children and adult wear with a hefty dose of unisex. I’m trying to convince myself that investing in her Farris denim trousers for myself is somehow bringing down the patriarchy.

Having ditched the last remaining princess dolls we’re on the look out for the kind of toys and games that can help our kids play freely, without restrictions


Victoria Handley set up the No Pink Please boutique to challenge gendered marketing in kids’ clothing and toys. “I felt very strongly that my son should to have the opportunity to grow up without being immediately typecast.” Kids can browse clothes without any gender-ghettoising allowing them to make up their own minds about whether they are a pink or blue kind of person.

Some dark night soon you might find  my seven-year-old daughter Sofya and I sneakily replacing limiting high street slogan clothes with Mimi and Will’s “Read More Books” tee. Shamefully their “Feminist” T-shirt also made me realise that my kids didn’t know the f-word. They do now. 

Rebecca Schiller's kids wearing Mimi and Will's t-shirts

 

Frugi and Polarn O Pyret hold up the pricier end of the high street with plenty of unisex options and my daughter’s trusty green PoP coat is about to be handed over to her brother after four winters’ use proving itself worth the price tag.

School uniform is another gendered minefield, but Plae offer a small but stylish and robust selection of school shoes for children which will actually keep Sofya’s feet dry. Dr Martens have a bigger offer and you can avoid the boy/girl divide on their website by hitting the “school shoes” menu option. If you look carefully, even the most affordable high street options like George at Asda offer a good selection of shorts, trousers and practical shirts for girls while Marks & Spencer get top marks for putting plenty of pockets in skirts, dresses and summer shorts. And Paperchase is big on bananas for their unisex back to school stationary this autumn.

Bobux have been looking after my son Arthur’s feet since he was old enough to toddle and have happily introduced a Kid + range for Sofya. For older kids, Po-Zu’s Star Wars-inspired collection is both completely unisex and completely amazing.

Books and toys

Go out now and add Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls to your bookshelf. Gripping and beautiful, Sofya has paused her Harry Potter obsession to tell me all about Aung San Suu Kyi and Anna Politkovskaya. Be still my feminist heart. The range of kids books from Chronicle is a brilliant bet for a junior feminist reading list. Their children's publishing director, Ginee Seo (responsible for Schiller bedtime favourites like Ada Twist Scientist and Bad Girls Throughout History) explains that they are publishing these books, “because they reflect the reality of life today. Girls and women ARE strong. Stereotypes are tired and tiresome and not a reflection of the future.”

Having ditched the last remaining princess dolls we’re on the look out for the kind of toys and games that can help our kids play freely, without restrictions. Kit and Caboodle’s complete party kits appeal to everyone (particularly party-shy parents like me) and deliberately steer clear of stereotypes. Brightminds has a massive selection of stuff with a fun but educational bent and founder Alison Quill explains that they focus on giving choice to kids without being directive. “We had a company try to sell us a marble run last year which had ‘Toys for Boys’ on the box. They struggled to see what I had against it. I didn’t range it for that reason and this year I was shown it again and see they have dropped it. So we are getting there bit by bit!”

Tech Will Save Us concentrate on science and technology and are particularly passionate about getting girls in to STEM subjects. Their electric dough and mover kits are equally good for a nephew or a niece’s last-minute birthday present and there are plenty of free ideas on their website too. 

Bedtime doesn’t need to be princesses v. robots as Tobias and the Bear’s brilliant animal print duvet covers demonstrate. Tuck n Snug have also banished pink and blue with the added bonus of clever tabs that stop your future scientists waking up cold having kicked off their bedding. Snuggle them up in The Bright Company’s unisex pyjamas and, while they drift off to their dreams, perhaps we’ll be one step closer to our kids believing that everything is for everyone. As Kate Pietrasik, who founded Tootsa (the award-winning unisex brand for kids) explains this, “isn’t about rendering children genderless – nor is it about forbidding girls to wear dresses, or outlawing pink. It’s about not wishing our children to be defined or restricted by their gender.”

Kids Top 10 Unisex Edit

1. Bobux Nomad (£52) and Lucky Molten Gold Boots (£48) with Brolly tights by Slugs and Snails from 14 Euros

 

2. Mr Fox duvet set, Tobias and the Bear, £65

 

3. Q Ba Maze from Brightminds, £34.99

Brightminds Q Ba Maze, £34.99

 

4. Women in Science, Rachel Ignotofsky

 

5. Kit and Caboodle Party Kits, from £95

 

6. Plae Roan school shoes, from £55 and ‘inspiration and ideas' notebook and banana stationery by Paperchase, from £3

 

7. Super Kid hoodie, Selfish Mother, £25 and Feminist t-shirt, Mimi and Will, £16

 

8. Owl leggings (from £20) and otter sweatshirt (from £32), Tootsa

 

9. Persistence action figure, After Alice, £9.99

 

 

10. The Bright Company, slim jym pyjamas, from £30

 

@HackneyDoula

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