No matter what you celebrate this time of year, chances are you're going to need to buy a gift for someone, and that's where our "Bitch in a Box" series comes in! Between now and the end of December, we (Bitch HQ staff and interns) will be taking turns writing themed gift guides designed to please even the scroogiest feminists on your shopping list. Here's my guide to gifting for the children in your life—be sure to add your own suggestions in the comments! By the time most children are capable of unwrapping a gift, they have been deluged by countless subtle and not-so-subtle messages about what boys should like and what girls should like. These messages come not only from Madison Avenue and big box stores but from alternative toy-crafters, well-meaning parents and grandparents, and strangers on the street who say to your gender-neutrally dressed daughter, "What beautiful eyelashes—and wasted on a boy!" (True story.) Luckily, the Internet and, in some cities, the resurgence of independent retailers and craft markets, have given us access to so many choices for children's gifts. Here a few ideas for the wee ones in your life:
Books for Babies & Preschoolers: Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang (Greenwillow Books) This beautifully illustrated counting book has a warm, emotional quality as a child's room is surveyed as bedtime approaches. The adult, who could be a mother or father, and young girl both have dark skin. The room décor, richly drawn, feels gender neutral. A very tender book.
10,000 Dresses, story by Marcus Ewert, illustrations by Rex Ray (Seven Stories) Bailey dreams each night about beautiful and elaborate dresses. When she asks her family members to help her find dresses like those she created in her mind, she is told again and again, "You're a boy. Boys don't wear dresses." Bailey, who doesn't "feel like a boy" finds friendship and a sewing partner in an older girl. A great gift for a boy, but also for girls who think that dresses and fashion are solely their domain.
King and King, by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland (Tricyle Press) When the Queen is ready to retire and see her son made King, she constructs the traditional parade of princesses for him to choose from. When it's love at first sight with the brother of one of the princesses, the result is a royal wedding. In contrast to 10,000 Dresses, I liked this book in particular because the mother is supportive, even shedding "a tear or two" at the nuptials. And, of course, they all live, "happily ever after."
Play Figures for Preschoolers: Lakeshore Block Play People and Play People with Differing Abilities Play figures from Lakeshore Learning allow kids to create diverse and realistic communities for their imaginative play. Dolls represent a variety of ethnicities, genders, occupations, ages and abilities.
Puzzles and Blocks:
Hape Beleduc Wooden Layer Puzzles Beleduc makes great multi-layer anatomy puzzles. The boy and girl certainly come down on the gender binary but how many puzzles can you find with penises and vaginas at all? I particularly like the mother puzzle that shows the fetus in utero.
Magna-Tiles Blocks and building sets make wonderful gifts and it seems that most little ones are fascinated by magnetism. Great for coordination, math skills, and building cool houses for your play people.
Coloring Book: Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with the Other Spoon, words by Jacinta Bunnell, pictures by Nathaniel Kusinitz (Reach and Teach) Bunnell writes, "What draws me into children's lives—and keeps me there—is the all out cross-dressing, binary-smashing disregard for gender norms which they embrace in one way or another, unashamed, if given the freedom to do so without judgment." Amen. This coloring book turns adages upside down. My favorite page shows a princess bending down to kiss a frog with the thought bubble over her head reading "I hope it's another princess, I hope it's another princess…"
If you don't find what you're looking for in this list, you can't go wrong with musical instruments or art supplies. Or if you're looking for truly simple, inexpensive and anti-commercial gift, fill a couple of Mason jars with dried beans. Put the jars in some kind of box or tub with a scoop or cup and your toddler will be in for hours of fun. Share your ideas for holiday gifts for children in the comments!