The Weekend Box September 2017 review

Last month, we received a Weekend Box. Yes, this post is a teeny bit late but with my daughter’s birthday and lots of other family stuff going on, blogging and vlogging had to take a bit of a back seat in the last couple of weeks.

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The Weekend Box teamed up with Snazaroo, who I’m sure we’re all familiar with as a face paints brand.

The box contained one mini kit that had the paints for a tiger face design and a birthday party stamp kit with several paints and stamps.

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Here’s my vlog review of the box:

 

We were really pleased with this box. My daughter loves dressing up so she found face painting really fun.

If you’d like to subscribe to the Weekend Box yourself, here’s a link.

Disclaimer: We were sent a Weekend Box free of charge for review purposes.

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My Thoughts on ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free’ Part 2

Last week, I wrote a post about the first part of a programme on BBC Two called ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’. Last night the second part was aired. It’s currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

In the first part, presenter and doctor Javid began an experiment to see if removing differences of gender from the lives of children, their opinions and behaviour could be changed.

This continues in the second part. The children are given tangram puzzles to solve, which can help develop spacial awareness, a trait commonly thought of as naturally stronger in males. However, as experts (such as Gina Rippon, professor of cognitive imaging, featured in the programme) have found that the brain changes its structure depending on experiences. This idea could mean that if boys and girls were given equal opportunity to practice developing spacial awareness, there would be no gender difference in this skill. Indeed, results of this experiment show that while the girls initially struggled more than the boys (who more commonly played with LEGO and other toys that can also develop this skill), by the end of two weeks practice, this difference disappeared and abilities were far more equal.

This part of the programme focused heavily on the toys and clothes that children are given, which Javid claims are separated mainly into blue for boys and pink for girls, with stereotyped slogans common for each. Examples given in the programme were t shirts saying ‘Forever Beautiful’ for a girl and ‘Here comes trouble for a boy’. In those slogans are stereotypes that for a girl, the ultimate aspiration is be physically attractive and to remain so, while boys are almost expected to have poor behaviour and be tough and aggressive. None of these messages are positive. My own daughter does like wearing dresses but equally she likes wearing jeans and a t shirt. She has owned more than one t shirt that came from the boys section of a shop, simply because they had designs she liked (both had super heroes on). I’m pretty careful about clothing anyway, especially as a lot of the clothes for girls are, in my opinion, really inappropriate for the age they’re designed for. I could get seriously lost in a tangent on this though so I’ll stop that there!

Javid visited the children’s homes to try and help the parents take away gender differences there too. A girl’s pink dolls and princess toys were bagged up and removed from her room. While they were later replaced with other, more neutral toys, I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad for her. I know my daughter is quite attached to some of her toys so this felt a bit harsh. Couldn’t neutral toys and dressing up clothes (this girl had a wardrobe filled to bursting with princess dresses) be offered without taking away toys the child already owns? While I agree that having a variety is good, I don’t see anything wrong with a girl having a princess dress or doll if that’s what she wants. Looking in my own daughter’s room, she does have quite a bit of pink but equally lots of other colours and a real variety of toys – dolls that live in her doll’s house, a jewellery box and lots of cuddly toys but also a big box full of books (none of which are very girly as that just isn’t the kind of story she likes) and an enormous collection of LEGO that is threatening to take over the whole room! She does have some pink, girly stuff but there’s also a Spiderman poster on her wall and an Incredible Hulk figure on her windowsill. It’s her room and looking at it shows the vast variety of her interests.

Replacement toys were given to the children to make up for the ones that had been removed. Marble runs and robot kits for the girls, sewing and craft kits for the boys. All of the children seemed to enjoy them and I did think this was a positive way of challenging the toy stereotyping. I simply think it could have been done without taking the children’s possessions away from them.

Another change made was having the children all use unisex toilets. I wasn’t sure I saw the point of this but when you think about it, toilets at home are unisex so why are they using separate toilets? It was not a change that the children really liked. The girls said that the boys’ lack of hygiene put them off using the bathroom with one girl saying that she tried to hold it in all day – very unhealthy! As it was only one block of toilets that had been made unisex, that meant that a whole class of 30 children had only 3 toilets to use between them. These are issues that could be solved though. The boys’ awareness of hygiene, regardless of any gender experiment, needs to be addressed anyway as it’s a health risk. Also, if these changes were made school-wide and all toilets were unisex, the issue of a lack of toilets to use would be solved too. However, I’m still not convinced by this particular change.

Chores were also looked at. In the UK, women do 60% more of the unpaid work such as household chores and childcare. Initially, it seemed that even when the children’s fathers took on more of the chores, the children still believed that it was more of a female task. An experiment on the beach showed mixed results, with the children splitting themselves off into mixed gender groups for the tasks of preparing the picnic or preparing the fire pit but then the boys lost interest and blamed this on preparing food being a ‘girl’s thing’. In our house, I do pretty much all of the housework and more of the childcare than my husband does. However, he works at a full time job, while I only work part time. I have been careful to explain to my daughter that this, rather than our genders, is the reason for the way we manage these things and that other families do things differently, depending on what works for them. If I were to start working full time, the way we manage work at home would change.

The children were then split into mixed teams to practice playing football, a stereotypically male sport. When asked if they wanted to remain in mixed teams or change into boys vs. girls, most of the children chose to remain in their mixed teams – a positive result. I know my daughter has struggled to be ‘allowed’ to play football with her male friends at school and often feels the boys are being too rough for her to join in.

At the end of the programme, Javid presented the overall results from tests that were done at the beginning of the experiment and repeated at the end.

The difference between boys and girls in self esteem dropped from 8% to 0.2% with many of the girls saying they felt more confident, echoed by their teachers and parents. The girls also started using more positive words such as ‘unique’ and ‘happy’ to describe themselves, rather than ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’ and were 40% more accurate when predicting their own abilities when at the beginning they had tended to drastically underestimate themselves.

The boys’ pro-social behaviour improved by 10% and they scored higher on the emotional intelligence tests.  Their female classmates, their teachers and their parents all commented that the boys had become more caring and empathetic and less aggressive.

These results, to me, are really indicative of the positive changes that come from challenging gender stereotypes.

This school’s headteacher announced that she wants to extend the changes made in the classroom to the entire school. I hope that other parents and educators watching the programme take similar steps. I would love to see my daughter’s school making these changes.

Mr Andre, the teacher whose class took part in the experiment, took on board where he needed to change and has embraced it so whole heartedly that he’s now presenting new gender neutral teaching methods, not just within his own school but also to the Institute of Education. I hope this leads to UK-wide change.

Personally, I think this programme has shown the good that can come from making boys and girls more equal. Of course there are biological differences between the genders. But in most ways, we can be equal and if we start showing our children this now, maybe our future society can be a more equal place for all.

What were your thoughts on this programme?

 

 

 

My Top 5 Family Tabletop Games

It’s been ages since I posted a games review and since we’ve been having such wet weather (It’s August, for goodness sake!), I thought I’d share with you some of our favourite tabletop games to play as a family. These are perfect for rainy days and for everyone to enjoy – not just the kids!

No.1 Rampage 

This game is a really noisy and kind of messy one but so much fun! You each play a monster trying to destroy a city, knocking down buildings and eating Meeple (that’s tabletop speak for little model people).

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No. 2 Dream Home

A great one for anyone who loved building houses in the Sims. Basically the idea is that each of you builds a house, using room cards and various little extras like paintings to go on the wall or a birdhouse to put in the garden. Be prepared to get weirdly competitive about roof patterns! (That makes it sound dull but it’s honestly good family fun)

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No. 3 Sushi Go

This is a quick & cute one. It’s only 15 minutes long (roughly) so good for filling a little bit of time. It’s a card game rather than board game so there’s not much setup either. Basically you collect different kinds of sushi to collect points. Plus, the sushi is really cute!

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No. 4 Mice & Mystics

This is for a family that is ready for a longer, more involved games. It’s a story driven RPG game, where you all play people that have been magically transformed into mice, who have to fight rats and millipedes. I love this game. It takes over an hour to play though, so I advise planning a break halfway through. It is cooperative so you get to work as a team and there are no squabbles over who wins!

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No. 5 Machi Koro

I think this is my favourite out of the five. It’s certainly the one we play most. What I really love about it is that it’s a strategy game (with a bit chance as well, obviously) that Penny has a good chance of winning, without us helping or purposefully doing badly ourselves (which we actually never do in our house, but I’ll probably talk more about that another time!). The aim is to build up a city with it’s own economy. You win basically by making the most money out of various resources and assets (it is a bit more complex than that but I won’t go into too much detail here).

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Here’s my vlog of these games so you see a little more detail of each game:

By the way, if you haven’t already, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. I’m uploading more regularly now. Thanks to everyone who has been watching!

I hope I’ve inspired you to maybe put aside your old copy of Monopoly and try out a new tabletop game!

What are your favourite family games?

My Thoughts on ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’

As mother to a girl, I’ve always been concerned about her facing certain challenges in life due to her gender. I feel like my concerns are justified when she’s told by her male friends that she can’t play football with them or when even a teacher said that because she’s creative, she could have a career designing handbags. Now, I see nothing wrong with a career in fashion design but I couldn’t imagine the same suggestion being made of a boy who shows creativity. Why should any child be pigeon-holed due to their gender?

I first heard about the BBC Two programme ‘No More Girls and Boys: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’ when a clip from the programme popped up on my Facebook feed. The video showed babies being dressed as the opposite gender (i.e boys in dresses) and then placed in a room of toys with a volunteer adult instructed to play with them. The adults clearly segregated the toys based on the gender they believed the child to have, even when the child showed a preference for something else. It sparked my curiosity so I decided to sit down and watch this programme last night.

I will immediately say that I think the title of this programme has been poorly chosen. Okay, it is a series and maybe the first episode didn’t cover this, but thus far there has been no mention of questioning gender identity but rather questioning and challenging stereotypes around the different genders. From looking at the social media response, I think people saw the title and made a snap judgement. I’m well aware that the title might well have been purposefully chosen to generate a heated debate before it was even broadcast. Anyway, onto my thoughts on the actual programme.

The presenter Dr Javid Abdelmoneim carried out this experiment on a class of Year 3 (age 7-8) children at a UK primary school. Basically the idea was to eliminate anything in their environment that negatively promoted a difference between boys and girls. This included the segregation of the girl’s and boy’s coats to separate cupboards to the classroom bookshelves being clearly organised by gender to the teacher’s use of gendered endearments. By the way, I think the teacher was enthusiastic, seemed to genuinely care about the children and when criticised, he was quite determined to make changes to help his pupils.

What struck me as really sad and quite shocking was how the children spoke about gender. I imagined, perhaps naively, that amongst children there would be more equality and less stereotyping. But boys and girls alike described men as ‘better’ and ‘more important’ than women. One boy believed that men must be more intelligent than women because the President is a man. Now, if he means the President of the United States, that seems almost laughable right now, but I digress.

Other differences shown by tests carried out were a lack of empathy and ability to communicate about emotion in boys and a tendency for girls to underestimate their own abilities. I immediately thought of my own daughter, whose end of term report told me that she believes herself to be far worse at maths and writing than she really is.

Even I have always assumed there are certain differences between men and women. Women are generally more empathetic and better in touch with their emotions, while men are better at spacial awareness. I’ve taken these things for granted because scientific studies of adults confirmed them. But the Professor of Cognitive Neuroimaging in the programme said that at if you looked at children’s brains, the differences between girls and boys was barely there at all. She concluded from her own research that differences in adults were the result of training. Men are better at spacial awareness because boys are given more opportunity to train their brains in this skill. I’m not going to listen to one scientist and decide they must be right but I’ve read other studies on the malleability of the brain and how training does alter it’s structure so it does make some sense to me. If we gave girls an equal opportunity to train themselves in spacial awareness, would this particular difference still exist?

The children in the programme were asked specifically about which jobs they considered to be for men or women. It wasn’t really surprising to hear that women should be hairdressers, teachers and nurses, while men should be police officers, fire fighters and soldiers. They were introduced to people in professions not traditionally linked to their gender: a male make up artist, a female mechanic, a male dancer and a female magician. I thought this was a great step towards showing the children that jobs do not need to be segregated by gender. By the end of that session, at least one boy said that he realised that these were ‘everyone jobs’, not just for men or for women. After being quite disheartened at the original comments made, it was great to see this change happening, especially with such ease. It only took a few changes, a few challenges to achieve this.

Being a former literature student, I was especially interested when the discussion turned to books. According to an American study, only 31% of children’s books have a central female character. Although, this was the only statistic given and I did wonder how this was measured. For example, the main character in Harry Potter is obviously a boy but the series is full of strong female characters. It is true that many books are obviously gendered and characters are often stereotypes – boys who are aggressive and badly behaved and girls who are passive and obsessed with their looks. To challenge this, books were introduced to the children in the study that showed strong female characters as heroes.

The final part of the programme challenged the idea that men are physically stronger than women. It was proven to the children, through a fun fairground game, that there’s not really any difference between girls’ and boys’ strength at their age. However, if you took an average man and an average woman, I believe the man would be physically stronger, due to differences in biology that occur during puberty. Surely the message that we need to get across is firstly that a woman can be strong – through training in the same way as a man would – and also that physical strength is not the most important attribute a person can possess. We don’t live in a society where physical strength plays much of a role anymore. There are indeed jobs that require it but I don’t think that’s the majority at all. Even in the jobs that do require it, women are capable of reaching the standards needed, such as to be police officers or to join the army.

Overall, I found the programme interesting and enlightening. I’ve always tried to raise my daughter in such a way that she feels capable of achieving her goals if she works hard at them. She enjoys a huge range of activities and interests, some probably stereotypically feminine but equally many that really aren’t. The most important thing, as far as I’m concerned, is that she made the choice.

Surely that’s the most important thing: to make sure children’s choices aren’t limited, as much as is practical. I hope teachers, parents and other children’s caregivers question how they treat girls and boys and make these positive changes to make treatment more equal.

Did you watch the programme? What were your thoughts?

 

 

Lush Bath Bomb Review

I generally shower rather than take a bath – mostly due to lack of time. However, I do love a bath. So relaxing and it’s always good to take some time for yourself. And what’s better than a bath? A bath with a lovely Lush bath bomb, of course!

We recently visited the new Lush Cardiff store. There’s also a new spa there, which I really hope I get to try out in the not too distant future! For now, we picked up some bath bombs.

A groovy looking set called ‘Great Balls of Bicarb’, which included the Avobath, Blackberry, Honey Bee, Dragon’s Egg and Sex Bomb. We also picked up a Lava Lamp bath bomb seperately.

Here’s my vlog review of the Lava Lamp, Dragon’s Egg & Honey Bee:

My favourite out of these three was the Lava Lamp, followed closely by the Dragon Egg. Both had gorgeous scents and created wonderful baths. The Honey Bee smelled good but the combination of bright yellow water and brown splodges of mud did not look very appealing to step into, plus it left a yellow oily residue around the edge of the bathtub which was a real pain to clean off – not really the relaxing experience I was looking for!

I’m looking forward to trying out the bath bombs in our set and I shall probably make another vlog for them too!

What’s your favourite Lush bath bomb?

Note: I was not asked nor paid to review these bath bombs.

Family Day Out: Caerphilly Castle

The first week of the Easter Holidays brought us some lovely Spring weather. Knowing that the sunshine can disappear as quickly as it arrives, we made the most of it with a trip to Caerphilly Castle.

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Sitting right in the middle of the town of Caerphilly and surrounded by an extensive moat, the castle is partly ruins with one ominously leaning tower, although in nice weather this makes for a pleasant walk.

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Pip was thrilled to find dragons in the castle grounds!

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These sculptures were amazing, such beautiful detail. The red dragon has apparently been at the castle for a long time, while the blue was added more recently.

Signs warned us not to approach the geese that waddled about, as they’re nesting at the moment.

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We walked up a winding narrow staircase to reach the top of the castle. If I’m honest, I’m not keen on spiral staircases, particularly ones with ancient slippery steps and even less so when my daughter happily bounds up them when I’d rather she take her time. There’s no stopping little adventurers! However, I’d say the view from the top is well worth the climb.

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I would say that this is not a suitable day out for pushchairs or wheelchairs. There’d be very little you could see and even navigating the grounds could be tricky.

The price of entry was perhaps a little expensive for what’s on offer. £7.95 for adults, £5.20 for students, senior citizens and under 16s or £23.70 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children). I understand that maintaining an ancient structure costs money and that’s probably reflected in the price but there wasn’t a lot to interact with. I suppose I’m comparing that with Cardiff Castle, which as Cardiff residents, we only have to pay £6 every 3 years for our Castle Keys for unlimited entries and reduced event prices.

After spending a couple of hours walking around the castle and the obligatory visit to the gift shop, we ended our day out with a drink in the visitor centre cafe.

Overall, we enjoyed this trip. It was a good learning experience and an enjoyable walk outdoors in the Spring sunshine!

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