A good toy is a good toy… for boys or girls

The Evel Knievel rev-up motorcycle.

The Evel Knievel rev-up motorcycle.

Hopefully, by the time this column returns next week Santa Claus will have visited chez Tideswell and made two little girls very happy once more.

On Christmas Day the most difficult decision they will probably have to make will be which toy to play with.

I reckon Santa knows them well enough by now to realise that they aren’t really girly-girls – if such creatures ever existed.

The truth is my two are just as likely to play with Nerf guns, walkie-talkies or superhero figures as they are to dress up as Disney princesses or play school with their teddies.

Yours truly wouldn’t have it any other way and I’ve positively encouraged my daughters to play with whatever toys take their fancy – not simply the ones packaged in pink boxes and involving fairies and ponies.

The news (Tweeted to a Labour politician) that Marks & Spencer is to become the latest high street name to make its toys ‘gender neutral’ (I hate that phrase) is a good move in my book.

When we, as a family, browse the toy aisles in any store my girls are just as likely to get excited about toys which have been marketed specifically for boys.

If you delve in their dressing up box, alongside the fairy gowns, wigs and cat outfits you’ll find holsters and cowboy guns, swords and shields.

Ask my two about superheroes (usually considered a preserve of lads) and they can name virtually every Marvel comic book character and tell you their powers.

Talk to them about Dungeons and Dragons and they’ll tell you that clerics have the best chance of defeating zombies because they’re undead. Obviously.

Today, our eldest – Lois – gets to take a toy into school as it’s the last day of term.

She has chosen the Tauriel action figure – complete with bow, quiver of arrows and two swords (as has her friend Lizzie).

So while other girls in her class will be playing whatever they’re playing, Lois and Lizzie will be re-enacting scenes from the latest Hobbit movie. And why not?

This doesn’t mean my Lois and her younger sister Mina won’t want to read the Rainbow Fairies books in bed at night anymore, or have their nails painted by mum, or make bead necklaces for their friends or collect Beanie Boos.

It just means they like a bit of variety and I’m glad they don’t feel boxed in to playing with things which are only fluffy or pink.

When I was four I used to follow my cousin Joanne around like a sheep. I thought she was marvellous. (Obviously you still are, Jo). Whatever Joanne played with I wanted too. Consequently I nagged my mum for a doll and she gave in. Lord knows what my dad must have thought.

My doll’s name was Susie and I have vivid memories of carrying her around and talking to her.

At one stage she was definitely in a relationship with my second-hand Eagle-Eyed Action Man and they lived in a shoe box.

Bear in mind I was born in 1972 and even back then toys were marketed very specifically along male/female lines.

I grew up in the age of games and toys like Tank Command and Tin Can Alley, the Evel Knievel rev-up motorcycle and Scalextric – all aimed at boys.

But, in truth, my favourite toy up until high school was soldiers – something which saw no television marketing.

I had a tin of tiny plastic ones which included British and German Second World War soldiers, Napoleonic infantry and U.S. cavalry troopers.

It was a collection I’d built up over several years and that tin went everywhere with me.

Mum and dad will tell you it kept me quiet for hours and I dare say they didn’t know they’d got me most of the time.

Then I discovered Dungeons and Dragons and the experience of creating adventures while playing tabletop games with your friends.

That is, I suppose, the beauty of a good game or toy. It feeds your imagination and it doesn’t really matter what it is or who it was targeted at as long as it achieves that aim.

You see, despite what those toy marketing gurus might think, girls like to build Lego and boys like to dress up. Thankfully, Father Christmas had this sussed a long time before Marks & Sparks started mithering about it because of the politically-correct brigade and a few crusading politicians.

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Friday in The Sentinel