Yes I know we’ve only just had Halloween but the thing is I don’t particularly like Christmas shopping so I figure if I start it horrendously early then it’s not really Christmas shopping. It’s just shopping and I have no problem with that!

I’ve got most things already but I was in town today looking for a present for one of the brother-in-law’s munchkins. This one’s a little girl munchkin and not quite three so I was looking for something suitable.

After three shops where the only things I could find for girls were either the trappings of a good housewife, high heels and toy credit cards or things to do with horribly cutesy fairies.

The boys had pirates and aliens…the girls had washing machines and laundry baskets! Yes I know children like copying their mums – I used to have my own little carpet sweeper and dust pan and brush when I was a kid – but I had a lot of other kinds of toys too.

In this day and age surely we shouldn’t be stereotyping our children to this degree? The message from the toys on sale for little girls seems to be either stay at home and raise the kids or find yourself a sugar daddy…you don’t need to worry your pretty little head about anything more adventurous…

It seems like a depressing reflection of modern Ireland that the majority of the toys that actually do encourage imaginative play restrict that imagination to the humdrum. M&S has toy microwaves complete with ready meals (so much for encouraging kids to eat healthily) and in previous years I’ve seen McDonald’s play counters complete with plastic fries and burgers.

To be fair I haven’t seen the McDonald’s for sale but there’s a lot of supermarket checkouts out there…are we trying to tell the next generation something? If we want to encourage them to develop their entrepreneurial spirit surely there are cooler shops to run…and don’t even get me started on the play credit cards!

I suppose it’s a reflection of the superficial, fame hungry culture we live in today but when you can get stuffed chihuahuas in shoulder bags for the under fives it’s getting a bit sad. In fact only yesterday the Equality Authority slammed Pat Kenny, the presenter of the state networks Christmas spectacular, the Late Late Toy Show, for gender stereotyping. So it seems I’m not the only one to notice this.

Shouldn’t be be encouraging children to aspire to something a bit more than domesticity or being a wannabe footballers wife. Just because our generation is obsessed with easy celebrity do we really have to programme the next one to take the torch.

Why can’t they play at being paparazzi instead of the latest indentikit blond flashing her knickers on the front page of certain tabloids. I wouldn’t have minded getting her My First Tabloid News Desk with notebook, camera phone and moveable type…

I walked around one of the biggest toy shops in the city centre and couldn’t find anything that I could get excited about getting for a three year old girl. It’s all film and tv tie-ins or gender stereotyping. Even the famous Bratz dolls seem to do nothing else than dressing up and posing on the red carpet.

I couldn’t find any medical sets (she’s got two older brothers so I thought being able to amputate the odd leg would even up the score) although they did have nurses costumes…no doctors.

Even the Early Learning Centre which always used to be very careful about not stereotyping had pictures of little girls playing in the kitchen and little boys playing with their tool set. All the science sets have pictures of boys on them and anything aimed at girls is violently pink and usually has fairies on it.

For older children you can get typewriters and laptops but for the little ones it’s all cooking sets and baby dolls. I know this is something that’s been carped about for years (that’s how I know about the Early Learning Centre’s policy on gender stereotypes) and I can remember my mum having similar discussions with her friends it’s just a bit depressing when you actually go round the shops.

She’s going to be getting a lot of very conventional presents, all the tv tie-ins and pots and pans. I just wanted to get her something different…I’ll just have to keep looking.

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