If you have children, you are most likely familiar with Pump It Up, a popular destination for birthday parties with its’ inflatable indoor playgrounds. This post is not a diatribe against Pump It Up. Kids do love it. Rather, I want to continue the dialogue of the importance of encouraging children in all their interests and not categorizing based on gender, as gender is only one part of identity. We are all so much more.

This story is curtesy of a friend of mine whose 4-year old son was invited to a birthday party at…you guessed it…Pump It Up. When time to leave, the children were given favor bags. Apparently at Pump It Up, you can either bring your own favors or they provide them. The parent of the child whose birthday it was chose to have them provided. My friend’s son, call him Jake, chose his favor bag. Then my friend overheard another child, a female say to her mother that there were no more “girl” bags left. It was then my friend noticed that the bags were divided into “girl” bags and “boy” bags, that her son had chosen a “girl” bag, and that the number of “boy” bags equaled the number of boys in attendance and the number of “girl” bags equaled the number of girls in attendance.

It was at this point that the girl’s mother pointed out that Jake had a “girl” bag and said that they would just ask for Jake to give her the “girl” bag and for him to take the “boy” bag. The girl did ask and Jake said no. My friend supported this and said that Jake chose the bag that he wanted…my, what a difficult situation.

Why did Pump It Up have the exact number of bags based upon gender? Why did the other parent not just ask the staff if they could have another “girl” bag? And foremost, why were the bags divided by gender in the first place? If you want different bags, you can label them by interest such as Frozen, or Cars, or superheroes. All much better options than sending the message to two four-year olds that, boys should choose the “boy” bag. I am glad Jake stood by his choosing of the “girl” bag. I am not even sure what was in each bag. And it does not matter. Let’s focus instead on encouraging children in their interests.

Target recently eliminated the division of “girls” and “boys” in their toy department, to some backlash. Yet we are not born knowing gender differences. We are taught them quite young, before we are even verbal. Yes, the teaching does begin in the toy aisle. So thank you Target….I will continue to shop with you even though I always spend way more than I intend.