Feminism for Children

For much of my daughter’s life, it has never occurred to her that she isn’t able to do things that boys can do, or that boys shouldn’t do things that girls do. As with a lot of parents, we made a conscious effort to avoid buying her gender-specific toys, books, and clothes from a very young age. Of course, there are times that she gravitates towards more traditional items that are marketed towards girls, and that is fine because she also loves lots of things that are marketed towards boys as well. Lately, she has become much more conscious of gender stereotyping, and my heart swells when she notices sexism and points it out with disgust.

While I’m always looking for strong female role models for my daughter, I sometimes forget that it is equally important to seek out material for my son that shows men and women, or boys and girls, as equals who don’t need to be limited by behaviors and activities. The heart of feminism (to me anyway) is tolerance, equality, and treating everyone with respect, and what better place to start than with children.


Talk about female role models with your kids.  It is easy to get depressed about the lack of attention that is given to fascinating and accomplished women. These days there are so many great women role models around for young boys and girls, not only current figures but a long list of historical figures that you can introduce your children to. When you hear about inspiring women and girls, talk to your children about them; let them see what women are capable of doing. Here is a small sample of some of my favorite current female role models for kids.

  • Malala Yousafzai is an incredible young woman who your kids should know about. Malala is a girl’s education activist, and her story is hugely inspiring for anyone. After being shot in the head by the Taliban at age 14 and surviving, she continues to fight for the right for girl’s access to education. She recently won the Nobel Peace Prize; if you want to learn more about her story, her biography is a great read.
  • Emma Watson not only plays a feminist role model for girls as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, she recently gave a fantastic speech at the UN on ending gender inequality that your kids should watch.
  • If you have a daughter (or son) who loves engineering and space, you should know about  Natalie Panek. She is a rocket scientist, explorer, and advocate for women in technology. I heard her speak at We Day Toronto 2014, and she would make a great role model for anyone interested in pursuing a career in space exploration.

You can find lists all over the web of top women politicians, entrepreneurs, artists, activists, scientists, writers, inventors, etc. If your child has a particular area of interest, find women in that field and talk to your kids about their achievements just as you would famous male figures.

Read books to boys and girls with strong female characters.
When you are choosing books for your very young children to read, be careful with the types of books you are selecting. Books are a large part of how children learn how to figure out the world, especially when they are very small. Choose a wide variety of books; avoid books that stick with gender stereotypes and embrace books with strong female characters. Look for stories with characters who take on all types of behavior and activities regardless of gender.

In my experience, most modern books are (for the most part) very gender-neutral (or maybe I just gravitate towards books that don’t follow the gender roles). There is a big market for empowered girl’s books, especially in the last few years. Here are a few popular ones to check out:

Challenge kids when they repeat stereotypical ideas about gender norms. Even if you are the most careful parent when it comes to trying not to define gender roles to your kids, they will still pick up on what society believes is a woman’s role or a man’s role, it’s impossible to avoid. Children at school will heavily influence your kids, the media, family, and friends, so when you notice your child is limiting the types of roles that either sex can be through discussion or play talk, challenge the idea of what is accepted.

Discuss the sexualized image of women. It’s pretty hard to avoid sexualized images of women, all you need to do is turn on your TV, computer, open a magazine, watch a music video or even just walking down the street you will see billboards with hyper-sexualized images. Your kids are seeing what you are seeing, and even if your first instinct is to ignore it or not draw attention to it, it’s much better to discuss your thoughts about what you are seeing with your child. It helps them to process what the image is showing and sort out their ideas. The sexualization of women (and men to a lesser degree) is a part of the culture that we live in, and it is essential to keep an open dialogue with your kids and give them tools to interpret what they are looking at.

Show kids that there is room for both females and males to be equally smart. This sounds like a weird thing to say, but there are studies showing that as girls get older, they feel the need to ‘play dumb’ to please boys. According to the author of one study, “Girls feel they must downplay their abilities, pretending to be less intelligent than they are, not speaking out against harassment, and withdrawing from hobbies, sports, and activities that might seem ‘unfeminine’.”

This is a huge issue to overcome, but start by reinforcing the idea that being smart is cool for both genders. Boys need to be taught that they don’t need to feel threatened by intelligent females, and girls need to have examples of smart women who aren’t afraid to show their intelligence. Amy Poehler has a great website and web series called Smart Girls that offers music, advice, info about other cultures, and lots of other exciting things.

Think about gender stereotypes when you are buying toys. Try to resist toys that are traditional toys for a particular gender. Sometimes the lure of princesses or pink is too much for some kids, but it’s not something parents necessarily need to encourage. Living in a house with a boy and a girl, we have a wide variety of toys to choose from, and when left to their own devices, kids don’t care if the toy is for a girl or a boy, it’s either a good toy or a crappy toy. It is the toy marketers who are pushing the stereotypes onto kids. If you are curious about what message you are sending to your kids through their toys, check out the Pink Stinks and Let Toys Be Toys campaigns.

Think about the messages you are sending to boys. If there is ever going to be true equality, everyone has to be involved, it’s great to empower girls, but boys also need to be shown different ways to express their masculinity and that it is okay for them to let everyone be equal. This is just as important as empowering girls. If boys are shown that it is okay to have feelings, be emotional, and loving, they will be able to form happy and healthy relationships with women. There is still a long way to go before women all over the world overcome the current wage-gap, access to education, and abuses against women issues that plague society.

Model feminist behavior. Kids are always watching what their parents are doing. They watch how you interact with people, and they see how you treat yourself. They pay attention to your work and what you do in the house. Children also listen to your ideas and take them on as their own. So you need to show your children through your example what it means not to be limited by your gender.

I think there are lots of wonderful and smart feminists girls and boys who want everyone to be treated equally and who don’t feel limited by pressures from society. These are the future leader who will truly make the world a much more humane place to live, and it is essential for parents to recognize this and encourage a society that treats everyone equally.

Teach Your Kids Good Manners – The Parents Guide

Teaching kids about manners isn’t the most fun thing that you will encounter as a parent. No one likes to nag, but it’s worth putting in some effort to teaching manners because if your kids have good manners, adults will be nicer to them, and they will know how to speak and be respectful to others. You can send them off into the world, knowing that they will know how to behave in different social situations. So in the interest of making the world a friendlier, happier place, we have rounded up lots of good books, apps, videos, and cards that will help you teach your kids the manners they need to know.

learn your manners

Manners Cards for Kids

An easy way to get children familiar with what is polite and not polite would be to try out a few manners cards:

  • Happy Mini Manners Card Set has 42 good manners mini card with helpful phrases/reminders & matching peek-a-play characters that say things like knock on the door, do not tease, say excuse me, love your family, listen to others, etc.
  • Good Manners FlashCards is a set of 15 cards that remind kids to love your family, wash your hands, be kind, say thank you, etc.
  • Golly Gee-pers is a fun and easy table manners game to help encourage good manners.

Manners DVDs for Kids

  • Mind Your Manners (ages 5-12) teaches kids the benefit of good manners. Using adults to serve as the “bad examples,” the lessons provide kids with the proper etiquette they need to be successful in life in a variety of circumstances, from dining at the table to cleaning up after themselves.
  • What Every Kid Should Know About Manners and Etiquette is a 60 minute, three-part video program where kids teach kids using humor, songs, funny costumes, and situations in which kids often find themselves. This video teaches children how to treat others with respect and shows them that the world is a much nicer place when we follow the simple rules of manners and etiquette.
  • The Etiquette Factory has a 12-week program that includes a DVD that is designed for homeschool, pre-school, or any elementary classroom setting.

The Best Books to Teach Kids Manners

There are A LOT of manners books aimed at kids, so we decided to research all the reviews, comments, and recommendations on what books are the best manners books for kids. Since there are so many books to choose from, we are listing our top ten books.

  • What Do You Say, Dear? It is a whimsical guide to manners that uses absurd situations and funny illustrations to help teach kids everyday social behavior.
  • Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons is a kind of dictionary that defines mysteries such as “fair” and “unfair” and what it means to “cooperate by using examples having to do with cookies.
  • Manners Can Be Fun by Munro Leaf has stick figure drawings and a brief text that tells why good manners are essential and how to have good manners at home, at play, and on visits.
  • How to Behave and Why also by Munro Leaf talks about the four main things (be honest, fair, strong, and wise) that you have to do if you want to make good friends and keep them.
  • Dude, That’s Rude! has cartoons and kid-friendly text that teaches the basics of polite behavior in all kinds of situations—at home, at school, in the bathroom, on the phone, at the mall, and more. Our eight-year-old kid tester was laughing out loud while reading this book.
  • Excuse Me! Teaches toddlers the ABC’s of “polite behavior” in a gentle and funny way.
  • socialsklz(Social Skills) for Success: How to Give Children the Skills They Need to Thrive in the Modern World is a new book that we recently came across that is great for kids who are growing up in a digital age.
  • Whoopi’s Big Book of Manners for K-Grade 3 reminds kids of common polite phrases to use, such as please and thank you. It also talks about circumstances children will recognize: interrupting, forgetting to clean up after yourself, and not saying you’re sorry. The author outlines good manners for different situations: table, movies, and theater, sports, elevator, etc.
  • Everyday Graces: Child’s Book Of Good Manners uses stories and poems under headings like “Honor Your Mother and Father,” “Please and Thank You,” “No Hurtful Words,” “Good Behavior in Sport,” and “Showing Respect for Country”.
  • How Rude!: The Teenagers’ Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out teaches teens how to be a good host and guest, what to do (and not do) when going online or waiting in line, how to deal with rude relatives, how to act at the mall and the concert hall, how to make introductions, who invented manners, and much more. Hundreds of “Dear Alex” questions and answers cover everything from dating to breaking up, thank-you notes to table manners, ethnic jokes to social cliques, skateboarding to celebrating.

Books to Help Teach Kids Table Manners

Table manners are an incredibly difficult skill to develop, so here are some of the best table manner books for kids:

  • The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners this book is mostly is about good manners in general, but there is quite a lot about table manners in the story. It’s a fun and easy way to get your kids thinking about manners.
  • You’ve Got Manners!: Table Tips from A to Z for Kids of All Ages (You’ve Got Manners series) This guide to proper behavior at the dinner table provides an introduction to etiquette for kids and a refresher in manners for adults. Offering three tips for each letter of the alphabet, kids are asked to examine the factors that contribute to proper form.
  • Emily Post’s Table Manners for Kids goes in-depth about table manners answering questions like which fork do I use? How do you use chopsticks? Is it okay to answer my cell phone during dinner? What is the polite way to eat spaghetti? Pretty much everything you need to know to get you through any meal is here—from table settings to eating tricky foods, to holding up your end of a dinner conversation.
  • How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? (Book & CD) just like kids, dinosaurs have a difficult time learning to behave at the table. However, with a little help from Mom and Dad, these young dinosaurs eat all before them with smiles and goodwill.
  • Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers Written by Walter Hoving, former chairman of Tiffany’s of New York, it is a step-by-step introduction to all the basics, from the moment the meal begins (“It is customary for the young man to help the young lady on his right to be seated”) to the time it ends (“Remember that a dinner party is not a funeral, nor has your hostess invited you because she thinks you are in dire need of food. You’re there to be entertaining”). In addition to the essentials about silverware, service, and sociability, it includes many of the fine points, too—the correct way to hold a fish fork, how to eat an artichoke properly, and, best of all, how to be a gracious dining companion.
  • Soup Should Be Seen, Not Heard! A Complete Manners Book for Kids teaches kids how to politely handle introductions, telephones and cell phones, dining, partying, writing notes, e-messaging, dressing, and more, all in a lighthearted tone that appeals to both boys and girls four-years-old and up.

Best Apps to Help Teach Kids Manners

There aren’t many apps to teach kids manners, but here are a few that we found that look good:


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