Sexual harassment in schools. It starts younger than you think.

Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is said to be at “shocking” levels, with teenage girls being subjected to high levels of abuse. But this toxic behaviour from boys starts far earlier than their teens. 

The report, by the Women and Equalities Committee, has detailed the levels of sexual harassment in schools, which they say is not being tackled effectively in English schools.

The report found that:

  • almost a third (29%) of 16-18 year old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school
  • nearly three-quarters (71%) of all 16-18 year old boys and girls say they hear terms such as “slut” or “slag” used towards girls at schools on a regular basis
  • 59% of girls and young women aged 13-21 said in 2014 that they had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year

As the parent of a primary school age daughter, something that jumped out at me about these stats was the age range, which begins at 13. Because sexual harassment of girls at school begins far earlier than that.

When I collect my 4-year-old daughter from school, she tells me three things about her day. It’s a tradition which began at nursery, as it was the only way I could get her to tell me anything about her day.

It’s almost always positive, so I’ll often ask if anything she didn’t like happened. Generally, nothing does – but not this time.

4yo: “I didn’t like it when 2 boys tried to pull down my skirt and knickers.”

I tried to react in a calm, measured, and constructive manner. But didn’t entirely succeed. First I asked her to expand on what actually happened in more detail, such as who the boys were. I then asked what she said to the boys in response (“I said ‘Hey!'”), how they reacted (They carried on), whether she then went to the teacher (she didn’t).

I explained what she could have said to the boys (“Don’t do that. I don’t like it.”), and that she MUST tell the teacher.

But I realised I was being too critical about her reaction, and that was overshadowing the fact that she was unhappy and she was not the one who had done anything wrong. I was in essence – despite being a proudly feminist father – victim blaming her.

As soon as I realised, I stopped this approach. Instead comforted her and reassured her that what the boys did was wrong, and would it be ok if I talked to her teacher about it (it was). I felt she needed to be assured that her teachers agree this kind of behaviour was wrong. Telling them would be much like older girls and women reporting sexual assault to the authorities, so this was an important precedent to set.

Her teacher seemed to take my concerns seriously. They were going to talk to the class about bullying in general. But there was one thing I wanted to happen I was unsure was going to, and I didn’t follow it up: Were the boys in question going to be spoken to directly about their behaviour, and why it was wrong.

The Women and Equalities Committee report summary says “…if the Government is to tackle ‘lad culture’ successfully at university, its work should start much earlier, in schools.” I would add, that it needs to start in schools at the earliest opportunity.

The full report does clearly state:

By the time they reach secondary school children often have entrenched views about gender norms. It is therefore important that children are educated about gender equality, consent, relationships and sex in an age-appropriate way starting in primary school.

Absolutely. The kind of behaviour my daughter experienced at primary school needs to be addressed as soon as it occurs.  I bear no grudge against the two boys. They’re very young and were testing boundaries. But they need to know that they crossed a line here.

Left unchecked, a boy in reception who thinks that it’s ok to pull down a girl’s knickers may grow into a young man thinking he’s entitled to escalate this type of behaviour to women,


(Photo courtesy of Nick Page via Flickr)


The Man vs. Pink Alternative Christmas Gift Guide For Girls (and Boys)

Choosing gifts for girls should be easy. If you know what they’re into, buy something related to that. If you don’t know, then try and find out.

However, when the buyer (whether relative, classmate, or family friend) doesn’t know them well enough, they often chance it – and this is when gender stereotypes come into play.

Not wanting their gift to be unwanted, people often opt for what they think is the safe option of traditionally ‘girly’ items – whether it’s a Princess sticker book or a pink fairy costume.

Last years Alternative Gift Guide for Girls proved very popular, so I thought I would publish an updated one. What I wanted to offer here again is a collection of alternative gifts you may not have considered for girls.

1. Kano Computer Kit Bundle


This fantastic machine is topping the list for the second year in a row, but this year there is a brilliant additional element that has really enhanced our daughter’s experience in using it.

To summarise, the  Kano computer is a wonderful device – not only a build-your-own computer kit, but the finished product is a gateway into coding and the creativity of computing. With coding and computing literacy high on the educational agenda, imho this is one of the best presents you could buy for your child.

The additional element in this package is the Kano Screen kit, an HD screen that you make yourself. It is fairly simple to put together, but as with the computer kit doing so helps understand the elements and process of this technology.  And there remains a great sense of ownership from your child in the finished product.

While the screen is available separately for those who already have the Kano, both are available as the Kano Computer Kit Bundle.

The screen really is a brilliant extra element that I highly recommend. From a practical point of view, the screen kit casing houses both the computer and the keyboard, making storage easy. It visually matches the Kano, with the transparent housing keeping all the blinking lights visible.

It also make the Kano more portable & versatile. Previously we were using it on the main family TV, but now is can be used anywhere, which has really increased our daughter’s engagement with the device. And engaging our children with computing is really the whole point of this marvellous machine.

It doesn’t come cheap, but I’ll reiterate – if you purchase only one present for your children this Christmas, I urge you to make it the Kano computer.

The Kano computer kit has an RRP of £299.99, and can be purchased directly from Kano.


LEGO Marvel Superheroes Spider-Man Web Warriors Ultimate Bridge Battle 76057
Our daughter enjoying our favourite set of the year – the Spider-Man Ultimate Bridge Battle, with a Spider-Girl minifigure

While LEGO Friends was once the preserve of most female LEGO minifigures, the Danish plastic brick company has made great progress in featuring more female characters in all their lines.

This year, we had some terrific licensed sets that included some cool female minifigures.

In the superheroes there was the Avenjet (with Captain Marvel), DC Sky-high battle (Wonder Woman), Gotham City Cycle Chase (Harley Quinn), Avengers Hazard Heist (Black Widow), and Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum (the Ancient One). For children aged 2-5, we also had a great Duplo set, DC Super Hero Batman Adventure – which featured a Wonder Woman DUPLO figure & bike.

In Star Wars there was the Battle of Takodana (Maz Kanata) and the recent Rogue One U-Wing set (Jyn Erso).

But the top set – and probably the best Marvel LEGO set we have ever built – is the Spider-Man Ultimate Bridge Battle. It features six minifigures, Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider, the Scorpion, Kraven the Hunter – and female minifigures Aunt May, and best of all Spider-Girl.

It’s a fun playset when made – a section of a classic New York bridge, with various moving elements from a web trap to a crashing taxi. It has LEGO studs everywhere so you can place your wall crawling superheroes all over the bridge. But it is also great to build, and a fun engineering project to share with your kids. I certainly enjoyed making it as much as my daughter.


3. LEGO Dimensions

LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack PS3

Combining aspects of 1 & 2  on this list, LEGO dimensions has been a big hit in our house this year.

It’s one of the toys-to-life genre made famous by Skylanders, and the soon to be defunct Disney Infinity. But for me this is the premiere fusion of toy and game, combining the best elements of LEGO the toy and the LEGO video game franchise to create something marvellous in its own right.

The basic set is the starter pack, which is console specific. It includes the game, 3 minifgures (Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstye), a minikit (the Batmobile), and the game pad – which is how you transport your minifigures into the game.

Basically, the included minifigures and mini kits have special platform bases, which are encoded to transport them into the game via the game pad.

Here they are playable as part of the included narrative game or in freeplay mode in various worlds unlocked by each character.

From this basic set, you can expand the game with new special LEGO dimensions minifigures and level packs. There are way too many to mention all, and they are releasing figures regularly (currently seven waves of multiple sets), but I wanted to highlight the available range of female characters, which are awesome.

As well as Wlydstyle, we have Wonder Woman, UniKitty, the Wicked Witch, Lumpy Space Princess & Marceline the Vampire Queen (Adventure Time), Harley Quinn,  Tina Goldstein (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), and a Ghostbusters (2016) Story Pack, with an Abby Yates minifigure, brand new game pad set, and a playable LEGO version of the entire movie.

LEGO Dimensions is a great way to bridge the divide between LEGO and LEGO video games.


4. The Amazing Colouring Book for Awesome Girls

The Amazing Colouring Book for Awesome Girls, The Amazing Coloring Book for Awesome Girls, Colouring Book for Girls, Coloring Book for Girls, Girls Colouring Book, Girls Coloring Book

More of a stocking filler is this great colouring book, featuring simple pictures of women and girls in a variety of different roles and activities.

It’s the perfect antidote to the more usual princess themed books targeted at girls. While I have some issue with labelling it a girls book – most notably because it will prevent many boys from being bought this – I understand why (because of the existing market), and love the finished result.

Just 3 of the inspirational illustrations to colour in - a girl being a pirate, astronaut, and sculptor.
Just 3 of the inspirational illustrations to colour in – a girl being a pirate, astronaut, and sculptor.


5. Anime and related


While there has been progress, Disney Princesses continue to dominate the ‘girls’ market, so I have always been keen to source alternatives for my daughter to balance out this ubiquitous brand.

Studio Ghibli continues to be a rich source, and this year we saw a couple of ‘new’ ones. When Marnie Was There is purported to be their last movie, and is an engaging, rewarding, but also melancholy tale. An earlier classic, Only Yesterday,  was also re-released, with a brand new english language dub including Daisy Ridley. It sees a woman in her twenties reflecting on her modern life and reminiscing about her life as a little girl. It is a mesmerising tale from Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata.

We were also pleased to discover another anime classic, but this time not from Studio Ghibli. Wolf Children is a wonderful film that centres on Hanna – a young woman who has a passionate relationship with someone who turns out to be the last of his kind, a mythical Japanese wolf. Their kids, the children of the title, struggle to find their way in a world that has different callings for humans and animals. There is also a beautifully illustrated manga based on the movie. Both film and comic have become beloved favourites of our daughter’s – and mine too.

Our final ‘discovery’ was also anime related, the saga of Avatar: The Last Airbender and especially it’s sequel The Legend of Korra. Debuting over a decade ago, this animated TV saga has enthralled both my daughter and I this year. While the protagonist of the first show is a young boy (Aang), strong female characters are prevalent throughout (though it has to be said, my daughter adores Aang).

We started by watching Korra, which is magnificent, and while it was easy to follow we realised some of the references would hold greater relevance if we watched Avatar: The Last Airbender. We then rewatched Korra from the beginning and finished the show. The seven series epic is truly magnificent, and in the UK it is all part of Amazon Video. There are also follow up comics that I can’t wait for us to explore.

Sadly, there is also a movie of The Last Airbender. I say sadly, because frankly it’s pants and a pale shadow of the cartoon it is based on – but my daughter really enjoyed it. Make of that what you will.

6. Star Wars

Rey Lightsaber Toy Review from Star Wars The Force Awakens HasbroStar Wars, as ever, has loomed large in our house. Much of it centered around LEGO Star Wars, and as well as the sets mention above, we also really enjoyed the LEGO Star Wars Force Awakens game. It is (unsurprisingly) Rey centric, and features actual dialogue from the movie. Daisy Ridley (as well as much of the cast) also recorded additional dialogue for the game.

Rey has also added another character for little girls everywhere to dress up as, so my daughter’s Rey fancy dress outfit – with essential Rey’s Lightsaber accessory – was welcome.

Our daughter also enjoyed this interactive Stormtrooper toy, and I was a fan of the Star Wars novels Bloodline (a political thriller featuring Princess Leia) and Ahsoka.

7. DC Super Hero Girls

DC Super Hero Girls Action Figures - Supergirl and Batgirl SM

In what seems to be an attempt to combine the popularity of superheroes and Disney Princess, Mattel & Warner Bros. have created the brand DC Super Hero Girls.

As well as toys, there are books, cartoons, stationary and fancy dress outfits.

We only have a couple of toys, Supergirl and Batgirl action figures so these are the only ones we can personally recommend but the range has everything from fancy dress outfits, to accessory toys and homewares – and with LEGO on the way, I hope this brand does well in 2017.


8. Lottie


Lottie dolls are an ever popular toy in our house. To be honest, check out their range for the ones that best suit you/your child – but these are the ones my daughter has received this year.

We chose the School Days Lottie and scooter accessory pack because our daughter started school and scooting there is encouraged. The palaeontologist Fossil Hunter was to help support an interest in dinosaurs before any ideas that ‘Dinosaurs are for boys’ crept into her thinking. Same for the Girls United Football clothes set, and the Raspberry Ripple dress clothes outfit was simply one my daughter liked the look of.

But there are lots of different dolls and accessories to choose from, and it should be easy to find the right one for the lucky child.

While you can purchase them via the Amazon links below, if you head to, and use the code ‘bloggerambassador’ at check out you can get 20% off your order.


9. Sewing Circus


This label – from Let Clothes Be Clothes founder Francesca Cambridge continues to blaze a trail for unisex clothing, which also promotes active and STEM themes that are perfect to undermine negative girl stereotypes. There’s also plenty of Star Wars and superheroes.

She also does bespoke work – such as the all-time fave Star Wars skirts our daughter often wears!

Head to the Sewing Circus website and browse the selection.

10. Miscellaneous


Ok, I ran out of room to mention these fully – but any one would also make a great gift for a girl (or boy).

The Natural History branded pocket microscope is a great affordable STEM toy, that works really well too.

Rory’s Storycubes are a wonderful way to encourage creative storytelling in young children, and we love these Batman ones. They also feature a good selection of female characters.

We’re big fans of the work of writer & illustrator Charles C. Dowd, and his A to Z Guide to Jobs for Girls is a must have for anyone raising an empowered little girl. Our daughter is also particularly taken with his Lilith Dark comic.

A great introduction to the most iconic female comic book character of all can be found in the Wonder Woman: An Origin Story picture book, with nice animated style illustrations.

Also going down treat are a selection of Batgirl comics – Batgirl: Year One, as well as the hipster revamp Batgirl of Burnside and follow up Family Business. With plots involving dating apps, computer algorithms, transgender issues, and same sex marriage, some my not think of these as suitable reading material for a 4-year-old girl – but my daughter and I would disagree 🙂

Also skewing a older is a childhood favourite of mine – Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I read it to my daughter earlier in the year, and she enjoyed it immensely and is now being read it again by my wife.  If you know a child who has never read (or been read) this classic, we all highly recommend it.


Want more ideas? Check out more of my gift ideas for girls (or boys).

There you have it, my alternative gift guide for girls. What alternative gifts for girls would you suggest?





Sharing Minecraft with my daughter

Minecraft seemed to be one of those things I should know more about but didn’t. What I did know is that it inspires a passionate following, is set in a blocky virtual world where you build structures, was deemed worthy of a $2.5 billion purchase by Microsoft, and that opinion from parents is divided as you whether it’s something you should introduce to your kids or not. Pro: Incredible platform for creativity; Con – unhealthily addictive, to point of crowding out all other activities (including homework).

As someone who has grown up with gaming, I am all for games that encourage users/players to explore and be creative. I was also optimistic that the risk of ‘addiction’ could be easily managed (other parents warned me Frozen was an inescapable gateway into Disney Princesses).

It was also another opportunity to introduce my daughter to what has become a cultural phenomenon, but one that is still perceived by many to be something for boys. I never want my daughter to dismiss something techy and creative as not being for girls too. So Minecraft was something I was keen to explore with my daughter.

The perfect opportunity arose with our recent acquisition of the Xbox One S Minecraft Bundle – which comes not only with 2 versions of the game and an expansion pack, but also has some cool Minecraft themed packaging. If you’re looking to give the gift of Minecraft to your child/family this Christmas – this Xbox One S Minecraft bundle is the perfect way.

So WTF is Minecraft?

It’s what’s known as a Sandbox Game – where traditional structures and narratives are removed, and players are free to explore and create. They are generally open ended, with freedom of choice at the heart of the concept.

In Minecraft, the player creates structures out of simple blocks. But within that concept are many variables – the type of materials, gathering and managing resources, combining materials to create tools and structures (crafting), exploring – and survival.

On occasion I’ve read of purists claiming the console version does not provide an authentic Minecraft experience – but more have argued this is a great entry point, especially in a family setting.

To my untrained eye, the world of possibilities is obviously vast from the moment you begin.

What to do on your first ‘day’ in Minecraft

I recommend going into Tutorial Mode first, as this will guide you through all aspects of the game. But you may just throw caution to the wind and go for survival mode, which is also a popular place to start.

My first reaction to opening up Minecraft was WTF. You dropped unceremoniously into an environment of trees, running water, and farm animals. All seems calm, but don’t be fooled, this is also a place of bad weather, wolves, and monsters.

We quickly learned that the first task you must do is to build a shelter by nightfall – as this is when the monsters come out. My daughter was chased by a some kind of zombie who then burst into flames and set us on fire. After we respawned (Minecraft lingo for coming back to life), the first thing we did was figure out how to build a shelter.

The ‘mining’ aspect of Minecraft sees you dig, grab, or chop resources one 3D block at a time. Once ‘mined’ you can then ‘craft’ these in various ways. Eg. you can chop wood, craft it into planks, and then use these planks to build structures or items such as doors or sticks. This all happens in the inventory and crafting platform.

There are a number of ways you can build a shelter. The simplest is to dig into the dirt to make a hole, and then fill the top with more dirt. Or you could make a wooden structure crafted from chopped trees.

For example, to get wood head to a tree, and punch/mine it. Eventually the block will disappear and you will have acquired some wood. Do this for the rest of the tree (by tilting up/down to aim at relevant block), and then repeat for other trees.

Then you need to go into your inventory to craft this wood into planks, and then place these planks into a structure, including the roof. To build a door, you will need to build a crafting table first.

Anyway, in Tutorial Mode, there is a ruin of an existing structure for you to add to and create your first shelter – which is what we did.

our-first-minecraft-shelter-in-tutorial-mode, Minecraft screenshot
Our very first shelter, in Tutorial Mode. We added on to a ruin of an existing structure and installed a door.

If in survival mode, you can elect to chop down trees too. But instead, we mined into the side of the hill to create a sort of hobbit hole. We added a door, and a trap door on top so we could see when it was daytime again.

Our first Minecraft home in Survival Mode – a kind of Hobbit-hole, dug into the side of the hill. We added a door to keep monsters out, and a trapdoor on top so we can see when it’s daytime again.

If you have time in your ‘day’ (which lasts about 10 minutes), it might be an idea to look for food. These can be fruit & veg, or meat. If you approach animals and start hitting them, you can kill them for meat. My daughter thought it was hilarious to kill the animals for food. “Daddy, there’s a pig! Let’s kill it!” was a typical utterance.

Raw meat is ok for now, but later you’ll be able to cook it and even create dishes in the crafting menu. Sheep are especially good to slaughter, because you also get wool – which you’ll need to make a bed (bed’s make nighttime go quicker among other things).

These all add up to the beginnings of taking charge of your environment. The first task is to survive, and to do that you need to create. It’s brilliant and engrossing.

Sharing Minecraft with my daughter

My daughter adores it, and is immensely enthused as we explore the ways we can build and expand this new world. It also offers an interesting way to talk about human development – building shelters, sourcing food, and crafting tools to help with both.

We have barely scratched the surface of Minecraft. I can see why it is considered ‘addictive’, but to me that implies that it is a pointless pursuit.  Minecraft is a great platform for creativity, problem solving, and collaboration.

While we may get other games for our Xbox One S, it will for the time being, and I predict for many years to come, be our family gateway into the wonderful world of Minecraft.

EXTRA: You have to check this out – Dave, who blogs as The DADventurer, did this wonderful unboxing video with his 2-year-old daughter. He has provided subtitles to give us an insight into how she perceives the world. Adorable 🙂


The Xbox One S Minecraft Bundle (500GB) has an RRP of £249.99.

If you are purchasing the Xbox One S Minecraft Bundle as a present, check out more tips and info on the Xbox One S Family Hub, and in this video:

**This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Xbox UK.**

Is Star Wars Rogue One suitable for kids? Does the age rating matter?

**NB: Revised from original version, post-screening **

Another year, same issue. Is Star Wars Rogue One suitable for kids? The actual rating of the film – PG-13 from the MPAA in the US and 12A from the BBFC in the UK – is the least of it. Continue reading Is Star Wars Rogue One suitable for kids? Does the age rating matter?

Raising a gamer girl, with help from the Xbox One S (Minecraft Edition)

As a dad of a daughter, I’ve always been keen to undermine the idea that some activities or pastimes are for boys only – whether it’s climbing trees, being into Star Wars, or playing video games…

So gaming is an area I’ve been keen to explore with my daughter, especially before any sense of ‘that’s for boys’ seeps into her consciousness.

We’ve just upgraded our existing console (which predates my becoming a parent) to an Xbox One – specifically the Xbox One S Minecraft Favourites Bundle.

To me, the Xbox brand has always been synonymous with serious gaming, aimed at older kids and adults – so how does it work in a family environment? Are there games that my young daughter can play? What other uses are there for it? How easy is it to set up? (This is our first Xbox).

Xbox One S: What’s in the box

You get a white 500gb Xbox S, a wireless controller (with batteries), power lead, and a HDMI cable. You also get download codes for any games included in the bundle (in this case Minecraft) and a 14-day Xbox Live Gold trial. And it’s all in very cool Minecraft packaging.

The initial set-up is very easy. There’s a pamphlet showing you how connect it, but it’s so simple you don’t really need it – connect HDMI lead from Xbox to TV, plug in power, insert batteries into controller, and power up.

You also have the option of running any set top box through the Xbox, but this is something we have yet to explore. I would recommend downloading the smartphone app. Among other things, it doubles as a remote control and makes entering redeemable codes a whole lot simpler.

So – easy, you’re ready to go! Ok, not so fast.

Configuring your Xbox One S: Think of the Kids!

Once it’s on and hooked up to your screen – the real set up begins. You will be guided by onscreen instructions to set language, region, and display settings – as well as the most time consuming, the big bad system update. Have your wifi details standing by. And a glass of wine.

This set up – while easy to do – is time consuming, with all the downloads and installing.  You’ll even need to update the controller software, download a DVD/BluRay player, set parental controls, and sort out an Xbox live account. You’re looking at a good hour or 2.

If you’re buying this for the kids, they are going to want to play with this as soon as possible. My advice is to get this set up done prior to the big reveal to your kids.  After you’ve completed it, you can still package it back and wrap it up to maximise their surprise. If this is for Xmas, this is a good activity to have running in the background while wrapping their presents and drinking mulled wine. 🙂

This console came bundled with Minecraft. I’ll go into the game more in another post (as Minecraft deserves a post of it’s own), but as there was no physical copy of the game – it was a redeemable code – this was something else that needed to be downloaded and installed prior to use.

For more on how to set up your console, especially if you’re buying it as a present, head to the Xbox One S family hub and check out this video too.


The Xbox One S: Gaming console and media hub

For me, as well as getting my daughter into to the fun of gaming early, having access to other girl empowering media is vitally important. So it’s great that we can watch the likes of My Little Pony, Young Justice, and The Legend of Korra via our Xbox, with streaming apps like Amazon Video and Netflix. There are also plenty of movies downloads to rent or buy.

It’s also worth noting that the Xbox One S offers 4k streaming (from available services) for those already with, or looking to upgrade to, a new 4k UHD TV.

The Xbox One S: A console for all the family 

There’s lots more to explore, but so far it’s easy to see that the Xbox One S is not only a powerful gaming console, but a versatile media hub – and is perfect to have at the heart of a modern family living room.

While Minecraft is a great game to enjoy with your kids, I am really looking forward to upgrading our existing family games – especially LEGO Dimensions. And browsing the Xbox games available to download, it’s clear there are plenty of other great titles for kids too.

My daughter is increasingly keen on gaming, and the addition of the Xbox One S into our household has only encouraged it. So far, it looks like we have a gamer girl in the making.

Also raising a new generation of gamer girls is Darren of Love All Dads. Check out his Xbox video with his daughters:


The Xbox One S Minecraft Bundle (500GB) has an RRP of £249.99.

**This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Xbox UK.**