Leading Retailers Begin To Realise That Girls Like Dinosaurs (and Star Wars) Too

By Cheryl Rickman
on September 28, 2015

Today Tesco's F&F Clothing have told Climbing Trees that they have "removed gender specification" from their "new Halloween dress-up costumes which will be hitting stores shortly" - a move that signals some small yet significant changes are finally taking place within the childrens' clothing industry. (Although, online, models still wear specific costumes to "show parents what items look like").

This is the first of a bunch of changes following discussions we had with F&F about reducing limitations that gender stereotyping creates in a bid to provide all children with more choice and improved practicality.

F&F have also told us that "We are considering your views as we develop our ranges, for example longer lengths on shorts for girls and more robust cover up items (cardigans). You will see these come through in next years ranges."

This is a massive step forward and something Climbing Trees is very proud to have been instrumental in changing, as we read out comments from parents who highlighted concerns about the limited practicality of certain girls' clothing, among other issues.

Back in July, ClimbingTreesKids.com were invited to represent Let Clothes Be Clothes to meet with Head Buyers from Tesco's F&F. The objective was to start up a conversation on gender stereotyping and hopefully guide them towards making changes that would give children more choice and reduce the restrictive stereotyping around gender labels that has steadily increased over the past decade.


Said, Cheryl Rickman who met with F&F buyers: "The result was promising and positive. Although they couldn't publicly commit to any specific changes, they demonstrated that they are listening and interested in learning as much as they can about the issues that concern many parents today.  We discussed a number of potential changes that would make a difference and they DO intend to make a few small but worthwhile changes based on our suggestions."

F&F said: "We're interested to understand more about this and we want to do the right thing by our customers. So we're prepared to give what we've heard today serious consideration as you've made some really good points."

Fast track two months and a lot has happened in retail:

The weekend after the Tesco's meeting, Target announced they would be removing gender signage from their toy department. They chose not to do the same within their clothing department due to sizing differences. (Across retail, sizing is determined and set by Size UK which provides guidelines based on the average size of girls and boys across the nation).

In the clothing department, Next led the way with their new Star Wars range in the girls' aisle, featuring various Star Wars tops and leggins.

M&S followed in close pursuit offering dinosaur pyjamas for girls as well as boys. (We were quick to place an order for the dino-loving Climbing Trees co-founder).

With Disney Stores recently announcing the removal of gender signage from their fancy dress items, Climbing Trees and F&F are continuing dialogue to see what other changes can be made.

"In an ideal world retailers would remove all gender labels, provide more unisex options and,if they are going to label clothes by gender, place items that have been traditionally reserved 'for boys only' or 'for girls only' in BOTH aisles, because girls like dinosaurs, pirates and robots (and boys like kittens and butterflies) too!," says co-founder of ClimbingTreesKids.com, Cheryl Rickman.

"That said, we understand that they are in the business of making money, so they will only make changes if they know it will positively impact their bottom line as well as enhancing their relationships with their customers. We don't expect them to remove clothes that sell well, but we hope they may consider adding more choice by removing or, at least, reducing the gender-based limitations that currently proliferate."

The good news is that retailers are starting to make steps in the right direction by providing clothes that have, until now, been marketed 'for boys only' as 'for girls too'.

"That's exactly how Climbing Trees came about - because girls like to play with dinosaurs and pirates, get muddy and climb trees just as much as boys; hence our range of tops featuring those motifs 'for girls too'."

Consequently, Climbing Trees has garnered a good deal of media attention by providing something not previously offered. Now it seems that the larger retailers are catching on. Which, says Cheryl, "is brilliant news!"

"One reason why we launched ClimbingTreesKids.com was because my daughter and I were fed up of going down the girls' aisle and finding nothing that she loved. So we made our own range featuring stuff that had been labelled 'for boys'.

If we can now go into mainstream retailers and find clothes in her own aisle that she will wear, that is brilliant news and definitely worth celebrating."

It's about labelling. Kids are kids. Some boys and girls like stuff that fits the stereotype but some dont. They shouldn't be boxed in and restricted and told what to like before they can even walk. Climbing Trees feels it is important for retailers to offer more choice to provide for the whole spectrum of what it means to be a boy or girl without limitations. 

"We don't want retailers to get rid of all the pink princesses and butterflies altogether," declares Cheryl. "My football-loving daughter may be princess-averse but many children DO love those things and retailers are not going to remove clothes that sell. Nor would we want them to, because that would be reducing choice rather than offering more choice, which is what we're all about. We simply want them to add A WIDER CHOICE of colours and motifs to their ranges for both genders, so that girls who love Spiderman and boys who like Frozen can find the stuff they love in their own aisle, (if aisles must be segregated). And, in time, #ditchthegenderlabels altogether."

And, with the changes being implemented by leading retailers and clothing distrubtors here in the UK, it looks like this dream may slowly come to fruition in the coming years so that children can choose clothes based on their interests, regardless of gender. This will further encourage children to be proud to be all that they are and play with/wear what they like, without being dictated to by society and retailers alike.

7 Ways To Make The Most of Your Summer Holidays

By Cheryl Rickman
on August 02, 2015

It's only ruddy SUMMER people! Wasn't it Christmas only the other day? A-n-y-way... summer it is and, as anyone doing their best to juggle work with bringing up children, seeing friends/family, keeping the house decent-looking enough to invite aforementioned friends/family over, knows... there's a lot to manage in the general bid to have fun and enjoy the summer hols. So we've put together a l'il listy that will hopefully assist you in the logistical ludicrousity that is HOLIDAY SEASON...

1. Play with your children for a good 20 minutes on DAY ONE and earn yourself a POWER HOUR with which to zap through as much housework and general chores as you can. This can sometimes be a good strategy when you need to keep the house in order but still want to devote time to being fun and engaging and approachable mummatron. Devote some time to really play - build dens, draw and colour in your own SUPERHEROES, build and complete an obstacle course, climb trees, get stuck, climb down; get muddy and, as our MANIFESTO says "EXPLORE"

Here are a bunch of games and ideas to help encourage your children to get away from the TV and tablet and get outdoors more this summer.

2. Make time to make memories. Schedule in some activities and epic adventures which you will all get something out of and enjoy. Take lots of photos so you can revisit and relive those moments forever more, optimising the enjoyment and making this summer a hit.

3. Book those kids clubs/camps so you can get at least some work done and be prepared to do some of your work (or self-care) in the evenings. This year B is booked in to Forest School for two days, Football camp for two days and Fun Activity camp for a few days so I can work and write.

4. Book time to see your POSITIVE PEEPS - those people who lift you up and make you feel good. Schedule picnics, trips to the local farm, play dates, BBQs. Get them in the diary pronto before they get snapped up and become unavailable.

5. Give yourself the gift of some well-earned ME-TIME! Book a massage or facial or manicure. You deserve it. Please. Do it now. 

6. Get away. Even if you are not going away abroad or camping for a weekend, go on a day trip or even camp a night in the garden.

7. Stock up on essential suppplies. Colouring stuff, fruit from which to make smoothies, buckets and spades and of course SUPER COOL T-SHIRTS from your favourite CLIMBINGTREESKIDS.COM STORE...  Yay!

More Than One Way To Battle Gender Limitations

By Cheryl Rickman
on July 26, 2015

In my day (I'm a 70s baby) we wore mostly brown and orange. Lego was only produced in primary colours, and bikes, in general, were red, blue or white. Pink was just another colour.

Fast-forward a few decades and pink has become the epitome of femininity and used to market everything; from toys and clothes to razors and even pens 'for women'. (True story). And, if you venture into the baby aisle in Asda you will be literally pinked round the face whilst the boys’ aisle is filled with baby blue. Pink outsells white and other colours by a huge percentage which is partly why retailers keep on pumping out the pink, but the sheer volume of the colour in favour over all others is somewhat disheartening and oh so limiting, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Girls and boys have increasingly been polarised into stereotyped boxes and told what they should like. Boys like dinosaurs, robots and monsters. Girls like princesses, butterflies and glitter. But what if they don’t?

There is nothing wrong with pink princesses, but there is so much more to girls than that. Equally, there is nothing wrong with snarling Marvel characters, but there is so much more to boys than that.

In an ideal utopia, a purists’ paradise, there would be no gender stereotypes whatsoever; no labelling as ‘girly’ or ‘boyish’ and, crucially, no signs, aisles or gender-based departments. There would simply be unisex options with all children free to choose what to wear and what to play with, without being limited by retail or societal definitions of what is ‘for a boy’ and what is ‘for a girl’. Everything would just be ‘for children’.

I love this idealistic notion, although I do believe there are other ways to tackle gender stereotypes en route to this vision. Ever since my daughter was three and expressing her likes and dislikes, I have been miffed by her being unable to find what she liked in the girls’ aisle; whilst in contrast, the boys’ aisles have dulled-down their colour schemes and focused on roaring fighty ‘here comes trouble’ slogans and motifs. Of course, I do what many people do, I bought (and still buy) the majority of my daughter’s clothes from the boys’ aisle, occasionally stumbling upon a purple or green t-shirt buried amongst the pink in the aisle deemed as suitable for her own gender.

That said, I know many of her female friends, the majority in fact, who LOVE the overtly ‘girly’ toys and clothes on offer in the girls section who do, like it or not, fit the stereotype. Some of them like dinosaurs, climbing trees and Star Wars too, but some of them really don’t and opt for pink butterflies and princesses by default.

Crucially, NONE of these girls are wrong. What is wrong is when retailers/society tell them that they are wrong for liking/playing with/wearing something that is 'girly' or 'for boys'. And in our dreams for a unisex society which is not limited or restricted by gender stereotypes, we should remember that retailers ought to cater to all tastes, across the entire spectrum of what it means to be a child. (We don’t want girls who DO fit the stereotype to feel ostracised for being themselves; just as we don’t want girls who don’t fit the stereotype to feel that way, as Amanda Deibert points out wonderfully on XOJane in her blog about why she doesn’t want her daughter to hate pink).

Thankfully, the increasingly limited definitions of what it means to be a girl or boy has generated a growing movement of mums who have been roused to take action and do something about it in various ways.

Indeed having struggled for years to find clothes in the girls’ aisle that my 7 year old dinosaur-loving football-fanatic daughter loved, she and I decided to launch our own range of brightly coloured bold t-shirts featuring the dinosaurs, monsters and pirates that were once exclusive to boys' clothing, but which would sit comfortably in the girls’ aisle and appeal to all girls.

In doing so, http://www.ClimbingTreesKids.com (which launched in June 2015) aims to give children a choice not previously offered to them whilst enabling them to escape the limited definitions that they are boxed into. And, in so doing, empowering those girls who are told ‘that’s for boys’ with the chance to say, ‘actually, it’s for girls too! Look!’

In order to do that we decided to design a range that would appeal to ALL girls, whose preferences range from one end of the spectrum to the other. So our range features cute dinosaurs carrying flowers and splashing in puddles; female robots with bows on their antennae and hearts on their monitors; a feisty girl pirate, a snazzy She-Rex and a rainbow rocket, all designed by independent up-and-coming British designers and screen printed here in the UK.

We purposefully chose to feature girls wearing our tops and to go on a mission to empower girls to be all they can be for two reasons. Firstly, because I have a daughter and the lack of dinosaur tops for girls was our absolute WHY and reason for starting up in the first place. Secondly, we wanted to ensure that we didn’t dilute our primary message of giving girls a choice not previously offered to them.

Vitally though, although we chose to feature female models and add subtle ‘feminine’ touches to a couple of our designs in order to make a point, we are not saying our range is FOR GIRLS ONLY. We are saying our range is FOR GIRLS TOO. That’s an important definition. We know that some boys love our range and much prefer our brightly coloured tees to the dark and dingy colourways on offer in the boys’ aisle. As such we are purposefully ClimbingTreesKids.com.

Indeed, my daughter’s friend Elliot features on the site wearing his favourite colour pink monster top from our range - because boys like pink too (yes we have one out of 7 tops in hot fuscia pink because we have nothing against pink, just a lot against pink as the primary and sometimes only option). We also link to a number of websites who are part of the movement; doing their bit by providing boys with more choice (e.g. via HandsomeInPink, MyPrincessBoy and SelfishMother.com).

Of course, consequently, we knew that by adding a subtle ‘girly’ twist to a couple of tops in our range of six t-shirts some ‘unisex-only' campaigners might feel that we are in fact perpetuating gender stereotypes. Yet we feel so passionately about providing a choice to girls that is not currently offered, we decided that was a risk worth taking. Ultimately, we are on the same team. We have found one way to provide girls with a choice not currently offered to them and are pro-actively taking a step forward to flag up the issue of gender-based limitations and reclaim stereotypical motifs ‘for all’.

Others might wonder why we don’t just continue to get my daughter’s clothes from the boys’ aisle rather than go to all this trouble to create an alternative solution. And of course, we shall. Frankly, we have no other choice, and therein lies the point and our raison d'etre – lack of choice.

Currently, generally (with ClimbingTreesKids.com and a handful of others the exception) in order to get clothes featuring dinosaurs, rockets and pirates, my daughter can only find those in the boys aisle; she can’t buy those clothes from the girls aisle. That’s why we decided to take that first step on the journey towards gender-neutrality; towards that utopian unisex ideal where there are no gender-labels. That first step to provide a choice where none existed beforeto create a range of tops featuring those motifs that had, until now, been reserved exclusively ‘for boys only’ that could fit perfectly well in the like-it-or-not-still-feminine-girls-aisle.

And so that’s what we did.

It’s a first step and, as such, it’s a step forward, onward and upward. In doing this, we can provide dinosaur tops to the whole broad spectrum of girl – at one end of the spectrum, those Star-Wars-Ninjago-loving girls (like my daughter) who prefer to shop in the boys’ aisle and curl their noses up at Barbies and baby pink and, at the other end of the spectrum, those girls who embrace their in-built femininity (yes – it exists for many and shouldn't be dismissed) who fit into the pink-princess stereotype that retailers box the entirety of girlhood into; plus all other girls in-between (i.e. those who like dressing up as princesses/playing My Little Pony one day and playing Knights and football and climbing trees the next) – something that ALL GIRLS can choose from their OWN aisle, without having to venture into the boys aisle to find the clothes they love. And that is why we chose to add a few subtle elements to our designs which might appeal to those girls who do like those things.

As an active girl who loves sport (especially football, with which she is significantly obsessed) this whole pro-active ‘taking action’ thing has been empowering for my daughter and I.

And, to receive messages and photos from customers saying how happy their little girl (who loves her dinosaurs and dolls equally) is to wear a dinosaur top that is ‘made for her’ rather than having to borrow her brother’s all the time. That makes the journey worthwhile.

In business it’s hard to be all things to all people. You need a niche and you need to solve a problem. The problem we are striving to solve is that there weren’t any dinosaur/pirate/rocket or robot tops in the girls’ aisle; so we created some. And if giving girls a choice that they didn’t have before is wrong; if showing little girls that those motifs are NOT just for boys only but for girls too is wrong, frankly… we don’t want to be right. :-)

One day (hopefully) there will be no aisles – just a children’s section where uber-feminine/uber-masculine and unisex clothing mingles together without labelling (because we cannot get rid of pink princesses or snarly characters, as they are just as valid for some children as anything else).

Just as girls and boys preferences range from one end of the spectrum to the other, so should the full spectrum of colours of the rainbow be accessible for all children. No more pink or pastels or brights and princesses for girls only and no more blue or dark and dinosaurs for boys only.

Step one – make the former available for boys too; and the latter available for girls too.

Step two – do away with labelling altogether.

Children should BE PROUD TO BE WHO THEY ARE AND LIKE WHAT THEY LIKE without limitations. That’s what we all want for our children and we salute everyone who is part of this movement, taking action to make that happen; however they choose to do it. Because there are many ways to tackle this gender-limitation issue. And we are proud to be doing something about it.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us thus far.

Get Outdoors This Summer

By Cheryl Rickman
on July 22, 2015

Some screen time is inevitable, given that our children are digital natives. And busy parents sometimes need to hire the services of the 'iPad Babysitter' while they bang out 20 minutes of chores. But it's important to get the right balance with children encouraged to play outside as much as possible. Being outdoors not only boosts well-being, it also strengthens the immune system and fosters environmental stewardship. So here's a bunch of games and ideas to help encourage your children to get away from the TV and tablet and get outdoors more this summer.

1. Play the journey stick game. Native tribes use these to recount a journey or story. Set a destination and walk to it collecting items along the way that you will later add to your journey stick. Collect feathers, twigs, leaves, daisies and so on and find an all important wand-length stick on which to record your journey. Each time an item is collected, talk about where you are on the journey to enable recollection later. On your return home tie the collected items to your stick in order of discovery to tell the story of the journey you went on.

2. Wheels. The children get to choose which wheels to use to go to the park/woods - scooter, roller boots, skateboards, bikes? Get them to draw a rota of which wheels will be used first, second and third on following trips out to encourage future outdoor adventures.

3. Spy camp. A variation on hide and seek. Dish out some notepads, pencils and either cameras or toilet roll holders. First of all is the decision who gets to be 'spy' first. This involves whoever can climb a tree or run up the nearest hill first. Everyone should get a turn to avoid sibling bashing. The spy counts and the hiders hide but rather than simply find the hiders, the spy needs to creep up on them without letting the hider know they've been found then return to base and write down where that person is and repeat until everyone is found. If the spy is discovered, the spy-busting hider becomes the spy and takes over the notes to avoid repetition.

4. Forest bathing or woodland walking. Simply finding your local woodland, going there and soaking up the sounds, sights, smells... really connecting with nature by mindfully noticing what you all hear, see, touch, smell and even taste. This is a good introduction to mindfulness, paying attention to the present moment, as well as to getting the kids outside.

5. Treasure hunt. Grab some buckets from a bucket and spade kit and go on a treasure hunt. Each child should be given a specific object or set of objects to seek out: round pebbles, large stones, twigs, different types of leaf/bug and so on. As well as generally looking for items, tell children they can use the material collected (except the bugs) to create a small mural on paper which spells out their initials or names.

Have fun! Happy Summer Holidays from the Climbing Trees Kids team.

PS We'd love to hear your outdoor games and ideas for mini-adventures, so please do get in touch.

Because Boys Like Pink Too

By Cheryl Rickman
on July 10, 2015

Meet Elliot. He’s a good friend of Climbing Trees Co-Founder B’s and his favourite colour is pink. According to his mum he didn’t take off our one-eyed-monster top all weekend.

Just as my daughter struggles to find anything she likes amongst the pink princesses and pastel coloured kittens in the girls aisle, similarly, when Elliot walks down the boys’ aisle he faces the same sigh-inducing limited definitions of what it means to be a boy: dark colours, fighty superheroes and “here comes trouble” slogans. They are just not him.

Pink is. It’s his absolute favourite colour. But, according to too many retailers, pink is ‘for girls only’.

There are lots of children who don’t conform to the increasingly narrow and ludicrously limited definitions of feminine and masculine in these gender-segregated aisles. Nor should they have to.

Just as there are lots of girls who like dinosaurs and pirates and cars and football, there are boys who like pink and Elsa and jewellery and kittens. They are not wrong. Just as those girls who adore pink princesses and those boys who adore ninja battles are not wrong either. Children, like adults, should be free to choose to like whatever they wish to like; to be whoever they wish to be; from whichever end of the spectrum of what society deems as ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ as they want to.

I have a daughter and encountered these limitations so frequently it led me to take action by creating a range that said ‘hey… hold on there… but girls like dinosaurs too’; a range that would fit readily in any girls’ aisle but reclaimed motifs that have been exclusively reserved for boys only as for girls too. And that’s the important part – our range is not 'for girls only' but 'for girls TOO!'

We are so pleased to see mums of boys who have faced the same predicament launching clothing ranges which give boys more choice too. Our friends over at HandsomeInPink.com, QuirkieKids.com and MyPrincessBoy.com are doing great stuff. Also, ‘brother’ site to PrincessFreeZone.com is BeFreeZone.com and we especially love this top by SelfishMother.com

There's also a book by Fiona Paterna  which addresses this issue called Dylan Likes Pink.

So why do we feature mostly girls on our site (for now)?

We decided we needed to in order to get our point across with the most impact - to get heard and to appeal to our niche (primarily parents of daughters who love dinosaurs but can't find them in the girls' aisle). Most businesses are launched as a reaction against the status quo in a bid to provide a solution to a problem; to provide a choice that wasn’t offered before, but should be.

For us, the best way to convey our message and to create a solution was by creating a range that said ‘girls like dinosaurs too’; a range that would appeal to ALL girls – not just girls like my daughter who always opt for the clothing in the boys’ aisle but for girls who like to dress up as Spiderman one day and a princess the next. As such, because our ‘why’ for doing this was to give little girls more choice, a choice not previously offered, we needed to create a range featuring motifs that had previously been exclusively ‘for boys’ that would appeal to all girls (those who like stuff from the feminine end of the spectrum as well as those who like stuff from the masculine end of the spectrum).

We decided the best way to do this was to play the retailers at their own game – to fuse motifs that have been deemed for too long by retailer and society as ‘girly’ with motifs that have been reserved just ‘for boys’.

Crucially though, we are not saying our range is FOR GIRLS ONLY. We are saying our range is FOR GIRLS TOO. That’s an important definition. We know that some boys will love our range and much prefer our range of brightly coloured tees to the dark and dingy colourways on offer in the boys’ aisle. (So, if you buy a Climbing Trees top for your son, please do send in your photos to us here at Climbing Trees so that we may add them to our gallery). We are purposefully ClimbingTreesKids.com. As such we nod with subtlety to unisex. However, we have chosen strategically not to promote ourselves as unisex at this stage because we wanted to have clarity in our launch marketing. We wanted to clearly say ‘there were no dinosaur tops for girls, so we made some. Because girls like dinosaurs too.’ We wanted to talk directly to our niche market of parents like me who struggled to find clothes in the girls’ aisles for their dinosaur-loving daughters by creating a range of dino tops for girls too. Fundamentally, I have a daughter and so I wanted to solve THAT problem – to take that first step to reclaim those motifs as for girls too. And so that is precisely what we’ve done.

We have nothing against ‘girly’ or ‘boyish’ as clothes that are deemed as such represent opposite ends of the spectrum which many children LOVE; we are merely against not making those options available FOR ALL and, like many other campaigners, the labelling of clothes as just ‘for boys’ or just ‘for girls’. Our tops are available for boys too, and we have male customers. Elliot being one of them. In the future we plan to feature more boys wearing our tops. But we currently feature primarily girls wearing our t-shirts because girls wanting to wear dinosaur tops is our absolute WHY and reason for starting in the first place; to be anything different would dilute the message of giving girls a choice not previously offered to them. It really is that simple. (Just like other campaigns which are part of the movement to empower girls to be all that they are use girls in their marketing).

There are, of course, many wonderful unisex stores and purist/idealist campaigns such as Let Clothes Be Clothes (the founder of whom runs Sewing Circus - which also gives children more choice) doing great things to promote unisex clothes and focus on that long-term goal which we all share of there being no gender labels at all – just clothes – available for all. However we believe that there are MANY WAYS to tackle the gender stereotype issue – not just ‘unisex or nothing’.

For example, 'girly' versions of ‘boy’ stuff and 'boyish' versions of ‘girl' stuff are, in our view, a step forward. Some might say this merely perpetuates the gender stereotypes. We disagree. We see this as vitally playing gender stereotypes at their own game; twisting them round to provide a choice not previously offered to say ‘girls like dinosaurs too’ and ‘boys like butterflies too’. So whilst we are absolute advocates of the more idealistic view of removing all gender labels to let clothes be clothes (like toys should just be toys; not segmented for either sex), we also think that another viable way to tackle this issue and take a first step towards an end to gender stereotyping is to promote what has been reserved for boys only as for girls too and what has been reserved for girls only as for boys too. We are part of that movement – to give children a choice not previously offered to them; a crucial building block that advocates more choice. And choice is what we are all about.

Motifs such as princesses and sparkles, Ninjas and footballs are not wrong, what is wrong is saying they are exclusive to one gender or another. People get confused and think that anyone using those motifs in clothes are perpetuating gender stereotypes. However, we believe it’s HOW you use them that matters. For example we are using those motifs – those which have been exclusively reserved for boys and mixing them up with those which have been exclusively reserved for girls for good reason - for a positive purpose.

Yes, girls who like dinosaurs can go and buy a dinosaur top from the boys’ aisle, but the point is that THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE TO! We have bought t-shirts for my daughter from the boys' aisle since she was three (for four years now) and we don't mind doing so. We just feel that those motifs through which children express their love for something, shouldn't be reserved for one gender. We wanted to reclaim them 'for girls too' and the best way for us to do so and make them appeal to all girls was to fuse what have been exclusively 'boy' motifs with what have been exclusively 'girly' motifs. Of course this is complex issue. Some wish to rid the world of gender stereotypes so that there is no such thing as 'boyish' or 'girly'. In the future I believe this may happen. However, I fear that, in eradicating boyish/girly motifs completely we could disregard the likes of those who LOVE those motifs – whichever gender they are. We realise that unisex campaigners want to banish the world of labels not to banish the world of pink or princesses. Although some, such as PinkStinks and PrincessFreeZone seem like they are anti-pink-princesses, we realise they are not against boyish/girly motifs per se, they just don’t want such motifs to be labelled as one or the other or for such motifs to be the ONLY OPTION. We too want this, but we know it will take a while for this to happen and requires a lot of social conditioning over many years to be undone.

So, as a route towards the end to all stereotyping, we believe girl versions of traditionally 'boyish' stuff and boy versions of traditionally 'feminine' stuff is a BIG step forward as it's a choice not previously provided. Quite simply, whilst supermarkets and retail shops do continue to have separate aisles based on gender, as I have a daughter, I wanted to create a range that would sit comfortably in the girls' aisle, so she didn't always have to go to the boys' aisle to get her dinosaur tops. I wanted to provide her and other girls with a choice not previously offered. And so that is what we've done.

Of course, as we've seen, the limitations of gender stereotyping apply to boys who like pink too. Children should BE PROUD TO BE WHO THEY ARE AND LIKE WHAT THEY LIKE. So that they can ignore the limitations perpetuated by retailers and adopted by society. When anyone tells them ‘that’s for boys’ or ‘that’s for girls’ they can say ‘no, that’s for children’ with their heads held high. That’s what we want for our children. And so, by reclaiming stuff ‘for boys’ and providing them ‘for girls too’… we are taking a step forward, breaking down limitations and giving children more choice.

Thank you for your support.

Call For Equality in Football - Because Girls Like Football Too

By Cheryl Rickman
on July 06, 2015

Last night the USA Women's Football (Soccer) Team won the FIFA Women's World Cup after beating Japan 5-2.They were INCREDIBLE, scoring their first two goals within a few minutes and 4 goals by half time (including a cracking strike from the half way line).

Why are they so awesome? As well as being amazing athletes in their own right, it's thanks in part to the high profile of women's football in the States where it is as big as the men's game. As little girls their dreams to become footballers are fostered and encouraged and supported. The female soccer players are superstars - household names; they have huge sponsorship deals, just like the men. Football in America is just not seen as a man's game. This enables the players to focus 100 per cent on the football and on becoming the best team in the world.

Meanwhile, England's amazing Lionesses came a pride-inducing third in the world taking home bronze medals. They made history as the best senior result in a World Cup since 1966, the first team to beat Germany in 21 matches and they even beat the hosts. England's Lionesses are now ranked 3rd in the world and 1st in Europe and they've utterly inspired a nation. But did you know, Claire Rafferty, one of their top players, still has a job as a financial analyst for Deutsche Bank? Just imagine how well they could do in the future if they had the same support and opportunities (and pay) as their male counterparts or as their female counterparts in the States? 

However, regardless of the level of support and mainstream media coverage (which we are campaigning to improve), the English team impressed and captured the hearts of a nation with their skill level, strength and resilience. But also, what was notable across ALL teams in this tournament was the level of kinship and camaraderie. The teams supported each other through thick and thin, encouraging and praising and protecting each other throughout. Consequently, it was not just their immense talent which has inspired a nation and new generation of #Lionesses, it was their attitude and courage and kindness.

The USA deserved to win the tournament. They were incredible and so entertaining to watch, as were all of the matches. But, as we celebrate with pride the achievements of these awe-inspiring athletes, we should note the hurdles overcome by the England Women's Football team in their journey to third place in the World Cup (which is perfectly summarised by this newspaper advert - also pictured below)

I'm so grateful that my 7 year old was able to see women playing football - the game she LOVES to play - at this level. She already knew football wasn't 'for boys' but now she REALLY knows. Our women's team did better in their world cup effort than the men's team has done in five decades! I'm going to take her along to her first ever live football match on 1st August and I'm pleased to say it's a women's match - and not just any match... My daughter and I will be travelling up to Wembley Stadium to watch Chelsea Ladies play Notts County in the FA Women's Cup Final

We want to thank every single Women's Football team player for inspiring her and the future generation of top notch sportswomen and call for more mainstream coverage for Women's Football (c'mon BBC, buy the rights from BT). We also want this incredible show of sisterhood to inspire women and girls in general to take note of the kinship and camaraderie that was on display - where women support and encourage and uplift other women rather than knocking them down.

Let's use this tournament as a platform from which to grow and #LiveOurGoals because #WeCanPlay!

The good news? FIFA are doubling it's development funds for women's football and encouraging more girls to play football via their #LiveYourGoals campaign and the FA have a  #WeCanPlay campaign which aims to encourage more girls into the game. Now we just need mainstream media to cover women's football more readily and more widely; for people to attend women's super league matches (see below for fixtures/dates) and for more to be invested into the women's game - they have, thanks to our Lionesses - proved once and for all that they are as deserving as the men to gain mainstream media coverage, investment and support.

If you have a budding #Lioness you'll be pleased to know, we're in the design process for our own #Lioness-inspired football top and will be taking pre-orders very soon. To stay informed about when these will be available, click here to sign up to our private mailing list.

Every player in the tournament is absolutely living our very own manifesto which includes the words:

"Be proud to be you. Be bold.Stand tall....

Play to your strengths. Rise to challenges...

Dream big. Then practice...

Nurture your dreams like seeds. Climb back up after you fall down."

Find out more about our manifesto, motto and mission here.

Order an A3 poster of the Climbing Trees manifesto here.

The TIME IS NOW for Women's Football in the UK to gain as broad exposure, investment and support as the man's game. Thank you #Lionesses for leading the way!

The next FA Women’s Super League matches, where you can see our Lionesses play, are:

Reading Women v Durham Women, 11 July at 6PM

Chelsea Ladies v Bristol Academy, 12 July at 2PM

Manchester City Women v Birmingham City Ladies, 12 July at 2PM

Sunderland AFC Women v Notts County Ladies, 12 July at 2PM

Arsenal Ladies v Liverpool Ladies, 12 July at 6PM

Tickets to all FA WSL matches can be bought HERE

Unsure where your nearest FA WSL club is? Find out HERE

 

Because Girls Like Football Too - Campaign To Invest More in Promotion and Get The Woman's Football Show on BBC1

By Cheryl Rickman
on June 29, 2015

I'm excited. Today, with my 7 year old football-fanatic daughter, I watched the Lionesses - the England Women's Football Team - win their Quarter Final WORLD CUP match against hosts, Canada. They have made it through to the semi-final and their strength, skill, precision and resilience has bowled me over. I feel a sense of pride. Simultaneously I want to see MORE of these amazing athletes, but they just don't get as much coverage on our TV screens. Which takes me back...

... 31 years ago, nine-year-old me wrote a letter to The Daily Mail letters page. They printed it too! (My parents drove all the way to my Guide camp to show me). It was entitled 'More Girls On The Box' and in it I asked why there wasn't more women's sport shown on the telly? I loved netball and football but that was never ever shown. Today, whilst FIFA invests about $900 million a year in football projects around the world, only 15 percent is committed to women's programs. Whilst it's encouraging that this has grown since 2004 when it stood at 5 per cent, this meagre and inequal percentage seems crazy to me. Male football hardly needs any promotion - countless people go to matches, buy the kits, watch it on TV, support the sport... but female footie needs all the promotion and support it can get. Thankfully, three decades later, we are making some progress, but the promotioal budget is so small that most people (and future Lionesses) don't know about this. 

Although the Women's Super League doesn't yet have it's own BBC1 Match of The Day or frequent coverage on the existing BBC MOTD programme, The Women's Football Show is televised on BBC2. Furthermore, with interest growing, more member associations are investing into women's football and there are a growing number of programmes for women, including  the FA's own leadership course and other initiatives and BT covers the Women's Super League online. Plus there's some great resources for female footie fans, such as SheKicks.net. To keep the ball in the air, the momentum growing, it's important to sustain the interest in the female game.

Since 1983 when I wrote to The Daily Mail, we've made progress, as former England Manager, Hope Powell wrote in The Guardian, "In England women’s football is already the number one female participation team sport, with more women and girls playing football today than netball and hockey. Barriers to getting young girls involved aren’t anything like they used to be. We now have role models, players can earn enough to play as a full-time job. The obstacles to playing and earning a living have been eradicated. Personal sponsorship and team sponsorship have changed dramatically. Agents have come into the game." Indeed the The FA’s Women’s Super League is now broadcast on BT too and the Woman's Football Show on BBC3 shows  great progress. If that could escalate to a mainstream channel, like Match of The Day and BBC1 coverage, we'd be saying 'back of the net' - a victory for women's football for sure!

I (along with most people) am so proud of our Lionesses for showing with such incredible #badassery how entertaining and talented the female game is and shining a spotlight on women's soccer for all to see. The BBC reported that 1.6m tuned in to watch the quarter-final match between England vs Canada. This tournament is a major stepping stone towards bringing the female game to more fans around the world and it has captured the imagination of so many already.

My 7 year old daughter, co-founder of Climbing Trees LOVES football and watched the game with me. (She especially loves Kirby, Williams & Bronze). She plays before school, during school breaks and after school. I am thrilled to be taking her to her first ever match - to see the Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium in August (get your tickets here) And it pleases me immensely to see that FIFA are encouraging girls to get into the game with their #WeCanPlay campaign, whilst the World Cup message is #LiveYourGoals.

I hope that we can now keep the momentum going. Talking with my daughter today we wondered why, just as my nine-year-old-self had done, women's football didn't feature more frequently on the box. We did a little digging and discovered that it is there, we just didn't know about it. And therein lies the issue. The budget to promote the sport is insufficient. The BBC has committed to providing extensive coverage of the 2015 Women's Super League season across all platforms, including television, radio and online.


This is great news, but we hope that more effort and budget it put in to making people AWARE of this, not only for our Lionesses but for our FUTURE LIONESSES - for girls who like football and play football. #HearUsRoar.... So we've started the WOT campaign

With this campaign it is our goal to raise awareness about Women's Football on TV by asking that more budget can be devoted to promoting it  and do as much as we can to take Women's Football MAINSTREAM (i.e get The Woman's Football Show on BBC1!)

You can sign the petition and link to the campaign here and also to this page with the hashtags #HearUsRoar #WOT

7 Things I Want My 7 Year Old Daughter To Know

By Cheryl Rickman
on June 19, 2015

Today is my daughter’s 7th birthday. She’s the co-founder of Climbing Trees and my inspiration. 

So, THOSE seven years sped past! And it got me thinking, as our children growing up often does, about how old she’ll be in 7 years time (a teenager) and in another 7 (turning 21). As a young girl there’s plenty about the world that I don’t want her to know about yet (as my scrambling for the remote to switch away from inappropriate ads reveals). Equally though, there’s some wisdom and guidance she should know now, over half-way (wait, what?) through her pre-teen childhood. So here it is:

1. Don't worry about what other people think about you; they are too busy worrying about what you think of them. Nobody cares as much as we think they do about what we say or do or like. As Dr Seuss says “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Learn that early on and you'll fly high without the worries that can stifle a person. Be proud to be the person that you are.


2. Don’t sweat the school stuff. Yes, you need to do your best at school. Learning is important. But don’t worry and stress about tests and exams or worry about how good (or bad) you are at stuff. Nobody is good at everything. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. So just try hard, do your absolute best, then go and enjoy being a child. And, always remember…


3. It is far better to try and fail than to never bother trying. It is far better to challenge yourself and get things wrong, than to take the easy route. Mistakes and failures are useful. They give us an opportunity to learn that we may not have had if we hadn’t made that mistake. As such, mistakes become valuable learning tools which give us a springboard from which to grow and flourish.

So step up for the challenges you face, stretch outside of our comfort zone, choose the difficult puzzle or book instead of the easy one. In doing so, my brave bold girl, you’ll learn, improve and thrive.

Sometimes you’ll make bad choices but they will handily teach you how to make more positive better choices next time. If you just follow the easy route, sure, you’ll do well, but you’ll have learned nothing and will be overtaken by all of those who took the more challenging path and learned how best to succeed en route.

With this in mind I shall try to remember to shower you with praise for trying hard; for the amount of effort you put in to somethings rather than being good at something. Devoting time to doing stuff you love and challenging yourself to do better will teach you beyond measure that you can do anything you set your mind to with practice and determination.

Plus (added bonus) doing stuff you are passionate about will give you a focus and escape route when you need one and, as you get better and better at these activities you love, your confidence in yourself and your abilities will grow alongside your skills. A wonderful win-win from simply doing your best at the things you like best.

4. Be Savvy and Proud To Be You. You are safe and loved and I am here for you now and always; whenever you fall, whenever you get hurt; whenever you need me. However, I cannot protect you from some stuff – such as the big silly fibs that greedy media and shopkeepers sometimes tell us to try to persuade us to buy stuff. Even though you are not old enough to spend much money yourself, you will still be exposed to these fibs.

Therefore all I can do is inform and equip you with knowledge so that you may be aware of the fact that what you seen on screen and in the pages of magazines is often no more real than the cartoons you’ve watched. This awareness, I hope, shall enable you to process the increasingly narrow and overtly persuasive images you are bombarded with so that you might opt to ignore and resist the stereotypes that are fed to you. So here is the unfortunate truth darling girl:

To make as much money as they can, some grown-ups bend the truth so that we might buy stuff we don’t really need. They do this by airbrushing imperfections from people’s faces in the pages of magazines. They do this by making products look way better in adverts than they actually are in real life. They do this by telling us shoppers that some things are ‘for boys only’ and some things are ‘for girls only’ by splitting boys/girls stuff into different departments. Obviously this is wrong, but they do it anyway.

Luckily, many clever people see past these fibs, just like you will now be able to do, and choose to buy things which match their own values. For instance people want to know that stuff they’ve bought is made by people who are paid a good rate for their hard work or that some of the money they spend on stuff is given to charities which help make the world a better place.

Other dissatisfied customers will start up their own businesses to provide a choice not currently being offered which counter these stereotypes or provide a more honest account of their ingredients, just like you and I are doing. That’s a wonderfully pro-active way to resist the status-quo of shopping and media. But we can’t all be entrepreneurs.

So, perhaps the best way to avoid being tricked by the silly media and shopping people is to be proud to be you; be proud of who you are, what you look like, what you like (to wear/play with, and so on) so that you don’t feel the need to compare yourself to others (especially when the images of those people are false, having been airbrushed); so you don’t feel the need to conform to limited definitions presented via gender stereotypes; so you are content to simply be you; imperfections and all, because it is those imperfections, which everybody has, which make you authentic, likeable and unique! Because there is nobody else in the world exactly like you!

5. Ask questions. I want you to do as you’re told when I or my teacher are instructing you. However, I also want you to question things that you don’t agree with or don’t want to do for good reason (for example, if a classmate dares you to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing). You should be obedient when it comes to safety and parents/teachers intentional guidance, but you should not feel you have to conform always, no matter what.

6. Let It Go! Cry, breathe and move on. Don’t hold grudges against someone who has been mean. Forgive them. Equally, if you do something wrong, forgive yourself too (and remember the important lesson about making mistakes). It can take a lifetime to master how best to react to stuff; but if you can cry it out, take some big deep breaths to help you to gain perspective and then move on; you’re doing very well indeed and your life will be happier.

7. Keep talking to me. Yes I’m often busy. I know I check my phone a lot, but I will always have time for you, no matter what. Keep on asking me to play with you. I will find the time. I will listen to you and, most importantly, I promise to hear you over the clutter of my everyday life as a grown-up. If you don’t want to wear a school dress because it’s uncomfortable and you want to wear shorts instead, tell me. I’ll hear that and let you choose, within limits, what feels right for you.Tell me when you disagree with something. Practice using your own voice.

Equally, respect that I will always have your best interests at heart, so you won’t always get your own way. If I give you some independence now, you will be able to use that independence to solve issues where you can. But please use me as a sounding board to talk through problems. You can have some control over your life, even now aged 7, just express yourself and share how you feel with your team mates (daddy and I). I promise to always let you in and hope for you to always let me in too.

Because we’re on the same team; team YOU!

This blog was first published on The Huffington Post UK.

For My Daughter

By Cheryl Rickman
on April 22, 2015

Never play the princess when you can be the queen:
rule the kingdom, swing a sceptre,
wear a crown of gold.
Don’t dance in glass slippers,
crystal carving up your toes --
be a barefoot Amazon instead,
for those shoes will surely shatter on your feet.

Never wear only pink
when you can strut in crimson red,
sweat in heather grey, and
shimmer in sky blue,
claim the golden sun upon your hair.
Colors are for everyone,
boys and girls, men and women --
be a verdant garden, the landscape of Versailles,
not a pale primrose blindly pushed aside.

Chase green dragons and one-eyed zombies,
fierce and fiery toothy monsters,
not merely lazy butterflies,
sweet and slow on summer days.
For you can tame the most brutish beasts
with your wily wits and charm,
and lizard scales feel just as smooth
as gossamer insect wings.

Tramp muddy through the house in
a purple tutu and cowboy boots.
Have a tea party in your overalls.
Build a fort of birch branches,
a zoo of Legos, a rocketship of
Queen Anne chairs and coverlets,
first stop on the moon.

Dream of dinosaurs and baby dolls,
bold brontosaurus and bookish Belle,
not Barbie on the runway or
Disney damsels in distress --
you are much too strong to play
the simpering waif.

Don a baseball cap, dance with Daddy,
paint your toenails, climb a cottonwood.
Learn to speak with both your mind and heart.
For the ground beneath will hold you, dear --
know that you are free.
And never grow a wishbone, daughter,
where your backbone ought to be.

POEM: By Sarah McMane

QUOTE: “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”
Clementine Paddleford

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