If we are meeting someone new I always let Avery introduce themself, mostly because I can never be sure what name will come out of their mouth. Some of their favorites are Martin, Thomas, Daniel, Marshal, and Sky. All but Sky will get a surprised, slightly confused reaction from our new friend because they are expecting a female name. They look to me for confirmation but I never contradict Avery. Sometimes I’ll simply affirm, sometimes I’ll explain that they change their name everyday but I don’t give up their given name.

Many kids like to play out the characters they find in books or on t.v. If your child does this, one thing to really consider is not correcting them for gender or race. If they are “being” a person of a different gender or a different race, or maybe they assign roles for other family members that don’t match their gender or race, go along with it. They are ways this correcting can unintentionally teach in a negative way.

For instance, if you and your child are Caucasian, and every time your toddler pretends they are character that is a person of color, rather than going along with it, you “correct” them and insist they be a different character, your child may be learning that only some people have value. At some point this child may learn that only Caucasian characters are appropriate to emulate, that only they have characteristics that are valuable. These ideas can translate into everyday life, with everyday people.

If you and your child like to make up and act out stories these are perfect opportunities for both of you to practice using non-binary, gender inclusive pronouns. Perhaps you or an older sibling can be a gender expansive character. Create the story as you normally would, but when in character everyone strives to use the correct pronouns for everyone.

Playtime with your kids can be good practice for you too. You’ll stumble as you learn new pronouns and build a new habit by using them, but then when you and your child go into the community, you’ll both be ready when you need them.

Using playtime to affirm a value of diversity.
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