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Overcoming gender stereotypes in our children

What do we mean by stereotypes?

A stereotype is a set idea about what someone or something is like. When we talk about ‘gender stereotypes’, we are talking about the assumptions people make because of a gender label.

In adverts, we often see images of girls playing with dolls and princesses and boys playing with building blocks and cars. In toy shops, we often see blue packaging with pictures of boys on one set of toys and pick packaging with pictures of girls on others.

Toys often aimed at boys:

  • Toy cars and train tracks
  • Footballs
  • Building blocks
  • Science sets

Toys often aimed at girls:

  • Dolls
  • Kitchen set
  • Hair dressing dolls and play make up
  • Arts and crafts e.g. jewellery making sets colouring

In the UK, a campaign has been developed called Let Toys Be Toys, which aims to get retailers to stop categorising toys and books for one gender only. Babies are not born with expectations about gender roles, so a lot of the ideas children develop about what kind of things they can or should enjoy may come from cultural influences like marketing.

Children playing

What impact can this have on our children?

Often it assumes that boys are more interested in rough play, getting dirty, playing with action toys and construction, leaving those who aren’t interested in these things feeling left out, and their parents or carers feeling that they are doing something wrong.

Stereotyped attitudes are also seen in toys marketed for girls; themes of beauty are often pushed and aimed at young girls which can give a worrying emphasis on outward appearance.

Play is essential for a child’s development as it helps them to understand the world they live in and develop skills. Different toys offer different opportunities for children to learn and develop.  Role play toys such as dressing up costumes and play kitchens allow children to practice social skills. Construction, action and technology toys encourage problem solving and spatial awareness, while sports equipment like footballs and tennis sets encourage children to be active.

Two toddlers playing

Children develop with the support and nurturing of responsive parents and carers, and having the opportunity to explore a range of different play experiences enables children develop an assortment of skills.

By only offering toys that are marketed towards girls or boys, both girls and boys miss out.  As a parent or carer, it’s important to listen to your child and being led by their interests, likes and dislikes in play and not focusing on what they ‘should’ be playing with.

By offering children a range of play experiences, we create an environment which is child led and enables you to understand their preferences.

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Page last reviewed: 09-11-2020

Next review due: 09-11-2023