Celebrating the differences between boys and girls

“The difference in what boys and girls can do is small, the difference is in how they do it” – Sally Featherstone 2012

Whether we like it or not, there are differences in the way toddler boys and toddler girls learn and develop. What’s important is that as parents and carers we nurture our children in a way that recognises and supports those differences, so that they can reach their potential.

While every child is an individual, here’s an overview of some of the general differences between boys and girls as they develop, and tips on how to encourage your child.

Toddler boys are:

  • Likely to start speaking later than girls – they’re able to hold a logical conversation by the age of four and a half, compared to around age three for girls
  • More likely to suffer with dyslexia – this affects one in four boys
  • Likely to show more concentration than girls, but find it harder to multitask
  • Able to remember what they hear, although they may ignore some things they hear when they’re very focused on what they’re doing
  • Likely to hear better with the right ear, and their hearing develops more slowly than in girls
  • Less able to recognise emotional tones in voices

Overall, boys are great at really focusing their concentration on one thing at a time, and if they are asked to deal with too many things at once, they can become frustrated and angry. They like to rest between tasks, but are likely to concentrate better once they’ve used up some energy. They often move about more than girls while they learn, and tend to be more interested in objects and movement. Generally they take more time to learn new ideas than girls.

Toddler girls:

  • Have equal vision from both eyes and hear well with both ears
  • Tend to be better at listening and understanding, girls need to talk to make sense of the world around them
  • Remember what they have seen
  • Are less likely than boys to ignore what they hear
  • More able than boys to multitask
  • Can recognise emotions in people’s voices

Girls are usually interested in people, and respond to words and feelings. They are better able to show compassion and feelings for others than boys, and don’t find eye contact difficult.

Supporting your child

If you have a son, notice which activities tend to get and keep his interest. You can then plan time for these, ensuring you help him to become fully engaged from the start. Boys often like to be outdoors, so be flexible about where they’re able to play, giving them options. If they’re outside, it’s also easier for them to take a ‘brain break’ in between tasks, for example by having a good run around.

Make sure you allow girls enough time to complete what they’re doing, as they can become frustrated otherwise as they feel they’ve let you down. Allow them to talk about what they’re doing, as it helps with their understanding. This will also help to ensure that they’re fully engaged. If there are boys around, you may have to support girls to ensure they get a turn at all the activities, as boys can take over at times. Encourage girls to run about and play to give them plenty of exercise too.


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Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

Leicester City: text 07520 615381

Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382

You can also call and speak to a public health nurse on our professional advice line: 0300 3000 007

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