Author: Laura Frank, M.A.
Gender identity is defined as an individual’s internal experience of gender. This could include an internal sense of being a man, woman, both, neither, or another gender. For children, gender identity begins to develop around age three, and by age five children are seen expressing their gender identity both verbally and through their actions. Throughout development, children are exposed to numerous biases from a variety of sources that encourage them to behave a certain way or act in accordance with accepted gender norms. Playtime is one place where stereotypes about gender are often prevalent. For example, children of different gender identities may be encouraged to play with specific toys or engage with each other in a certain way, which can be harmful to their identity development and impact their self-efficacy. One way to eliminate the reinforcement of such biases and gender norms is to engage in gender inclusive play that minimizes these stereotypes and biases. The following is a list of five tips for removing gender stereotypes from playtime.
1) Give children of all gender identities sufficient and equal time to both play and engage in household chores such as cleaning up after themselves.
2) Choose toys that promote creativity, social, and cognitive skills or books that depict protagonists in non-stereotypical and non-traditional roles.
3) Have children play with toys and games that may be advertised to or traditionally associated with the opposite gender. All children can benefit from playing with a wide range of toys that equip them with skills such as creativity and communication.
4) Help children choose and consume media that is inclusive of all gender identities and provides positive portrayals of gender roles.
5) Be mindful of how advertising can reinforce gender stereotypes and norms. Help children choose activities, toys, games, and books that are inclusive and send positive messages about gender.
These five tips can help minimize the reinforcement of gender stereotypes and norms at playtime.
For more tips and guidance, please see the full list of strategies included in the following link:
Unicef (2022). How to remove gender stereotypes from playtime. https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/covid-19-parenting-tips
Unicef (2022). What is gender-responsive parenting?