Gender stereotypes are prevalent pretty much everywhere. Just look at the kids' toy section or clothes department in a high-street store. We often see pretty, pink items for girls and heroic, blue items for boys. According to research, these stereotypes in early years can go on to affect decisions and choices later in life, including subject choices, career paths, mental health and behaviour.
What can we do about it? One of the best ways is to equip our children with the skills and knowledge they need to challenge these stereotypes themselves. So, in partnership with Lifting Limits, here are 5 easy ways you can involve children in challenging gender stereotypes, from becoming a supermarket 'gender detective' to challenging the biases in everyday language.
1. Become a supermarket gender detective
Lifting Limits often refer to young children as 'gender detectives'. Indeed, between the ages of 2 and 5, children are busy making sense of the world around them including the 'gender rules' of pink for girls and blue for boys, dolls for girls and cars for boys and looks and beauty for girls and sports and adventure for boys.
Many children believe these 'rules' are fixed. By encouraging them to become a 'supermarket gender detective' and spot the 'stereotypes' rather than 'rules' you can help them to question the gender-coding they've learnt so far.
What stereotypes might they find in the supermarket? On the magazine aisle? In the greeting card section? On the packaging? And even on the posters, flyers and advertising? Use it as an opportunity to discuss the different stereotypes they uncover.
2. Mix up pronouns at the zoo or farm
'Dear Zoo' is a favourite book in many households, and yet EVERY animal in the book is male. This is common. When we don't know the gender of an animal (or we're speaking generically) we often use the male pronoun. When you're next at the farm or zoo (or see animals out and about) try and mix up the pronouns.
3. 'Spot the difference' while travelling
- In the UK just 5% of commercial pilots are female
- 11% of bus drivers are female
- 15% of train drivers are female
This doesn't go unnoticed by children. Use your travel time as an opportunity to spot and discuss these differences. By pointing them out, it helps to encourage are children to question the current 'norm'.
We love the book: "My mummy is a train driver" which also helps to challenge these workplace stereotypes.
4. Challenge biases in our language
Apparently parents are “four times more likely to tell girls than boys" to be more careful. This can impact behaviours and decisions later in life. Being mindful of our language - and how we encourage our children to play - can help them to challenge stereotypes.
5. Use positive role modelling
Children learn most from those around them. By challenging stereotypes ourselves, our children will learn to do the same. For instance, share the responsibility of packing the beach bags, making the picnic, applying the sun cream and building the sand castles. It may seem small, but it all makes a difference.
We'd love to hear how you get on and whether there are any other ways you involve your children in challenging stereotypes at home.