Gender stereotypes are prevalent - pretty much everywhere. Just look at the kids' toys, books and clothes section. So often we see a pretty, pink, kind girl compared to a boisterous, blue, heroic boy. According to research, these stereotypes in early years can go on to affect decisions and choices later in life, including subject choices, career paths and mental health.
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.
In partnership with Lifting Limits we share 5 easy ways you can involve your children in challenging stereotypes at home. From becoming a supermarket 'gender detective' to questioning the language and characters they see on TV and in books.
1. Use books to begin a discussion
Dear Zoo is a favourite in many households, and yet EVERY animal in the book is male. Sadly this isn't uncommon.
What can we do about it? When children are young, it's easy to switch up the pronouns. As they grow older it can create a great topic of conversation. Get them to:
- Point out the imbalance
- Discuss how the characters fall into different stereotypes, including the illustrations. For example, are the female characters wearing pink clothes? And do they have long hair with exaggerated eyelashes?
- Explore how they would change things if they were the author
If you need any 'stereotype-free' book inspiration we love these book recommendations by Lifting Limits.
2. Challenge biases in our language
So many phrases perpetuate stereotypes - 'boys will be boys', 'that's too girly', 'boys don't cry'. Discuss these with your children and encourage them to point out the mistakes we might make ourselves.
Even small changes to our language can make a big difference. Get your children involved with finding an alternative name for 'the green man' for instance. We'd love to hear what they come up with!
3. Question stereotypes on TV
There are biases in many kids' television programmes. Use it as an opportunity to start a discussion. "Why is Daddy Pig so hopeless? Do you think all dads are like that? How is your daddy different?"
Spotting stereotypes can be exhausting, so agree a 10-minute time slot to do it together.
4. Become a supermarket gender detective
Lifting Limits often refer to young children as 'gender detectives'. Encourage your child to become a gender detective during your next food shop. What stereotypes might they find in the supermarket? On the magazine aisle? In the greeting card section? On the packaging? On posters, flyers and advertising?
Discuss the activity beforehand - and allow time during and after the shop for them to share their findings.
5. Use positive role modelling
Children learn most from those around them. By challenging stereotypes ourselves, our children will learn to do the same.
How else can we involve children in challenging stereotypes at home? We would love to hear from you.