Guest post by Janice from Learning 4 Kids
“Out in the school playground there are small groups of girls sitting cross legged playing hand games, singing songs or rhymes, while boys are bouncing balls, tackling other boys and racing around with no apparent purpose.”
This is a common vision that comes to mind in regards to boy and girl differences, raising the question, “Do girls and boys really play differently or do we expect boys and girls to behave in certain ways?”
There have been several studies on this question and there are two main arguments; firstly that girls and boys are biologically hard-wired differently to behave and play in certain ways and then secondly that these differences are learned behaviours and shaped by society. This is also known as the nature verses the nurture debate.
The nurture debate suggests that girls and boys are not that different but society treats them differently forming the male/female stereotypes. From the colour of the nursery, choice of toys and activities, to the emotions that is considered acceptable for that gender.
The nature view point insists that there are significant inborn differences, such as the types of hormones present and neurological differences between girls and boys.
No matter which side of the fence we sit, I feel it is important that we understand how our children are gender-specifically different as it is a valuable tool for teachers and parents. It arms us with knowledge to helps us make better choices and decisions within our teaching and parenting.
Differences in Boys and Girls Play
Although there may be some play differences between boys and girls they are also alike in basic ways and overlap in their play interests and choice of toys.
This table isn’t to say that your child is locked into to one of these categories or gender stereotypes.
What should we do?
Be mindful and have an awareness of both nurture and nature debates. This awareness will help us to parent better and make good choices for our children.
Provide girls and boys with a variety of toys and opportunities for play.
Provide a mixture of toys- non-gender specific and opposite gender playthings.
Be mindful of labelling toys as ‘boy’s toys’ and ‘girl’s toys’.
Children learn from their role models, the men and women around them. Be an example of cross gender roles.
Provide opportunities for girls to kick around a football and let boys know that it is okay to cry.
Support our children in their choices whether it is stereotypically a boy or a girl thing to do.
We can often reward children who follow the sex roles we create for them while we fail to reward children who don’t conform.
Final Word and My Experience as a Mum and Teacher
I think that the differences between boys and girls become apparent in early childhood and can be seen in the different ways girls and boys play and learn. I believe that these differences are influenced by both social and biological factors.
Although girls and boys play differently they are alike in many ways. Both need a variety in their play to grow and develop healthy lives. They need to experience a wide variety of play opportunities involving playing with other children, playing alone, playing actively and playing quietly.
As parents, arming ourselves with the knowledge and understanding of gender specific differences will help us to make better choices and decisions in our parenting. It is important to parent each child as an individual and look at their personality, their strengths and weaknesses and the way that society impacts on them.
Regardless of age, gender or personality traits, I believe the most important thing to remember is that your child/ren feel valued and loved for the person that they are and feel free to explore their interests and passions in life. I will leave you with a thought provoking scenario:
“If you gave footballs to 100 girls and dolls to 100 boys, within an hour the boys would be kicking dolls and the girls would be nursing footballs.”
Do girls and boys really play differently?
Janice is a stay at home Mum of three amazing kids and a Primary School Teacher. She is very passionate about learning and teaching and absolutely loves playing with her kids. When she became a mum, she found that her teacher brain never switched off and was creating and developing new playtime activities all the time. Learning 4 Kids focuses on the importance of learning through play and provides nurmerous fun activities for families as play time is a valuable tool for learning and developing young minds.