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Gender Differences
January 22, 2010
I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.
-Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942
When we had our first child, Amy, we were bound and determined not to promote gender stereotypes.  So early on we bought her a big red toy truck... which she proceeded to ignore throughout her childhood.  We were crushed and tried to figure out what we did wrong.  Now Lise Eliot, author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), provides some insights in Work & Family Life (January 2010):

"Boys between two and five, raised in the U.S., Europe, Japan or probably anywhere else, overwhelmingly select toy trucks, cars, and balls when they're given a choice of one of those over a doll.  Three-year-old girls opt strongly for baby dolls, toy kitchen utensils, or a toy beauty set.

"These gender-typical toy preferences emerge somewhere around the first birthday.  Though small differences are present at birth, the gap between boys and girls widens tremendously between the ages of two and six, with some differences becoming more stark than they will be at any later time in life....

"Should we resist stereotypes by changing the toys kids play with?  Many parents have tried.  But given trucks, it's not unusual for girls to turn them into families — and for boys to play catch with dolls.

"Even so, we can find toys and activities that will encourage members of each sex to practice skills that they tend to avoid.  This means giving girls more balls, puzzles, big cardboard boxes, and sidewalk chalk.  And we can use boys' fascination with dinosaurs, astronomy, heavy machinery, and soldiers to get them reading, coloring, and communicating with others."

Check out Exchange's 16-page Beginnings Workshop on "Gender Issues."  Articles in this unit include:
  • Healthy Sexuality Development in Young Children by Kent Chrisman and Donna Couchenour
  • How to Create an Environment That Counteracts Stereotyping by Alice Sterling Honig
  • Out of Site But Not Out of Mind: The Harmful Absence of Men by Bruce Cunningham and Bernie Dorsey
  • Developing Sexual Identity Through Play, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Tolerance by Lynn Baynum


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Comments (4)

Displaying All 4 Comments
nikki · January 24, 2010
norcross, ga, United States


Molly Golemo · January 22, 2010
Acworth, GA, United States

Why even waste your time on this issue? The most important thing is to look at each child, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, etc. and look at the child as an INDIVIDUAL with unique needs, preferences and abilities? N!ext topic, please!

Bill Strader · January 22, 2010
Hesser College
Manchester, New Hampshire, United States

I had a special doll, Korenna, she was (is) a soft cloth doll and was created for me by the Family Coordinator of the Head Start Programs on Cape Cod.

All the children in the Early childhood programs where I worked knew that Korenna was Bill's Baby Doll. Both boys and girls would dress her up, undress her, feed her for me, change her, and talk to me about her day in the dramatic play area. She was well loved over the years.

Today Korenna, comes into my college courses to help me illustrate the importance of sociodramic play and it's impact on children's development.

Donna Bella · January 22, 2010
United States

Body language says what words cannot. From the very beginning, we react to girls differently than we do to boys and although we may put down a baby doll in front of our little boy and a truck in front of our little girl, our deep expectation says that this will not work. Remember, we have already determined that dolls are girl toys and trucks are boy toys even before we made the purchase.

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