Sunday, March 11, 2012

Non Typical Gender Play

I recently posted about gender stereotypes. In that post I demonstrated how we can create environments that provide opportunities for children to engage in play that may not have been historically considered typical for their gender.

The other day something remarkable and quite unforeseen occurred with my preschool children. They spontaneously divided into groups containing entirely one gender, either all boys or all girls.

What was even more amazing that each group gravitated toward areas and experiences that some would consider non-typical for their genders. The boys made their way to home corner where they role played being in a Chinese restaurant, passing food items and the like to each other. Meanwhile the girls worked together to create an elaborate building with the wooden blocks.

The boys then surprised me further as they discovered the handbags hanging on the rack nearby. After draping them over their shoulders they began a sort of fashion parade, strutting their stuff like true catwalk models.

Which then turned into a dance contest. What a bunch of showoffs!

Meanwhile the girls remained very busy helping each other with this construction. As you may notice, one girl positioned herself and took it upon herself to responsible for one particular section of the building while one of the other girls passed her blocks as she needed them.

In both cases the children played cooperatively and were engaged in their respective experiences for quite a lengthy period. The boys' experience moved and changed as their focus and interest changed, yet remained centred in home corner. The girls' experience meanwhile was more of a project in the making.

Either way, these children demonstrated their capability of owning their own learning and taking it in directions they want, not some adult overseeing them. I merely observed them and recorded the episodes on a camera. My role was diminished as their independence grew.

Once again I find myself saying (without too much boasting I hope) that what I am teaching these children is that they are their own best teachers and that I am there for support, encouragement and even a spectator as often as not. It might sound like my job is easy, but for those in the know they would realise that this is because I have put the hard yards in with these children is that have the confidence and independence to flourish without me.

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