Delighted to say that we have just been awarded the Toymark Award 2017 in recognition of our good practice of not separating toys by gender. This was something that I felt strongly about in my shop, which was also given the award.
I loved to see both boys and girls using the home corner to cook up a treat and to use their imaginations with play figures from Bullyland, Schleich and Papo. Books and puzzles were equally popular for both genders and there was always a crush around the Brio table with girls just as capable of being the engine driver!
This is a clip from the Let Toys Be Toys website
Play is crucial to how children develop and learn about the world. In education it’s recognised that children need access to a range of toys and play experiences. Toys focused on action, construction and technology hone spatial skills, foster problem solving and encourage children to be active. Toys focused on role play and small-scale theatre allow them to practise social skills. Arts & crafts are good for fine motor skills and perseverance.
In education, it’s recognised that children need access to a range of play opportunities to support their development.
Let’s take a look at some different kinds of toys, how they help in these developmental areas, and why it’s vital that boys and girls are encouraged to take part in all kinds of play.
Bikes and other ride-on toys help develop strength in leg muscles, stamina and co-ordination. They develop balance, the concept of speed and space, and how to control our bodies. These are all physical elements. Some mathematical elements are also included, such as spatial awareness, and some Personal, Social and Emotional elements, including perseverance and self confidence.
Water play is great fun. It encourages exploration, cause and effect, and initial concepts of weight and volume. Children get more from water play if they play together, developing social skills and language and communication.
Children learn the mathematical concept of one to one correspondence, giving one cake to teacher, one to a friend and keeping one for themselves, they count and divide.
Role play and dressing up
In the nursery, both boys and girls enjoy dressing up and using their imagination. They often replay things that have seen in their home life, on TV, problems they need to solve, or situations that are troubling them.
Younger children learn self-help skills, including getting the dressing up clothes on and off. Buttons, zips, Velcro and sleeves all offer challenges to young children, and this is the perfect opportunity for them to learn how to cope with them, without the pressure of having to do it for real, where time constraints often mean parents do these complicated things for them. Older children improve social, planning and language skills, as they create a story with their friends.
If girls are offered only princess clothes to dress up in, they will only act as princesses. They will be limited in their imagination, not having the opportunity to problem-solve how to put out the fire as a fire fighter, or to bandage up a limb as a doctor
Jigsaws and puzzles
Jigsaws and puzzles are often aimed at girls, because of the assumption that it comes naturally to girls to sit still and enjoy this type of toy whilst boys “have” to move about. However, boys still need to learn fine motor skills, problem solving, the self-esteem gained from successfully completing a puzzle, and the enjoyment of working one to one with a parent or teacher.
In toy stores and advertising building and constructing seem to be marketed almost exclusively to boys, but in education settings we are careful to create an environment where everyone can benefit from the many learning areas promoted by these toys. Physical elements like fine motor skills, Expressive Arts and Design, skills of imagination, Mathematical skills of problem solving, as well as Language development are all covered when building .
Children build tall towers, make plans and decide how to carry them out, and try and re-try when things do not go according to plan. Why steer girls away from these opportunities? They enjoy these activities, and need to learn these skills too.
Small world toys
Let’s look at cars and other small world toys. Yes, as an early years practitioner, I group all ‘small world’ toys together, including cars, Playmobil, animals, dinosaurs, etc etc etc. From playing with these, children develop all areas of the curriculum. They use imagination, language, finding out about the world, and maths, when they discover that cars roll faster down the ramp if it is steeper, or sorting all the farm animals into one group and zoo animals in another.
Young children don’t make any distinction between these toys. There is no reason, in their eyes, why a Sylvanian family figure, an Action Man and a Barbie can’t sit in the car and drive really fast away from the scary dinosaurs.
‘The work of children’
As the psychologist Piaget said, ‘Play is the work of children’. Children learn so much through playing, it is vital to their development. We, as adults, and especially early years practitioners, need to ensure that all children get the opportunity to experience all different types of play, all different types of toys and all different types of situations, to allow them to grow into all different types of people, not pigeonholed into gender stereotypes.