The aim of this research is to investigate how gender stereotyping can affect children’s choices during ‘free’ play within the foundation stage unit in a primary school setting.
The reason why I want to carry out further research is due to the fact that whilst on placement in a reception class, I was intrigued about how the ‘girls’ would play with the dolls and the dress up corner, were as the ‘boys’ would play with the cars and the Lego. The segregation within these areas of play was very extreme and led me to question this area further.
I decided that I will conduct my research in a foundation stage unit, as this is the age range were I had first noticed segregation first hand, and to develop this further I wanted to understand more clearly whether gender identity is apparent in play.
I am going to research this topic by observing the area of provisions were children play, allowing the opportunity for discussing their favourite toy at home, and a toy they would choose from my selection (appendix 1). I will also discuss with practitioners any incidents which they may have observed regarding gender stereotypes.
It was back in the 1970s that feminist educational researchers first studied the implications of the tendency for girls to play with dolls, and for boys to play with cars. They found that the way girls played developed their communication skills and emotional literacy, while boys' toys encouraged them to grow up with better technical knowledge.
The arrival of the national curriculum in the 1980s, and the consequent improvements in the academic achievements of girls, rendered the theories linking toys and potential for learning as unfashionable, and perhaps irrelevant.
But new research suggests that the issue should be revisited because, it seems, there has never been greater gender stereotyping in the production and marketing of toys than now.
The marketing industry in today’s society is the main concern for gender stereotypes, the television advertisements that I see on a regular basis are always related to gender. It is always the little girl playing with the baby and the boy playing with the action figures. When the child is watching the television they will then assume that they can only play with their own gender toys.
Gender inequities and gender biases, both blatant and subtle, are causing girls and boys to be raised in separate societies, with separate expectations, and widely diverging treatment based on gender. This is not preparing them for their future together or enabling them to full fill their own potential. Parents, educators, and other adults can help reverse this trend by helping children to learn a variety of interests and skills, improving children's social environment, and giving children an awareness of inequities and teaching skills to cope with those inequities.
To help children understand gender roles and avoid gender bias, it is important to first understand how children learn gender roles. Children learn gender through socialization. The designation of pink for infant girls and blue for infant boys begins the social process which teaches girls to be passive, dependent, and submissive and boys to be active, independent and dominant (Szirom, 1988). Through the ways they are held, spoken, to, played with, and dressed, infants learn societal expectations for gender-appropriate behavior (Szirom, 1988). Most developmental psychologists agree that most children can answer the question, "Are you a boy or a girl?" by the age of three and by age five they see gender as a fixed and permanent characteristic of the social world (Newman, 1995). Children learn gender roles and gender stereotypes from their parents their toys, television, children's