Interactions with children
- Encourage children to be open-minded about other children’s choices. Show them that the gender of individuals doesn’t limit them in their choice of toys or activities;
- Avoid raising doubts in the minds of children when they don’t conform to stereotypes (for example, a boy having fun walking a stroller, a girl wearing a fireman’s helmet) and correct children who comment on these behaviors or make fun of them;
- Support and encourage the educational, professional and social aspirations of children, both in the way they perceive those aspirations and in real life. Help them to become convinced that anything is allowed and possible;
- Openly criticise stereotyped images in the public space and help children develop critical thinking;
- Teach children to respect others and that mockery should not be tolerated. Teach them how to respond to mockery and discuss the consequences of bullying;
- Compliment children about what they are and not about their appearance (for instance, instead of greeting a little girl by telling her that she has a beautiful dress, tell her that her smile is a ray of sunshine sure to put everyone in a good mood);
- Avoid making children compete (boys against girls) and reinforcing differences;
- Avoid using words that put people into boxes (boys, girls);
- Encourage cooperative and collaborative behaviors;
- Pay attention to the number of times you call on girls and boys for answers or assistance and the time you give them, without disadvantaging one or the other;
- Pay special attention to the gender stereotypes you or the children convey, take advantage of the opportunities they present to deconstruct such stereotypes and start a discussion with the children;
- Encourage and praise children for all their endeavours and not just for those we might feel they are predisposed to take part in;
- When speaking, avoid using masculine terms only. Use the feminine form as well as the masculine form (for instance, say “fireman” and “firewoman”) or, even better, use a gender-neutral term (for instance, “firefighter”);
- Be careful not to convey stereotypes about parental or professional roles when speaking by using examples that cross stereotypical gender boundaries (for instance, talk about a dad who cooks or an on-duty policewoman);
- Give boys the same opportunity as girls to express all their emotions; andWhen a boy and a girl fight over a coveted object, be careful not to ask the girl to conciliate first.
Suggested activities and models
- Diversify the activities in which you ask the children to participate;
- Show children different worker role models (for instance, female truck driver, male nurse). Encourage them to see themselves doing a job that takes their own interests into account, without gender stereotyping;
- Suggest role-playing games to boys to improve their language and socio-emotional skills;
- Give girls building games so they can build their fine motor skills and relation to space;
- Encourage girls and boys to improve their strength and physical abilities by taking part in activities such as soccer, dance or martial arts so they learn to control their bodies and develop a sense of body competence;
- Diversify the division of work in the home or at the educational childcare centre so that children are given non-stereotyped responsibilities;
- Correct the impression that some activities are for women and others for men;
- Offer children a variety of tasks and responsibilities and encourage them to switch them from time to time;
- Invite boys to do tasks that are stereotypically associated with the opposite sex, such as washing dishes, sweeping, tidying and caring for a young child;
- Invite girls to do tasks that are stereotypically associated with the opposite sex, such as finding a solution for fixing a chair or helping with the yard work;
- Invite children to enjoy a diversity of experiences. Show them that girls and boys can participate in all tasks. Some believe that non-intervention encourages children to choose freely but on the contrary, it tends to reinforce gender-stereotypical play choices in children;
- Encourage mixed activities and support children who make choices that are perceived as different;
- Present or discuss role models of people working in non-traditional areas for their gender; and
- Ask boys and girls to do their fair share when it comes to putting away their toys so that girls do not feel this is essentially a girl’s job.
Foster a desire to read
- Give preference to reading and activities that feature original representations and a range of characters as well as qualities and behaviours that are different from traditional models; and
- Keep some books containing gender stereotypes to inspire discussion with the children (4-5 years old) and help them build their critical thinking.
Environment and toys/material
- Encourage children to choose activities or toys not typically associated with their gender;
- Encourage children to choose toys they tend to ignore;
- Be aware that offering an education free of stereotypes does not mean removing all toys considered stereotyped (for instance, a doll, a kitchenette, a fire truck, etc.). On the contrary, encourage children to make their own choices regardless of gender stereotypes;
- Give children a mixture of books and toys;
- Find alternatives to commercial materials (for instance, use things you collect outdoors);
- Organise the play environment in a non-gendered way to encourage diversity in play and the discovery of activities that children would unconsciously tend to ignore;
- Choose children’s games and toys with care, especially in terms of colour; since symbolic games are often pink, boys will hesitate to engage in this type of activity; and
- Display on the walls images that show boys and girls in non-traditional or non-gender roles.
With your work team
- Ask your colleagues to let you know when you say or do things that reinforce the children’s attachment to gender stereotypes and welcome this criticism with humility and gratitude;
- Ask one of your colleagues to watch you or film you during a session where you interact with the children;
- Rethink how the space is organised to create a neutral, non-gendered environment; and
- Choose neutral themes for your activities and design activities that allow children to develop a range of skills.
Actions with parents
- When you need to ask the parents something about their child’s care, speak with both the father and mother;
- Inform the parents of your goal to provide gender-neutral, stereotype-free education and what this entails;
- Feel free to ask parents to dress children, especially girls, in comfortable clothes that will allow them to move and develop their motor skills without fear of dirtying or tearing their clothing; and
- Explain to parents that children, especially boys, are free to express their emotions in your environment and that this is necessary for their overall development, especially in terms of emotional maturity.
- Ask yourself about your own reactions to certain gender stereotypes (for instance, why do you tell little girls they’re pretty and little boys that they’re full of beans?);
- Don’t feel guilty: Deconstructing gender stereotypes requires humility and we also have to “unlearn” what we’ve been taught our whole lives to think of as the established order of things.