Brief description of the issue
When you wander in children’s toys and clothes shops’ aisles, it is easy to draw a line between the boys’ sections and the girls’. Is the way toys are arranged in your workplace also reinforces gender stereotypes in the same manner? To avoid gender segregation, we have to think about how we organize the playroom in order to make sure boys and girls play together and are able to play with toys usually associated with the opposite sex. A study conducted in an Attikamekw community even mentions that symbolic play corners can be organized in a way that fosters the emergence of writing.
According to the Secrétariat à la condition féminine (2011, p. 19), “the gendered distribution of activities and toys can generate a space segregation: girls gather at the table to draw, creating a ‘girl corner’, and boys play together with a construction game in another corner, for example. It may happen that once this organization is well set, children find it hard to cross the physical and symbolic border between the ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ corners, even though they feel the desire of changing activity or joining their friends.”
A few useful tips
Here are a few useful tips for organizing a supportive environment for gender equality, retrieved from a document named Les livres et les jouets ont-ils un sexe ? (SCF, 2013, p. 23) :
- Avoid dividing the space in playing corner for boys and for girls; pay specific attention to colors and other things used to delineate the different activity corners.
- Make sure each playing area encourages interactions between boys and girls, therefore combating gender segregation.
- Make sure there is a diversity of books and toys available for all children; also, proceed to a periodic rotation of toys and books between different groups.
- In each playing area, make sure there is diversified material in a sufficient amount that might be of interest for boys and girls alike (for example, instead of only offering princess dresses in the “costume corner”, add animals, jobs and other characters’ costumes, real hats and helmets, etc.).
Foster the emergence of writing in a symbolic play context
A study conducted in an Attikamekw daycare centre showed that putting play corners in place, enriched with writing material, can foster the emergence of writing among children (Jacob, Charron & Da Silveira, 2016). The play corners themes must be chosen by the educators and must stay away from gender stereotypes. For example, in the study conducted in the Attikamekw childcare centre, themes chosen were the restaurant, the hospital, construction and hunting. To foster the emergence of writing among all children, educators can take on the following roles (Jacob et al., 2016, p. 44) :
- Guide: As a guide, teachers plan interesting activities, adjust the game environment, and organize the materials needed for the children to play. Several strategies, including the following five, are used by teachers.
- Plan the game (for example, by suggesting roles that go against gender stereotypes to children);
- Associate words to images;
- Being a model writer;
- Reading words;
- Encouraging children to write.
- Storyteller: In this role, the teacher reads or tells a story to children with a book as support, asks questions, and helps them to predict events (Saracho, 2002). If the book shows gender stereotypes, the educator helps students to challenge them.
- Mediator: In the role of mediator, teachers ensure to mediate between children and activities, equipment and instructions, to maximize children’s learning.
Jacob, E., Charron, A. et Da Silveira, Y. (2016). « Fostering the Emergence of Writing in a Symbolic Play Context: Preliminary Findings of a Collaborative Study in Attikamekw Communities », Journal of Perseverance and Academic Achievement for First Peoples, 2, 42-45. http://colloques.uqac.ca/prscpp/files/2016/11/ejacobA.pdf
Secrétariat à la condition féminine (2013). Les livres et les jouets ont-ils un sexe? Document d’accompagnement [Do books and toys have a gender? Support Document], Québec: Gouvernement du Québec. http://www.scf.gouv.qc.ca/fileadmin/Documents/Stereotypes/Doc_Les_livres_et_les_jouets_ont-ils_un_sexe.pdf