Early Years

How can we challenge stereotypes in the early years of life to make sure boys and girls get the best possible start?

Toddler girl playing with coloured blocks

The first 1,001 days of a child’s life (from conception to age 2) are one of the most critical stages of human development. Children’s brains change rapidly as they react to everything around them, start to develop new skills, and consider who they are in the world.

From the very start of life children are exposed to gender stereotypes from the comments of adults around them, the toys the play with, the clothes they are dressed in, and the images they see on television and in shops.

Parents and practitioners can find it a challenge to ensure that all children have opportunities to develop fully, without their gender holding them back.

There are encouraging moves towards this; the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) guidance avoids stereotypes and encourages Early Years settings to support all children develop skills during the critical 1,001 days and beyond. Parents and practitioners alike tell us that they encourage children to be themselves. But there is always work to do.

Whether you are a parent of a young child or work in an Early Years setting, these pages offer some practical ideas for guiding children through the first few years of life.



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