What Early Years practitioners say

The majority of Early Years practitioners we’ve spoken to have outlined the importance of encouraging all children to play with a range of toys.

Boy with red toy pushchair and doll

Many felt that stereotypes were being learnt outside of settings and that parents, marketing and other children were impacting on children’s understanding of gender norms.

“Playing for a child can be compared to their 9-5 job. Through play and using and exploring a range of different toys, children practice and learn the skills they need for growing up. These include: social interaction, empathy, understanding relationships, cause and effect. Toys that are crucial for make-believe and social development may be seen as generally for girls eg kitchen, dress up, dolls etc but boys need this experience too. Similarly toys that can help children focus and those that support physical development may be thought of by some as mainly for boys (eg Lego, blocks and tool kits). It is vital that children have opportunities to use a wider range of toys and adults can sometimes limit the choice available based on their child’s gender. Regardless of gender children of both sexes need opportunities to play with toys such as Lego to develop skills including construction, symmetry and colours, and toys such as a tea set to build on their interactions and sharing skills.” Imelda, Speech & Language Therapist working in the Early Years.

“We make it our mission to not be sexist! And we have open conversations with parents… helping them to understand the impact on children.” @lalulami

“I am passionate about children having a free choice of toys and resources to support their learning in a way that interests them, and this doesn’t always match what is ‘given’ to them. Unless they have a personal interest of curiosity about their toys they won’t hold interest long enough for any deep learning or exploring; the wider range available the more likely to hit a personal spark in each child.” Kate, Early Years Lead Teacher

“At the Lloyd Park Children’s Charity we believe that one of the best ways of promoting learning in the early years is to focus on children’s individual interests. This is motivating, interesting, and helps children to expand their thinking.” Wendy Fields, Integrated Services Manager, Lloyd Park Children’s Charity

“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.” Leanne, Early Years Practitioner

You can read more from Leanne in her blogposts about toys and the EYFS and her experience as an Early Years practitioner.