“…the brain is a plastic organ, shaped and moulded by experiences, in which childhood is key.”

GENDER EQUALITY – NATURE VERSUS NURTURE

Having two children of different genders, I have always been interested in and fascinated by the way they play, learn and develop with the hope we’re providing them with an environment that nurtures gender equality. However, I often worry that much of what influences our children’s gender perceptions may be more subtle.  My husband and I naturally role model equality in our own relationship and I have always been aware of “girls’ toys” and “boys’ toys” and tried to ensure that both my daughter and son have access to a range of toys and activities based on their likes rather than their gender. I am also aware that outside influences play a significant part in my children’s process of making choices; what they do or don’t do. When my son first started school, he came home and announced that pink was his favourite colour at home but not his favourite colour at school. My daughter, on the other hand, was recently left exasperated after a trip to the shops by the sheer quantity of pink clothes only on offer in the girls’ department.

Gender equality - barbie

Going GENDER FREE to achieve gender equality

So when an advert for an upcoming two-parter on BBC2 titled No More Boys and Girls Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?, I tuned in with interest. The programme asks the question ‘Is the way we treat boys and girls the real reason we haven’t achieved gender equality?’. I was intrigued to see what Dr Javid Abdelmoneim discovered when he implemented some changes in the way in which a group of year three girls and boys were treated in the classroom. As I watched it, it evoked feelings of both frustration and hope. Frustration at the lack of confidence the girls, in particular, had in their abilities. It was also sad to discover that many of the boys didn’t have the same ability as the girls, to express and verbalize their own emotions. However, I was left with a positive, hopeful feeling as the girls realised their full capabilities through some of Dr Javid’s classroom interventions.

GENDER STEREOTYPING

Gender equality - Lego

Something that the programme highlighted was the difference between the girls and boys ability with regards to spatial awareness. The ability to think spatially, change images in your head and see links between them, is a vital skill needed in jobs such as engineering and design as well as being an architect and a surgeon. The programme suggested that playing with Lego and some computer games can improve a child’s spatial awareness. Often this type of play is encouraged for boys, but there is no reason why girls also wouldn’t enjoy this type of play. I for one have now downloaded Tetris for both my daughter and my son!

If this two-part documentary is something you think you might be interested in watching, then you can catch the first episode on BBC iPlayer. The second episode airs on Wednesday 23rd August 2017.

What do you buy a child to help them practice their spatial awareness skills:

Improve your child's spatial awareness skills

These toys and games may interest you if you have school age children, of either gender, who would benefit from practising their spatial awareness skills:

Gigamic Katamino Gender Equality - Classic Puzzle and Game

Gigamic Katamino Classic Puzzle and Game – £24.80 from amazon

Q.Bitz Gender Equality

MindWare Q-bitz Board Game – £23.50 from Amazon

Marbel run + spacial awareness

Galt Toys Super Marble Run – £18.00 from Amazon