by Marsha Rakestraw

“He can’t have a doll, he’s a boy!”

“Girls can’t be firemen!”

“You’re not a boy. You have long hair!”

Our attitudes about gender develop very early.

Studies show that by age two children begin to notice physical differences; by age three they have developed ideas about behaviors, activities, and other characteristics that they believe go with a particular gender.

As the authors of the book Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves note, “…When children absorb messages that limit their exploration and play, neither boys nor girls are able to prepare fully for the intellectual and emotional realities and demands of life.”

Exploring gender identity, gender roles, stereotypes, and healthy views of gender and self can begin early.

Here are three activities for younger students, created by kindergarten teacher Ashley Miller, to help. Download:

1. Boys Like, Girls Like, Kids Like
This activity helps younger children think critically about gender roles, gender bias, stereotypes, and how diverse and alike we can be.
Recommended for: Grades Pre-K – 2.
Time: 30+ minutes

2. Selling “Boy” and “Girl”
Students use toy catalogs to explore gender stereotypes and consider non-traditional gender roles.
Recommended for: Grades Pre-K-4.
Time: 45-60 minutes

3. When I Grow Up
Help students think critically about gender stereotyping in jobs and careers and consider non-traditional gender roles.
Recommended for: Grades Pre-K-3.
Time: 30-45 minutes


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