PSED: When I grow up

Being aware of how girls and boys are accessing your resources and spaces can help to combat any gender bias. Judith Harries suggests ideas to stimulate children's use of all the opportunities that are available in the setting.

Both girls and boys will have fun playing in the home corner.
Both girls and boys will have fun playing in the home corner.

Playing and exploring

  • Children investigate different job roles
  • They choose their favourite colour and have a go at making a colour pie chart
  • They invent and dress up as new characters in their role-play

Girls like science

There are lots of picture books that seek to encourage girls in particular to explore a range of occupational roles. Read Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen or Ada Twist, Scientist; Iggy Peck, Architect; and Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty.

Pink is for Boys (And girls)

Before reading this book invite children to choose their favourite colour. Ask them to sit in a circle in their favourite colour groups, place coloured cards in front of each child, and draw a colour wheel or pie chart to record the results. Read this book by Robb Pearlman which is an introduction to colours but with a clever reminder that all the colours are for boys and girls, or girls and boys! Help children to join in the repeated refrains. Do any of the children want to change their favourite colour after hearing the story?

Traditional tales

Young children might enjoy a new take on traditional tales. Read some Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl, one of the first authors to have a go at rewriting stories which reverse historical gender bias. Enjoy the exploits of feisty Miss Riding Hood who finishes off the wolf in the story with a pistol she keeps in her knickers!

Some feminist Princesses

These two hilarious books, Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole and The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp, take a look at the traditional princess in fairy stories and unravel some princess myths by introducing a feminist angle. In This is not a Fairy Tale by Will Mabbitt, Sophie wants the princess to be the heroine coming to the rescue with a ferocious, fighting transformer. Talk about some new princess characters that the children can use in their pretend or role-play.

Dressing up dreams

Set up the corner with a rich mixture of costumes and clothes for children to dress up in during free play. Invite children to try a costume or character that they haven't worn before just to see how it feels. Let the boys wear dresses and tiaras, if they want to, and encourage girls to dress up as fire fighters or astronauts. Take photos of children wearing a variety of dressing up outfits and display.

Useful resources

  • Paper, coloured pens; colour cards, circle template, materials for STEM corner, home corner items, dressing up clothes

Active learning

  • Children discuss what they might like to do when they grow up
  • They understand that toys should not be limited to girls or boys
  • They concentrate on writing an alternative ending to a well-known story

When I grow up…

Sit in a circle and invite children to talk about what they would like to do when they grow up. Encourage them to think about jobs and roles without a gender bias. Annie can be an architect, Tom can be a nurse, and Shani can drive trucks. Read When I grow up by Tim Minchin, inspired by his song for the musical ‘Matilda’. It looks at some of the ideas children have about the freedoms of being a grown up rather than explicit jobs and roles.

Girls can do Anything

Read Girls can do Anything by Caryl Hart. Are there any surprises in this book? Why do the girls think this book has been written? How do the boys feel about this book?

Gender stereotypes

This series of board books by Jessica Spanyol, All about Clive and All about Rosa, includes titles such as Clive and his babies, Rosa loves cars, and Clive is a Nurse and directly challenges gender stereotypes involved in children's play. Clive enjoys playing with dolls while Rosa loves to play with cars, dinosaurs and balls.

What happened next?

Many fairy stories end with the immortal phrase ‘And they all lived happily ever after’.

What if they didn't? Read The Frog Prince continued by Jon Scieszka in which the prince and princess are really not getting on too well…. Select another well-known story or picture book and see if children can devise an alternative ending – ‘what happened next?’ Challenge them to think of their own ending and then talk to them about why they chose it.

Creating and thinking critically

  • Children create new versions of traditional tales
  • They paint a portrait of a new character
  • Girls and boys enjoy activities in both the STEM and home corner

Choose a favourite traditional tale and help the child to swap characters around and create a new story. What would happen if Jill climbed the beanstalk? Or if Cinderella refused to marry the prince? And if Goldilocks was called George and moved in with the three bears to keep house? Act out some of the new stories. Help children to scribe them and create a collection of ‘Story Surprises’.

Character portraits

Challenge children to draw or paint portraits of some new fairy story characters. What do they think Princess Transformer or Prince Pointy-toes might look like?

STEM corner

Set up a STEM corner, with activities to develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Check out activities and ideas for the EYFS published online for British Science week (March 6 – 15 March 2020) at Provide lots of junk materials, construction toys and experiment ideas and challenge children to work in groups together to make, create, experiment and explore. It may help encourage girls to have a go at these activities if you establish a ‘girls only’ session!

Time at home

Set up the home corner and encourage girls and boys to play there, taking turns to role-play cooking, cleaning and caring for babies.

EYFS Early Learning Goals

Making a pie chart to show favourite colours will involve children in mathematical problem solving and develop understanding of numbers and the concept of more and less (M). Dressing up in different outfits will develop children's skills in ‘dressing’ which is part of the goal for Physical development. They can also ‘handle equipment and tools effectively’ in the STEM corner (PD) and talk about ‘similarities and differences in relation to objects and materials’ (UTW).

Key learning points

  • Children are encouraged to show sensitivity to each other's needs and feelings
  • Girls and boys to try new activities
  • Children develop awareness of their own and others' behaviour

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