Gender stereotyping in the early years


Professor Cathy Nutbrown of the University of Sheffield discusses issues of gender stereotyping in early childhood settings…


Teach Nursery: Internet



Cathy Nutbrown is Director of Studies in Early Childhood Education at the School of Education, University of Sheffield. Further discussion of the issues
of ‘inclusion’ can be found in Cathy’s book, Key Concepts in Early Childhood Education and Care (2nd edn), published by Sage. Visit http://www.uk.sagepub.com/books/Book234324


“The Early Years Foundation Stage makes it
clear that all children should have a wide
range of opportunities to play and learn. It
is important to challenge stereotypes early
to give children a breadth of learning


As Glenda MacNaughton
(1999, p81) notes, children’s pretend play is
rich in information about how they
understand gender relations


Challenging limiting stereotypes in early
years settings means:
■ focusing on gender issues in
practitioners’ initial and post qualifying
■ recruiting men and women to work in
■ understanding the influence of
families on children’s constructions of
■ observing how children demonstrate
what they know about men and women
– and girls and boys – in their gendered
■ remaining aware of the potentially
limiting impact of gendered play on


Girls may need support to extend
beyond the home play and to take risks
outdoors, and boys may need help to
negotiate their way ‘past the ironing board’ to
enjoy domestic play



Connolly, P Boys and Schooling in the early years (RoutledgeFalmer, 2004)
■Gussin Paley, V Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner (The University of
Chicago Press, 1984)
■ MacNaughton, G Even pink tents have glass ceilings: crossing the gender boundaries in
pretend play in Dau, E and Jones, E. Child’s Play: Revisiting Play in early Childhood
Settings (MacLennan and Petty Pty Ltd, 1999
■ MacNaughton, G Rethinking Gender in Early Childhood Education (Sage, 2000)
■ Nutbrown, C and Clough, P Citizenship and Inclusion in the Early Years: Understanding
and Responding to Children’s Perspectives on “Belonging” (International Journal of Early
Years Education 17, 2009)
■ Tarullo, L B Windows on Social Worlds: Gender Differences in Children’s Play Narratives
in Children’s Play Narratives in Slade, A and Wolf, P D Children at play: clinical and
developmental approaches to meaning and representation (Oxford University Press, 1994)


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