You Ask Dr. McCune Education Begins with Play… for Boys &
Lorraine McCune, Ed.D.
trip to some of the showrooms at the recent Toy Fair confirmed
the broad divide between schools and toys and between toys for
girls and toys for boys. A visit to Toys-R-Us, or the boutique
toy store in midtown will tell you the same thing.
Educational toys are all the rage these days, and some of them
are great! GC Toys and Leap Frog show terrific creativity in developing
toys that teach. Handwriting recognition technology allows a tech-toy
to assist with learning to print the alphabet. Many toys assist
with math facts and spelling. A doll or bear can now supplement
parents’ reading to kids by doing the reading for them. All of
this is fun and it all contributes to learning. But why do we
not see these toys in classrooms for young children… and why do
we not see links with curriculum? Perhaps educators need to take
the lead in inducing the toy industry to begin designing more
directly for the classroom and in making more direct curricular
links between schools and toys.
Regarding toys for boy and girls… no surprise… they exist in different
marketing worlds and different preschool play areas! As educators
wishing for the best development for all of our children it is
important to cross these lines and encourage toy companies and
parents to do so as well. In my research with one- and two-year-olds
I learned that all children, as they begin to represent their
world in play, enjoy nurturing a doll or stuffed animal. Children
with siblings, even at 18 months, carefully play out the caregiving
rituals they witness. When boys and girls play together in small
groups they include the traditions of both kinds of sex-typed
activities. After school the other day I found two five-year-old
girls rivaling one another with how far their paper airplanes
fly, and running powerfully after them. Later one of these girls
used Lego blocks to build a car that rolled and pulled a trailer.
Her play set was in traditional bright colors (not pastel designed
for girls and ruling out boys!) but included small figures and
bits to make a garden… opportunities she enjoyed.
Some of the educational divide that we see between the sexes begins
in the nursery. Evidence of a biological basis for sex-typed play
is slim, while parental and school pressure is often all too obvious.
Are we afraid girls won’t be feminine, boys won’t be strong? Toys
that children use to build structures, vehicles or creatures,
especially those that do something afterward, assist in perceptual,
logical, and mathematical development. Toys that encourage pretend
bring out the latent story-teller and encourage children’s emotional
processing of their daily lives. Boys and girls all need both
of these skills. If we can slow down sex-typing our toys and start
encouraging boys and girls to play together in the early school
years everyone will have greater opportunities and more fun!#
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