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 Authors: Jodi Putnam with Judith A. Myers-Walls and Dee Love

Tips to Encourage Healthy Gender Development of Boys and Girls

As you care for children, you can help children learn to do many things, whether they are girls or boys. Parents can also do some of the same things to help their children learn about gender. Some parents may be uncomfortable with some of these ideas. They may want you to do some things with boys and other things with girls. You need to respect the parents’ wishes, but you also may be able to make them aware of new approaches. Make sure they know that play in early childhood does not make a child gay or lesbian.  Explain how children learn to understand gender. Explain that non-gendered play simply helps children learn many things and enjoy many activities. Below are some tips to help children learn and help parents teach children different things. You may want to look at some additional tips and information, too.

     • Help each child to have success in many different areas. All children need to be active, creative, and sensitive. Allow
       children to do many things whether they are boys or girls.

     • When watching television or movies with children, talk about what you see. Explain the messages in the programs and
       commercials. Talk about your own beliefs and values.

     • Be a good role model. Do many different things. Explain to the children that gender usually does not matter.

     • Be honest when children ask about similarities and/or differences between boys and girls. Use correct words for body

     • Praise boys and girls equally on the same tasks.

     • Provide opportunities for boys and girls to watch men and women in a variety of roles. For example, give them a chance
       to see female construction workers or male nurses.

     • Encourage children to play with both boys and girls. But be ready for them to say they do not want to do that at some
       ages. Boy-girl friendships may develop later.

     • Provide toys that are not just for a boy or a girl. Let children use their imaginations and create their own toys with
       boxes, art supplies, sheets, etc.

     • Make positive statements about girls and boys. Say nice things about both genders.

     • Ask a child what he/she likes and dislikes first. Do not expect all boys or all girls to like the same things.

     • Think about your choices. Try to interact with boys as much as girls and vice versa. If you are worried, you might want
       to make a chart of the activities you do with each child. You could see if you need to change something.

     • Encourage boys to play dress-up, house, and dolls. Encourage girls to play with trucks,
       blocks, and sports equipment.

     • Children may make comments like, “Girls don’t play with trucks!” You could explain to them that boys and girls can do
       many of the same things.

     • Try the same activities with boys and girls. For example, snuggle and wrestle with both boys and girls.

Go to:
  • Learning activities
            • Resources

For more information, contact Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE at

Please feel free to link to, print off, redistribute, or reprint
  any of these materials as long as the original credits remain intact.

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