The conversation about the extent to which we gender our little ones in the UK, is coming to the foreground of society, with programmes such as No More Boys and Girls airing on the BBC, and John Lewis’ launch of non-gendered clothing that is not just grey, white or yellow (florals for boys, dragons for girls!).
Here at Gymboree Play and Music we try to put this in to practice every day, and I’d say this is possible through our focus on choice. Our Gymboree Play and Music colours have always used rainbow colours. From our parachutes to our props, to our products, and even our Mascot Gymbo, the rainbow colours offer little ones the choice of colour they would like to interact with. We try to ask open questions, for example, with our older levels we may ask ‘which colour would you like to stand on, on our parachute?’, to let little ones choose the colour they would prefer… and believe me this can change from week to week. We also understand that with our younger ones, those big bright colours are fantastic ways to stimulate your little ones engagement in activities whether a blue maraca, green wavy slide, yellow finger puppet or pink ball!
I believe the same is true of our equipment. We offer little ones the choice of engaging with our equipment in lots of different ways, whether they are boys or girls. Some little girls love speeding down a slide, some prefer a more gentle approach. Some little boys love to gently help themselves down our foam steps, and some will race down them. There is no right or wrong way, and we certainly welcome and encourage that physical and cognitive exploration as they interact with, try out and master our equipment.
There are lots of things we can do to encourage this exploration, whether it’s offering a little boy a pink ball, or not stopping our little girls as they ask to go fast down the slides. Offering them choices is not always as simple as asking them questions, particularly within early years. It can be about putting all those colours and toys out for them to choose, and about suggesting they try doing an activity in another way as well. The choice comes in being offered variety.
For many, this might seem obvious, but I think it is important to share. I still hear conversations about baby boys being faster, and the baby girls being cleverer when out walking in the street. Working at Gymboree and interacting with little ones from all walks of life, I know that every little one no matter what gender, culture, social grouping, or age (newborn or 5!), is simply exploring world, and learning as they go. They like blues, and they like pinks, and they like racing and they like taking their time.