As an Early Years Professional, woman, and mother, I like to think I have always been somewhat aware of the need to try and break stereotypes of ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toys.

‘Boys’ toys typically centre around scientific and mathematical concepts and spatial reasoning, as well as gross motor skills. Those designed for ‘girls’ play, will often be created to foster a sense of communication, narrative, creativity and imagination with themes of ‘beautiful’ and ‘cute’ underpinning them.

As a society there have been many positive moves to erode such notions, including legal obligations as well as a desire through quality practice. Whilst all Early Years’ settings are guided by the Early Years Foundation Stage to offer a range of experiences for all students. All too often unconscious bias impacts provision including the influence of children’s worldly experiences thus far.

I often see posts on social media of parents proudly sharing their photos of their sons caring for a Baby Doll or dressed in an Elsa dress, which is wonderful if the intent is to bolster and embrace their personal choices and preferences in play. However, I see fewer such posts boasting of the girls who spent forever creating a train track to circumnavigate the living room or a morning pretending to fend off a dragon.

As a parent of both a boy and a girl I can say I have sought not to label their play (I cannot promise I have always succeeded!). Both children love a tea party with their teddies as much as they love LEGO, from bug hunts (and sometimes dissection of them)  to the chance to be a Mermaid in the bathtub. Their collaborative creative projects can often run into hours worth of play!

Ultimately, we should all endeavour to achieve a perspective that we do not need to neutralise play but we do need to equalise opportunities, if they like it let them play with it! Personality is so crucially nurtured and developed through positive play experiences. Our sense of self is developed through interactions in play and it is therefore imperative that all play, with any toy is valued!

As educators we strive to counter these preconceptions and I feel privileged to work in a setting that has the opportunity to truly challenge what it means to play ‘like a girl’. Single sex education has a fantastic perspective and influential power to liberate children in their play. The children in our setting have access to a wide range of resources and without anyone dominating the playscape in many areas, our pupils are motivated to explore and learn. They are not inhibited to strive and succeed in subjects which are currently male heavy in the wider world.

It is crucial that the journey towards equality continues to move forward. This should permeate the lives of young women as they should feel empowered in their lives; understanding that there are no limits to what they can achieve, the roles they can fulfil and the life they can lead, regardless of their gender and the games they ‘should’ play.