Overheard in my classroom:
“No, it’s ok, girls can play with boy toys”
Well. Stop laughing at the innuendo, that’s not what she meant. We are dealing with 3-year-olds here, sometimes things are said that adults, or even teenagers, might take another way. Moving on.
Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). “No, it’s ok.” What did we learn from this phrase? Well, you should know that this was an adult speaking to a child. So, we can infer that the child being spoken to did or said something to correct someone, or tattled on someone, for doing something that this child perceived as “not ok”. Teacher says, “no, it’s ok.” Moving on.
“Girls can play with boy toys.” I should clarify that in this context “boy toys” refer to those toys intended for and marketed toward young male humans. Just about anybody in my class of 3-year-olds can look through a toy store catalog and indicate to you the sections of “boy toys” and “girl toys”. They have been helped by the marketing and advertising executives who have made the decision to code the boy pages with bold blues, reds and greens, while the girl pages are flooded with pinks and purples. “Boy toys” tend to include cars, trains, action figures, tools, and almost anything you build yourself. “Girl toys” tend to include dolls, princess stuff, make-up sets, kitchen sets, dress-up sets, and almost anything considered artistic (drawing, painting, singing, clay, beads, etc). So. Evidently, some girl child was trying to play with something in the “boy toys” category, most likely cars, and another child tried to tell her not to, or tattled to the teacher that she was doing so.
Upon hearing this statement, I cringed. There was just so much happening that was problematic. First, that a child would correct another child for their choice of toys. Second, that there are categories of “girl toys” and “boy toys” to begin with. Third, that the correction was that yes, in fact, girls can play with boy toys, rather than to point out that toys are for anyone and everyone. Or that anyone can play with any toys they want to play with.
My students are 3 and 4 years old. And they are already policing each other’s gender performances. So what if this little boy likes pink and that one likes high heels and all my boys like to play dolls every once in a while? So what if that girl wants to play cars? How do I get this through to them? How do I get it through to my co-workers? How do I get it through to my administrators? And WHY does it seem like I am the only one who cares??