Materials for Activity
- A rectangular sheet of mural paper or poster board
- Catalogs and magazines with photos of toys
- Scissors and glue sticks
- Optional: Small toys, and tape
Preparation for Activity
- Cut out pictures of toys. Make sure to cut out pictures of toys marketed specifically to girls and toys marketed to boys as well as "gender neutral" toys. Suggestions: a Slinky(TM), Lego(TM) building toys, Mr. Potato Head(TM), alphabet blocks, jacks, tops, hula hoops, science kits, Light Brights(TM), puzzles, musical instruments. Provide many choices for all participants.
- Lay out the cut-outs on one long table, in no particular order.
- On a sheet of mural paper or poster board, write "Boys" at one end and "Girls" at the other end.
Description of Activity
This activity generates thought and discussion about gender and gender bias through considering images of toys.
Tell participants they will make a continuum with the pictures of toys (and the small toys, if you have some). Ask if anyone knows what a continuum is. Explain that a continuum is a line you can draw to help you compare things on the line to each other.
Invite participants to look over the display of toys. Give them an opportunity to just talk about the toys and discover on their own. Then ask them to arrange the toys in a line, putting the girl toys at one end and the boy toys at the other. Do not say anything about "gender neutral."
Allow the decision-making and discussion to happen naturally. Hopefully, some toys will go undecided and remain in the middle of the table. Once decisions are made and the discussion slows, ask questions like:
- Why do you think these are boy's (girl's) toys? What makes this a girl's (boy's) toy? Color? Shape? What can you do with it?
- Does everyone who is a girl (boy) like this toy?
- (Point to the toys children have left or placed in the middle.) And what about these toys?
Invite children to change where the toys are on the continuum.
Invite volunteers to name three of the toys they like and say why.
Have participants glue/tape the pictures/toys to the poster board, keeping them in the order the group has decided.
Including All Participants
If a child in the group has a visual impairment, your co-leader or a child volunteer can describe photos of toys to the child and discuss the questions together. Even better, gather many toys that can be identified tactilely. Skip the images of toys completely, and have the children make a three-dimensional continuum.