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Power and Gender in Preschool Play


Power and Gender in Preschool Play

Debra Jacobs

Moment by moment, three-, four-, and five-year-olds explore issues of power.

How many times has your child refused to do something you asked? Insisted on wearing no coat when the thermometer reads 15º? Ran the other way when you say it’s time to go home? She’s testing the limits of her power.

Many preschoolers also grapple with issues of power through “good guy/bad guy” play. They are experimenting with power from both sides: destructive and constructive. 


The picture above - two little boys playing superheroes - shows a typical preschool-aged scene. The problem? “Good guy/bad guy” play often excludes girls. Even when they participate in the play, they take on male roles.

We want our girls and boys to grow up expecting that everyone can exercise power and - as a matter of course - be included in activities demanding strength and forcefulness.

Today, bring girls into the circle of power. Play a “Good Guy/Bad Guy” game with your chid, but make sure one or both parts are clearly female (no matter your child's gender):

“I’ll be the bad lady and you be the good lady and you try to catch me and put me in jail.”

“I’ll be the bad lady trying to steal the puppies and you be Supergirl and try to catch me and get the puppies back.”

Have fun playing "Good Gals/Bad Gals!" Let me know how it goes!