Boys in Early Childhood Education

In a recent seminar I received some light bulb moments about the meanings and reasons of boys needs and behaviours in ECE.   The question was posed that although girls and boys are very similar with research showing boys just as nurturing as girls -“Are your team ready to meet the needs of boys?

Anecdotal evidence from university graduate statistics summised that a “Lack of male role models is part of why males failing in tertiary education”

Boys play differs from girls generally in that it can be more technical, requiring more rules, maps and structure which leads to activities like collecting, organising and pretend play with defined roles and characters.

The idea that learning is socioculturally learnt is set against the belief that play is innate including gun and superhero play which stemming from 1000’s of years of practising ancient survival skills. Boys need to be active and active play is where children process ideas and learn. “Let children think (play)”, using sport as a surrogate for hunting. Gun or hero play (or sport) = hunting play which helps boys to express emotions and learn to self regulate. Without this boys can struggle to develop empathy.

Our speaker was keen to share the idea that BOYS ARE HARD WIRED TO HIT/KILL (win)
A.K.A throw, kick or score goals which harks back to the actions of our ancient ancestors.

In summary Imaginary play that involves, challenges allows problem solving, and some sort of score or win that marked the end of the hunt helps to channel boy play – let them be boys by role modelling and providing safe and engaging challenges or at least the space and resources to extend their imaginations. Failure to recognise boys needs leads to dangerous risk taking and disruptive behaviours or less opportunities for them to process learning.


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