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Have you ever heard someone telling a child that something ‘is a bit girly’ or that ‘boys don’t cry?’

New parenting resource Level Playground aims to level the playing field by supporting parents and caregivers in breaking down gender stereotypes.

Level Playground Project Coordinator Loren Imbrogno said even the most basic gender stereotypes could have long-term ramifications.

“Gender stereotyping can start from birth, and continues through the lifespan.

“Expectations are then placed on boys and girls based on their gender. It can happen through gift giving, through the environment in which they grow and through the stories that they are told,” she said.

“Often these expectations shape children’s views of who they can be and who they can’t be which unfortunately limits their abilities.

“For example, if you never thought to buy your son a doll, or encourage your daughter to play cricket, it would limit what opportunities they thought were available to them.

“Rigid gender stereotyping also promotes inequity between the sexes and can set young people up to expect and accept power imbalances within relationships later in life.”

The Level Playground website, www.levelplayground.org.au, provides practical activities that parents, carers and early childhood educators can participate in with their children, particularly in relation to speech, play and education, aiming to help create a world for their children without the limitations of socially and culturally constructed gender roles and norms.

The team behind Level Playground at Eastern Domestic Violence Service spent a year collating resources for the website.

“It’s too often that we hear comments like ‘don’t cry like a girl’ or ‘footy is for boys, it’s too rough and dangerous for girls,” Ms Imbrogno said.

“They seem harmless at the time but they are limiting children to be who they want to be.

“There is nothing wrong with a girl wanting play with dolls but on the flip side there should be anything wrong with a boy wanting to play with dolls.

Ms Imbrogno said parents could make simple changes to challenge gender stereotypes.

“Model positive gender equality to your children i.e. share chores, present your children with a variety of colours, toys and presents – we have awesome gift giving guides on the website!

“Read a variety of books to your children that provide broader ideas about who girls, boys, women, men and people who identify as diverse genders can be, what they can be interested in and achieve – we have an amazing range of booklists on the website too!

“Notice the language that you use in your everyday interactions with your children, like commenting on the appearance of girls and commenting on the actions and abilities of boys.”

Fore more practical tips and resources, visit www.levelplayground.org.au, or look for Level Playground on facebook and Instagram.

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