No pink or blue here. Ever notice the lack of concern young boys and girls have with the gender of a friend? The friendship tends to start with the seed of shared interest, sprouts with the care of time, and blooms as the two comrades engage in adventure and play together. Typically, any thought to gender difference passes as the relationship develops and flourishes around activity. A Fort Magic fort kit provides just the right type and amount of interest and adventure to engage the minds of boys and girls. And, paired together, the imaginations of both genders create what is unheard of on their own. Yes, there may be differences between males and females, but these varied skills make for great innovation when they come together.
In fact, research reveals that activities that celebrate differences and appreciate similarities promote a child’s self-worth, help children to value peers, and develop significant and meaningful relationships among the participants. Working in groups of difference, as in the case of gender, breeds improved attitudes toward and relationships with the opposite sex. This positive interaction teaches girls and boys to value one another, a principle in achieving equality. Fort building fosters valuable and lifelong social skills between the sexes. In other words, forts offer boys and girls the opportunity to grow skills in teamwork, negotiation, and cooperation. Malissa Atkins Wardy, the author of “Redefining Girly,” says, “Opportunities for boys and girls to see each other as equals and good friend material are so important.”
Let’s explore a few ideas on how parents can foster these social skills between the genders with fort building. Relationships thrive when a plan hatches and the birth of a mission leads to successful completion. Working together on any project illustrates to the participants how differing skills meld for the good of the whole. Fort building offers just such a project. The lines between boy and girl blur as children take on the challenge of imagining, designing and creating a fort. Approaching the pile of Fort Magic sticks, connectors and clips together boosts their imaginations. A castle, a rocket ship or an art studio becomes the focus of the endeavor, not gender.
Keep in mind that gender (or any other kind of) exclusion hurts. Children feel rejected, and stereotypes perpetuate. Encourage boys to let girls help build a castle. Spur young girls into allowing boys to enjoy snacks in the tea room fort. And, create an atmosphere where both boys and girls are welcome to engage in active sport, creative arts, STEM skill building and more. Differences include our difference of opinion. And, there are sure to be disagreements in the fort-building process. The vision of one child does not match the other. A solution to a collapsing design sees two varying fixes. One child loves orange, while the other prefers blue. Giving boys and girls space to work through their challenges with one another teaches them the art of negotiation across genders.
Fort building encourages cooperation as boys and girls mesh ideas and skills to bring their imagined ideas to fruition. Creating sports- or Olympic-themed forts opens doors to friendly competition. Mixed gender team games or individual sports guard against pitting genders against one another. For instance, obstacle courses and variations on a traditional game of tag work well in for these purposes. Gender stereotypes also see a resolution in fort building. A store or hospital fort allows children to mix and match roles. Encouraging children to take turns as the shop owner or cashier, doctor or nurse, gives boys and girls the freedom to explore career roles that match their personality traits instead of their gender.
A puppet stage fort offers role exploration as well. Boys and girls alike enjoy acting out scenarios with marionettes or sock puppets. Parents can encourage nontraditional and traditional gender roles. For example, a stay-at-home dad and a female judge could be the heads of household in the play. Parents, remember: The goal is not to steer children to the nontraditional or traditional roles, but to open opportunities where boys and girls are free to explore the options.
The skills of teamwork, negotiation, and cooperation prove valuable in the adult world. Without calling attention to gender, parents can intentionally pair young boys and girls together on fort building projects to develop these skills. Children able to navigate gender roles in healthy ways bode well for the future of our homes, workforce, and social interactions. Fort building provides the foundation for these skills to flourish throughout childhood. Gone are the days of dolls for girls and trucks for boys. Forts offer both genders a chance to build, run hard and read quietly. A fortress against the stresses and expectations of culture, as well as gender, stereotypes, kids can be anything they want in the confines of a fort. And, this helps them figure out exactly who they are.
What are your thoughts on toys that bride the gender gap? We’d love to hear your comments below! 🙂
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