December 29, 2007

Confident, Capable and Creative Boys

A British government report for nurseries and playgroups recommends that staff resist their 'natural instinct' to stop boys from using pretend weapons like guns and light sabers. They write that fantasy play involving superheroes and weapons 'allows healthy and safe risk-taking and can also make learning more appealing'.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families' report, entitled 'Confident, Capable and Creative: Supporting Boys' Achievements', describes how some staff members find boys' play more difficult to understand and value than girls' play, mainly because boys choose activities with more action, often involving special powers and weapons.

Research by Penny Holland, an early-childhood specialist at London Metropolitan University, has concluded that boys should be allowed to play gun games. Holland found that boys became dispirited and withdrawn when they were told such play-fighting is wrong.

The report says, Creating situations so that boys' interests in these forms of play can be fostered through healthy and safe risk-taking will enhance every aspect of their learning and development.

National studies suggest... that boys are achieving less well than girls across all areas of learning and that more girls are working securely within the early learning goals than boys.

Boys are not less able than girls, so perhaps we do need to look at our own attitudes, if we are to better understand why they are making less progress... The quality of our relationships with them, and the values we hold will impact on boys’ ability to engage confidently in the learning process. Are we planning experiences for boys that build on their interests and value their strengths as active learners and problem solvers, or are we simply expecting them to be compliant, passive recipients of new skills and knowledge? Are we utilising boys’ fascinations and learning preferences as starting points for our planning?


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