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Pink is for girls

James is at nursery school in a class of similar age children. James wants to wear a pink dress. A girl on work placement tries to discourage him but he puts it on any way. The teacher encourages him by becoming involved in the dressing up game. Seeing James do a few dance steps she suggests a dancing session for the whole group.

Good for looking at

  • Pretend play
  • Role play
  • Effective adult support
  • Gender
  • Dressing up
  • Physical development


  • What is James learning from his play?
  • Which development areas, characteristics of learning are evident?
  • How do the adults support James’s learning?
  • What is valuable about the environment and materials provided?


What are your thoughts about:

  • What areas of learning and development were covered during James’s play?
  • The role of the adults in this interaction – how did they support James?
  • The effectiveness of the environment and materials for supporting his play?

Further reflection

“Children inhabit a social world that is organised, to a large degree, according to gender. The expectations and responses of significant adults exert a subtle but powerful pressure on boys and girls to behave in sex-appropriate ways. It is likely, and perhaps inevitable, that children will explore gender boundaries and identify in socio-dramatic play as they seek to come to terms with who they are as individuals. Their play will render valuable information and offer insights to educators who wish to understand children better in order to enrich their development and to meet their needs as individuals within a social context.”

Hislam, 2005

  • What you think about the reaction of the two adults in the sequence?
  • How might you have reacted to James in this situation?
  • Why is the home corner equally important for both boys and girls?


  • How could you develop James’s interests further?
  • Could you talk to his parents about his interests?
  • Could you involve his family and encourage his sister to come in and dance?

What next:

  • Do you need to make changes to your home corner to make it inviting to all children, regardless of sex or gender?
  • Could you involve the children themselves in discussions about organising the area?
  • How versatile is the environment and the materials? Can children make up their own mind about what they want it to be?


Nursery World article written by Anne O'Connor - Pretty in Pink Download