Hudson Valley Parent

HVP September 2017

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28 Hudson Valley Parent n September 2017 By ROXANNE FERBER W hen children are young, there are options for activities that mix boys and girls. There is rarely a division of how they participate. Gymnastics classes, swim classes and music classes all offer sessions inclusive of gender. But as children get older there becomes a disparaging amount of stereotypes that come along with participating in their favorite activities. For example, boys may fall away from dance classes, or girls may be less inclined to stick with male dominated sports. The expectations for who fits where shifts as our children grow up. Pressure from peers Lyndsey Dussling of Red Hook witnessed this first hand when her son Ailyn, age 5, was excited to take dance lessons. She says, "He did enjoy the classes, but before class he always said he didn't want to go because it's for girls. After each class we talked about his enjoyment so the next time he complained we could remind him of that conversa- tion and reinforce after class that he actually enjoyed it." After a full season he declined to continue because he felt sure dance was only for girls. "We require him to commit to a season and not quit in the middle. That's a rule across the board." Danielle Brown of Kingston was also disappointed when her daughter came home from preschool and denounced her favorite superhero. She says, "My daughter used to love Spiderman. We had Spiderman clothes, toys, lamps, everything under the sun. I even sewed her a Spiderman skirt and matching bow for the first day of school. Once a few days of preschool had passed she was no longer interested because of kids at school telling her it's a boy's thing." Benefits of banishing stereotypes Participating in dance, movement and even music lessons has been connected with higher test scores by experts. Physical activity is good for everyone and is essential for proper development. Parenting experts further espouse that participation in a variety of activities helps kids develop a sense of autonomy, self-confidence, and improve academ- ics and time management skills. If youths benefit from participating in a variety of activities, why do kids suddenly pigeonhole their favorite things by gender? Is our culture to blame? Gender stereotyping begins at home, according to the online edition of the Encyclopedia of Early JoElle's mom and dad set a good example for all parents. They say if their daughter likes something, then it isn't a "boy sport" it's a "JoElle sport." Break gender expectations in kids' activities

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