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Dressing Up


fay
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I'm not sure this is a problem yet but I'm worried it may become one and I'd like to know other people's views.

There is a little boy in nursery who has started dressing up in long dresses. He likes the embroidery and the feel of the material and enjoys dancing in them to make the skirts swirl. This is beginning to cause some problems.

- The girls are non too pleased at having another person to share the pretty dresses with: one they feel should not be wearing them any way

- A few of the boys have passed unpleasant comments.

- some mums have exchanged looks

- I think the boys father would be up set if he saw him in a dress, we already have problems beacause he does not want the child to be left handed.

I have no worries about talking to the children and we do address any problems as they arise but discussing the matter with his father is altogether different. Sometimes it seems much easier to take the dresses away for cleaning for a few weeks.

Any thoughts or ideas welcome!

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Hmm. Well we've had to my knowledge at least two boys who enjoyed dressing up in this way (one used to arrive very confidently at the nursery dressed up in a lacy fairy dress!).

 

Both of them happy and well adjusted at the time, and still so after a couple of years at mainstream school - although somewhere along the way they seem to have lost the desire to dress up! :)

 

I'd say tentatively (tentatively only because I'm not that experienced in this area and looking forward to hearing other people's responses!) that the best thing to do is to treat it as a perfectly normal part of the nursery. Making any sort of a fuss about it is the only thing that might be likely to have a long term impact...

 

Of course, dealing with the reaction of the parents (both the boys' and the other childrens') is a completely different kettle of fish! :o

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Hi Fay,

Please don't take the dresses away for washing :o - as you state he is just "a little boy"

He enjoys the opportunity to express himself in dance, to explore the texture and swirl of the material, there is no other way to do this, other than wear the dress.

 

The girls can be taught valuable lessons about sharing with all their friends and about discrimination and teasing.

 

Adults have a responsibility not to portray negative messages of stereotypes, and also to enable every child an opportunity to express their freedom of choice. This is how self esteem and self identity is fostered.

 

As for the father this is difficult but can be handled sensitively if a "big issue" isn't made out of it by other adults.

All children "cross dress" all they are doing is exploring "roles". In my preschool today Ana was a racing driver in full costume and Ryan wore the ballet outfit just to see if it would fit, to them it is just part of their play.

 

Good luck, I hope his fun isn't affected by the adults "adult interpretation of what dressing-up in a dress means to them". Discuss with your staff that you are going to comply fully with your equal opportunities policy ( or why have one) and support the father, other adults and children in accepting this little boys choices.

 

Peggy

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I think Steve has hit the nail on the head when he said,

 

'Making any sort of a fuss about it is the only thing that might be likely to have a long term impact...'

 

We had a little boy who acted in a very similar way, he loved anything 'floaty' or silky/embroidered/pretty and included sparkly necklaces and hair clips etc, regularly tottered around pre-school carrying the prettiest handbag. Mum had the sense not to read anything into this, he arrived one day with nail varnish in a lovely shade of pink.

He has been in mainstream school for over two years now and is very much one of the boys and any interest in pretty things and nailvarnish has long gone!

 

Maybe others disagree but I really think at the tender age, pre-schoolers are experimenting and experiencing a huge range of activites and if boys prefer what we pre-determine to be femine things I don't see it as a problem.

 

He is only dressing up and is that so different to men who go to fancy dress parties dressed as females?? just a thought :D

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I agree that it shouldn't be made a 'thing' of, otherwise we, as practitioners are feeding in to the whole prejudice thing and pandering to the parents own insecurities. I too have seen little boys at nursery who enjoy 'dressing' up in dresses - and why shouldn't they? I should throw in a few pretty items of jewellery if I were you and let him enjoy, what is probably just an experimental phase.

 

Somebody (wiser than myself) once told me (I have no experience of this myself), that in putting a stop to such actions you merely suppress the desire: surely it's better that he dresses up in the secure environment of the nursery or reception class than expressing himself once he's reached year 3 when it would stand out even more!

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I also have a child who came to reception who thought of himself as a girl- dressed up, has the barbie magazine and a hord or barbie type dolls.

 

As the year has progressed he sees himself as aboy but still likes his dolls and dressing up.... we have had to address the children's attitudes to this... but as you all say it is hopefully just a phase and he will grow out of it.

 

L

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Nothing different to add! I wouldnt be alarmed by this as it seems to be a normal investigatory experience for children of this age. Who knows you may have a budding character actor? I think sometimes its part of the learning who we are process to be someone else and of course boys dont have the same opportunities as girls for dressing in a variety of clothes.

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Can't really add anything else-I fully agree with what has already been said. We once had two boys, close family friends, who ran in every morning and dressed up in long dresses and had a handbag each-the same ones every time. Apparently they did the same while at nursery. They are now strapping 18 year olds with girlfriends.

It is hard to break down those stereotypes that some adults have. We can only hope that by plugging away with our children that we can bring them up to be more understanding and accepting of what others do.

Linda

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We include this type of thing in the induction talk new parents are given. That all children are given the opportunities to take part in all activities. Would it be such an issue if it was a girl wanting to wear the 'boys' dressing up clothes? I bet it wouldnt. As to dad, I'd wait until he says something, and then expalin how creative his son is and how much he enjoys investigating and using his senses. Put a positive spin on it. My own son loved carrying a piece of lace around with him and HAD to have a barbi. He now plays hooker for his rugby team. :D

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For what it's worth i agree with everyone else. Would we after all stop a little girl dressing up as Bob the builder or any other stereotypical male character? No I don't think so. Let him enjoy it while he can.

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Thanks for your comments they support my thoughts. Personally I have no problems with this little boy dressing up, I have really enjoyed finding a great creative talent that doesn't show when he's playing power rangers. We have discussed the relative merits of various clothes and he has improvised and made his own clothes when it wasn't his turn to wear what he wanted.

With other staff and parents things are a little coloured by having a couple of families who are trying to cope with members who are transvestite and transgendered. So (although I believe this is quite different) it is a difficult area for us to discuss. Also, as the boys father already questions my ability to teach and care for his son properly because I will not stop him using his "unclean" left hand, I really want to be certain of my arguements should the need arise to use them.

So thanks again

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You might be interested in this paper.

 

If you are anxious have you considered more"gender neutral" dressing up things ; lengths of different fabrics, belts, hats, gloves etc, or asian/african dress shapes like salwar kameez or wraps, things that any child could wear and maybe invent their own costumes from? coloured cloth can be a skirt or a cape or a dragons wings......................................

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Thanks for the link catma and yes having had a good sort out almost all the dressing up is "gender neutral". It is only the long dresses and a couple of super hero outfits that were donated that aren't. But it's the dresses the children and the mums tend to choose first. Perhaps it is time for a wash and change round of all costumes and a little more adult imput into "clothes designing and making"

 

Away from dresses we had a huge breakthough today, we have a little boy with social and communication problems, He is very particular about what he wears and won't wear spare clothes if he is cold or wet. But today he decided he wanted to wear the polar bear costume and for the first time "asked" for help to put it on. He then joined up with a dragon and spent several minutes "scaring' everyone which led to a very noisy session but a day ro remember.

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