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The debate

G.I. Joe or Barbie, football or tea party, chances are when you think of children playing a game you silently add a gender quite often as well. While some parents and children prefer that girls and boys play separately, should they be encouraged to play together so that they grow up to live with each other harmoniously? Gulf News readers debate.

They have to understand from an early age how the other gender behaves.

- Sisina Anish

Comfort zone

“They are girls! I cannot play with them”

After a certain age, children can choose their peers. Then we cannot make a choice for them, but till that happens I wouldn’t force them to play with only boys or girls. In fact, I encourage my children to go out of their comfort zone, especially my son. When going out to play, he often says: “They are girls! I cannot play with them.” I tell him that is not okay and that he needs to know how to play with girls as well. Similarly, I ask my daughter to also go outdoors and play with a mixed group. They have to understand from an early age how the other gender behaves.

Boys play aggressively and enjoy sports like football or they just run around and play catch. Girls on the other hand are more interested in sitting indoors and playing dress up or with cooking sets. But I have noticed that even with my son and daughter, when their friends aren’t around, they play something together like solving puzzles.

As adults, we see many problems that arise because men and women aren’t comfortable interacting with the other person in certain roles. For example, I have noticed that when a woman is in a higher position at work, some men do not take her instructions seriously. That can only be fixed when from a young age they are able to play with each other, in class girls can be project leaders who give instructions to the whole group and both boys and girls follow. Only then will they grow up to treat each other equally.

From Ms Sisina Anish

Senior design engineer living in Dubai

From the age of four years and up, most children will be found playing with same sex peers.

- Dr Amy Bailey

Healthy

Engaging at a young age can remove the ‘fear’ from adult relationships

If you look at a typical playground from the age of four years and up, most children will be found playing with same sex peers. This is a phenomenon that is found around the world and seemingly occurs quite naturally. The reason for this is that boys and girls tend to play in different ways, with boys engaging in more rough or active play whereas girls engage in more imaginative, gentle and nurturing play. However, encouraging and allowing opportunities for children to play with the opposite sex is important. It can provide a healthy model for later adult relationships and allows children to understand gender differences whilst still seeing an individual of the opposite sex as a normal, fun person. This can help remove the ‘fear’ of engaging with the opposite sex that some adolescents and young adults may experience. Encouraging young children to play with the opposite sex also allows them to develop different skills that they might not have the opportunity to do if they are solely in the company of the same sex. For example, boys can encourage girls to take more risks, whereas girls can encourage boys to be more co-operative. This allows them to develop more rounded life skills.

From Dr Amy Bailey

Clinical psychologist working in Dubai

For a child, when they see that they can segregate, that bubble becomes bigger. That bubble becomes a fundamental part of how they learn their social dynamics.

- Mustafa Hasan

Segregation

Don’t put children in a bubble

Well, this is interesting. And, I’m in two minds about it.

I am the father of two wonderful girls and a crazy wife. Should there be any harm put towards them, I can’t even imagine my thinking at that point. But, of course, I am a baba [father] and I know that at some point, my girls will be subjected to something.

When I say ‘something’, my hope is that we are teaching them to be strong enough to say ‘no’, to say, “I am not comfortable”, to say, “I am going to someone else”. I get the #MeToo movement. I completely agree and support issues against the trauma that has been brought up.

We have an agreement that whatever the girls want to do, we will support them. If it is basketball or football – which my oldest has done and was the only girl on the team – we support it. If they want to play with trucks and cars instead of dolls, no problem. But, when you segregate, when you specifically pull children apart, you do something. For adults, it’s like a small bubble that you manifest, which surrounds you and makes you feel better. For a child, when they see that they can segregate, that bubble becomes bigger. That bubble becomes a fundamental part of how they learn their social dynamics.

From Mr Mustafa Hasan

Stay-at-home father living in Dubai

Gulf News asked: Do you think girls and boys should be encouraged to play with one another?

  • Yes 90%
  • No 10%

Gulf News asked: Do you think girls and boys should be encouraged to play with one another?

Social media users debated an incident that took place in the US, where a mother was asked to leave a park because the group was enjoying a ‘girls-only’ time.