Wendy House becomes a sexual battleground

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BIG BOYS do cry - and they should be free to visit the Wendy House, according to a report on how to combat sex-stereotyping among the under-eights.

The report from the Equal Opportunities Commission warns teachers against asking for 'two strong boys' to move the tables while telling the girls to put out the drinks. Nor must they inquire whether there is 'a sensible girl to carry a bag for me' or use the expression 'big boys don't cry'.

Sex-stereotyping of the under- fives is still a problem, the commission adds. One primary school visited recently by an official barred boys from the Wendy House while, it says, boys are still hogging most of the space in school playgrounds.

A new commission booklet suggests that girls will continue to give up science and technology unless playgroups, childminders and nursery schools encourage them to play with cars and Lego. Playing with dolls and cooking pots in the home corner will help boys to become more caring.

Brenda Hancock, the commission's director of social policy, believes society's attitudes to sex- stereotyping have improved in the past 10 years.

In 1984, when the commission last issued guidelines on the subject, a large store divided its toy department into boys' and girls' toys. Now, says the new booklet, these have been replaced by 'Beauty school' (dolls and make- up sets) or 'Battle zone' with guns and computer games. This is regarded as an improvement.

However, it notes that one toy kettle showed a girl dressed in an apron making a drink while a boy, dressed as a businessman, sat reading the paper and waiting. Girls' bicycles are in pastel colours and called Fleur, Pearl and Sweet Dreams whereas boys' bikes have names like Marauder and Leopard.

Ms Hancock said: 'There is nothing wrong in little girls being interested in nursing and cooking, but children should be free to develop in the way which is best for them.'

An Equal Start, Guidelines on Equal Treatment for the Under- eights. EOC, pounds 1.50.

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