At the “Egalia” preschool, staff avoid using words like “him” or “her” and address the 33 kids as “friends” rather than girls and boys….Breaking down gender roles is a core mission in the national curriculum for preschools, underpinned by the theory that even in highly egalitarian-minded Sweden, society gives boys an unfair edge.
To even things out, many preschools have hired “gender pedagogues” to help staff identify language and behavior that risk reinforcing stereotypes….Lego bricks and other building blocks are intentionally placed next to the kitchen, to make sure the children draw no mental barriers between cooking and construction.
Director Lotta Rajalin notes that Egalia places a special emphasis on fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. From a bookcase she pulls out a story about two male giraffes who are sad to be childless — until they come across an abandoned crocodile egg.
Nearly all the children’s books deal with homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children. There are no “Snow White,” ”Cinderella” or other classic fairy tales seen as cementing stereotypes.
Rajalin, 52, says the staff also try to help the children discover new ideas when they play.
“A concrete example could be when they’re playing ‘house’ and the role of the mom already is taken and they start to squabble,” she says. “Then we suggest two moms or three moms and so on.”