Boys can often get the raw deal when it comes to environments. I see a lot of lovely fairy gardens, or beautiful reading areas festooned with flowers and garlands and I step back and think, 'gosh my boys wouldn't touch that with a barge pole!'
Its important not to stereotype boys into believing they're always interested in superheroes, monsters and cars - but what if your boys are?
Should you ignore their interests because they MUST develop a taste for other delights such as plants, flowers and fairies?
I believe that the any classroom should belong to those within it. Their interests should dictate what happens within as well as what resources are available. I have had many cohorts and within each I have 'typical' interests of boys which has led me to acquire the following resources:
Almost every cohort has brought a group of boys (and some girls) with a keen interest in superheroes. I try to provide resources that excite but that also develop their skills and knowledge such as books and writing resources.
I try to provide texts which excite children based on interests (such as superheroes, dinosaurs, knights, cars etc.) but also their sense of humour.
'Poo bum' is one of those amazing books that ALL children seem to delight in. But my boys were particularly keen to share this with any stranger who entered the room. They felt that permission to say 'poo' and 'fart' was so exciting!
To develop fine motor control consider adding small world pieces to accompany books that you provide. Puppets also work but consider how well they are used. Do they need modelling? Does the small world supplement the book or the other way around?
At the time of the above Sand provision we had a group of boys who had become obsessed with 'Jake and the Neverland pirates.' It all came about from one boy who had all of the books at home. We slowly changed the provision to reflect the things they were keen to play with whilst keeping some of the core provision in tact such as the scoops, spaces and rakes.
The use of tuff spot trays are excellent for all children. However we know that boy's are less engaged in fine motor activities than girls so providing activities in trays can be an exciting invitation for boys to get messy and to develop their skills at the same time. Try to keep on the messy side where possible if you have boys interested in that, but be mindful of the those boys and girls who cannot cope with being messy or sticky.
One of the most exciting activities with boys has been when they become interested in the food in their lunchboxes. Tuna was 'just mashed in a blender,' according to some of the boys. So we explored real fish, where they came from and what was inside of them. This led to conversations about how we grow our food, how we farm and the use of a butcher. All excellent speaking and listening activities, engaging all children whilst developing their vocabulary.
Consider the activities you do provide - do they encourage fine motor development? Are they interesting? Do they develop vocabulary and language?
The above activity is a variation on other 'towns' that I have made as part of interventions. This is designed for two boys in my current Reception class who are struggling to engage with phonics despite knowing many of the sounds. I want them to learn to blend and segment within their play and their links perfectly with their interests.
... and the girls..?
Its important to not get overly keen in providing for the boys and forgetting the girls. But remember, girls already do very well. Many settings cater for girl's interests superbly - keep that going. If you find that you're not, then tune into their interests more. Use circle times and groups times to ask questions about what they read and watch at home. Listen to their conversations to find out what is missing.
And at each step of the way, work with your whole class to make decisions about what will go into each provision area and teach the children to be diplomatic. Not everyone can have their way (including teachers) but we all need to work together!
The above books have been invaluable for me to redress some of the preconceptions some boys have of girls. I often hear, 'girls can't play football.' I've used youtube videos and photographs before but the increase in this positive literature has meant I can tackle some of these misunderstandings through carpet inputs or circle times and then leave the books in the provision areas.
It can be frustrating when you hear boys be blunt about the roles of men and women, but much of this is down to how society divides us. They pick this up through social referencing.