No girls in my construction area! Does it matter?

abc doesBoys Learning, Continuous Provision, Environment6 Comments

It is a common occurrence across the land. The creative area is teaming with girls and the construction area is awash with boys. To try and rectify this issue I have tried many things.

Banning the boys from the construction areas (to give the girls a chance)


Buying pink construction kits

Putting the pink construction kits into pink boxes


I even bought pink construction role play costumes (yes, such things do exist!)

Did any of the above solve my issue? In short, no! I just ended up with a construction area full of boys that looked like 'Village People' rejects!


My preoccupation was with gender equality. The girls who were not coming into the construction area were staying away because the space was full of boys and these girls had to build with the construction otherwise they weren't having equal access to provision an equal opportunities to learn.

In truth lots of children that I work with (who often, but not always, happen to be girls) don't actually enjoy construction. Even when the boys are not in it.


What I find is that when this group of children do use the construction resources they tend to produce low level structures that they then use for small world or role play. What they don't do is explore the more intricate and complex skills of 'construction'. So for these children the construction area and its resources are a facilitator for other, more preferable learning.


Rather than wasting lots of our time and effort to get certain groups of children into our construction areas, we need to identify the skills that children learn through construction play and actively start promoting those skills in the areas that they do like to visit.


Then, if we are secure in the fact that we are promoting the skills of construction in the small world, the sand and the creative area, does it matter that certain children never go into construction? If you are learning to connect does it matter that you learnt that skill in the creative area rather than with a piece of 'Mobilo' in your hand? I would say not.

So, the first thing that we need to do is to create a list of the skills that children can learn through construction. Then divide that list into the skills that are 'pure' construction skills and skills that the construction area can facilitate. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it might get you started. I have highlighted first word of all of the 'pure' skills in blue  and the facilitative skills in red.


  •  promotes learning about the
    function of objects entrances, exits and pathways.  How to navigate inside, out, through and
  • allows children to show their knowledge of
    something and how it works long before they have the language to be able to
    verbalise what it is they know.
  • supports fine and gross motor development
  • encourages the development of spacial awareness
  • collecting information through observation
  • helps children to classify by common characteristics
  • exploration what happens to an object as you manipulate it
  • trajectory (commonly known as chucking or dropping your
  • find out how weight and shape effects movement and motion (it is much
    harder to roll a square brick than a round one!)
  • explore force and motion
  • experience height, width, length and size.
  • opportunity to sort, count , make patterns , sequence , remember numbers, counting on, fractions  (construction kits like Duplo and Lego are
    particularly good for this).
  • use geometric shapes with a 'real' purpose.
  • create symmetry 
  • experience scale ( children need opportunity to build with large and
    small construction)

DSC03828experiencing scale

Working together in construction encourages:

  • Empathy
  • Sharing
  • Negotionation
  • Discussion
  • Acquisition of language (especially through peer building

DSC07518'big build'  (boy's mostly building, girls mostly painting!)

Construction allows children to practise:

  •  grouping
  • stacking
  • ramping
  • creating lines
  • covering
  • bridging
  • enclosing (like making tunnels, houses)
  • making things equal
  • balance
  • creating shapes
  • stepping (as in making steps)
  • stability

So, according to my list so far, there are no skills that you can only develop in the construction area. Admittedly, lots of the above are easily developed by construction kits and it makes sense to have one area that primarily develops them but none of them are exclusive.

What we need to do for construction (and EVERY other area of our provision) is to identify the 'core' skills that that area promotes and develops. Then, if children are not choosing to come into an area because they are not interested in it or motivated by it, we can actively ensure that they are getting access to those skills elsewhere.

P5188663 construction skills in sand play

DSC04006construction skills in water play

DSC04059construction skills in malleable materials

DSC03993construction skills in role play

IMG_2160construction skills in transient art

Who knew there were so many ways to acquire construction skills without being in construction?

If you have children who want to access the construction area but can't or won't because it is consistently dominated by a 'core' group of children then that is a completely different issue. The key to solving that issue will lie within your wider provision. The 'core' group probably only dominate one area because there is nothing else in your entire provision that provides the same level of interest, sense of achievement and overall feeling of well being – but that is a whole other blog post!

As a general rule:

Identify the core skills and the facilitative skills that each area can offer (this list will change over time depending on your enhancements)

Use assessment and observation to identify what your children need to experience and learn then level your provision for challenge

Carry out regular observations of your environment as well as your children to see who goes where, which spaces are full and which are left empty

Use your knowledge of your children and their interests to dress and enhance your environment to encourage and support engagement

Make sure your construction equipment is varied, levelled for challenge and appears in numerous areas indoors and out

Remember that it is high level engagement that will give you high level attainment

Have fun!


6 Comments on “No girls in my construction area! Does it matter?”

  1. its always tricky to write down exactly what you mean, with your intonation – it certainly read as if the boys as village people was a part of the failure, instead it could have been a part of a success…
    I am not against excluding if its for a session or two (30-60 minutes per session/activity opportunity) and encouraging others to try out something new – especially if its done in a sensitive and meaningful way… sure they may not like trying out something new, but its like food, you need to give it a couple of goes too.
    Over the years I have trained girls to play bandy (like hockey) because they did not know how to and the boys were dominating the playground… I was questioned as to why only the girls got training – well that was simple, if any of the boys NEEDED it then they would have been part of that too! But two half hour sessions and after that it was if they wanted – all of the girls except one enjoyed the sessions (but she had problems with team games, she was on the spectrum) but only half of them went on to enjoy playing with the boys – and could do so on more equal terms…
    I think its hard to be really gender aware, when we as adults come from a time so drenched in gender stereotypes… I believe it will not be for another few generations before there will be genuine equality – but we are moving forward all the time – and that is what the point is…
    So its great that discussions are made around gender stereotypes and ways of dealing with it. Its also great when there are those open to different opinions and allow discussion to occur… so thanks for that…

  2. I’ve found that adding scarves, material, princess-themed mark-making tools, animals, natural materials and figures have really helped with this. My girls tend to dominate this area more when lots of children opt for outdoor learning.

  3. Hi Suzanne
    Thanks for your comment.
    I am not suggesting that you wouldn’t encourage all children to use all areas of your provision all of the time. That has to be the ultimate goal. Where I think this ideal sometimes falls down is when groups of children are purposefully excluded from areas and other groups are given a ‘heavily directed choice’ to play there.
    I think the EYFS environment should have a real feel of fluidity to it. Yes, there will be some areas of your space that are defined by the resources that are in them, but construction should not only happen in the construction area. The opportunity to construct should be spread throughout, indoors and out for all children.
    I am certainly not advocating defining gender by colour but I am suggesting that you can ‘dress’ your resources around children’s interests and for lots of children that interest will conform to social stereotypes. As well as capitalising on children’s areas of interest it is good to actively challenge those stereotypes and get children to challenge their own thinking.
    Now then, I think it is important at this point to make it clear that I have nothing against the Village People or boys wearing pink (see previous post ). I didn’t perceive that comment as a negative, it is purely a cultural reference to illustrate the fact that my plan hadn’t worked (as the best laid plans often don’t)!
    I think you are absolutely right, all areas of life should be acceptable and accessible regardless of gender and we play a pivotal role in creating opportunities for learning that will allow children to have as many choices in life as possible.
    As I asked the question in the first place to get people thinking, I appreciate your answer!

  4. Hi Shona
    That sounds great. It is all about finding ways to engage and getting children to have ago at something new – and then finding they like it!

  5. My query, is what do the children make of it (as you describe it, the boys in the construction area, the girls not).
    Yes, you have listed that the construction skills can be learned elsewhere – BUT do the children see that themselves – or by saying “so what” are we allowing the children to view themselves in defined roles – boys in the construction, girls elsewhere…
    I work hard at making ALL areas of the the preschool (1-6 here in Sweden) accessible and enticing for ALL children. I would not say “so what” – I would say “so how can I make this more inviting…”
    Does it require some time as a teacher to share new techniques with small groups, that they can then share with others?… Does it require a project of sorts that engage the children to work together (similar to what Shone describes above)?… Does it require mixing the resources so that construction is not just seen as construction – I mean you describe it as a place for small world role-play – so It cannot be just a place for construction.
    At one setting we asked the girls why they did not like going to play with the lego so much – they answered because there are so many boys there… they simply found the boys too noisy in how they played with the lego. So we divided the group up for three mornings into 3 groups – a girls group, a boy group and a mixed group – we had a lego session/outdoor session and an art activity. Each group had their own morning to test out each activity… the girls enjoyed their lego building, it was very different from the boys star wars and guns and fighting scenes – and the boys appreciated and marveled at their work… it also allowed them to see that they could construct in new ways… so this was a win win situation – the girls became more confident about using the lego area (we had construction is several places, it was mostly lego that was the “boy” thing – there was no “girl” thing) and the boys ideas around lego construction expanded – which also made it more enticing for the girls to join them in lego construction…
    I believe it is necessary to allow all children access to all areas – otherwise what message does this send – yes girls you can work in construction but not on building sites because that’s for boys – you can construct in different ways – and oh, boys you can be creative by constructing beautiful buildings…
    and what is wrong with letting the boys look like the village people – what a GREAT way for letting boys wear pink… what a great way of trying to wipe away that pink is for girls… ooops no we can’t because we have teachers who think they look like the village people as if that’s something negative… err, please, gender equality…. Sure putting pink in the construction area would not be my first choice, mostly because I try not to define gender by colour… BUT I have found that by adding small glittery treasures works for both girls and boys – gold, silver, fake diamonds and rubies, ribbons, feathers, stones etc etc etc really gets the children motivated to construct and embellish their constructions… I have also found that the older they get the more upwards they get in their free play construction (but that is a natural progression too) I have also found that if a teacher sits on the floor in the construction area and starts building children, regardless of gender come in and join in, and then take over the construction as their own, adding to it, adjusting and embellishing. Being a female teacher in the construction area allows the girls and boys to see that its not just an area for boys… its an area for everyone.
    I also check which children are playing where… is there any area they are not playing… why? How can I make all areas more interesting? By observing their interests and their budding skills then it IS possible to have all children in all areas…
    I have yet to work in a preschool that is divided into such a boy/girl way that you describe…
    Maybe its a Swedish thing, but as I come from UK, the only memory of gender division at school in the early years was in sports and the playground… I played with lego and construction as well as the roleplay area with boys and girls (mind you this is a LONG time ago)
    I think it DOES matter. Sure they can get the learning from other areas – BUT I feel its not just about the learning… its about the feeling of all areas of life are acceptable and accessible regardless of gender….

  6. I must say, having observed that our boys were taking over the construction space, I changed the room around so Role play was more central (it tends to take over the classroom anyway) and made a ‘Building site’ in the larger space, this enabled me to put larger blocks (foam and waffle bricks that we use outside) and more obscure resources (velcro rollers, washing up sponges etc) out daily. What a difference it made! I had mentioned that we needed Health and Safety officers and Site Managers (we know girls like to ‘write’!!) and away they went,once in the area with their clipboards and hard hats on, they couldnt wait to show the boys how to do it, now I find the girls are coming up with building cities and large enclosures while the boys are showing more interest in mark making. Win win for me!!

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