Well, I'm not keen on the idea that there is one set of activities which are suitable for girls and a different set of activities which are suitable for boys.
I try to give my daughters the idea that they can be engineers, scientists, astronauts or dragon-tamers (ok, maybe lion-tamers) if they want to be when they grow up, and not limit their options to female-stereotype careers such as beautician or manicurist. So I try to give them opportunities to play in ways that in the 1950's would have been considered 'boyish' - and then it's up to them what they actually choose (and it's ok with me whether they choose to play with trains or play with dolls) .
- Kids should decide for themselves what they think is fun. Why put these limits on play?
- Play matters. Children need a wide range of play to develop different skills. ...
- The real world has moved on. These gender stereotypes are tired and out of date.
Let Toys Be Toys - For Girls And Boys: Why It Matters
So the obvious answer is to say that you should do with her whatever things you did with your son at that age. But I realise that's not necessarily a helpful answer! So - some suggestions:
Activities related to things she's interested in
With one of our daughters that was ballet and drama, with our other daughter it was steam trains and racing cars. Either way is good.
Activities relating to things that you're interested in.
It's really fun sharing an adult interest with a small child - if you have an enthusiasm then it can really rub off on them. If your particular enthusiasm is for an activity which is traditionally male-dominated then don't let that stop you from sharing it with your daughter; perhaps she'll become a world-champion boxer or a superstar programmer - or maybe not, but either way you'll both enjoy sharing an activity together.
Dinosaurs. Everybody loves dinosaurs. :)
So once you've got some kind of a subject or topic, the actual activities that you do (based on that topic) could be almost anything:
Junk modelling (this is particularly fun if you do it really big)
Painting and drawing
Role-play type playing ("you be a racing car and I'll be the other racing car!") - can be with or without dressing-up
Cooking (dinosaur biscuits! space rocket biscuits! ballet shoes biscuits!)
Making costumes for dressing-up (cardboard and sticky tape are good for this, you don't have to sew)
Playing with 'small world' toys (ones that represent objects in the adult world e.g. toy cars or dolls)
Building with construction toys such as Lego
Playing running-around games ("you're the T Rex and we're the stegosauruses and you have to catch us and then we'll swap around!")
Making up stories together
Reading stories relating to the subject together
Reading non-fiction children's books about the subject together
Going to an event or show e.g. a sports fixture or a ballet performance
Board games and similar e.g. Dino-opoly, Top Trumps (they have TT for practically everything now), jigsaw puzzles, etc etc
Going to a relevant museum e.g. for cars we've been to Brooklands, for ballet/performance we've been to the Theatre and Performance gallery of the V&A.
Watching relevant movies or TV shows together (not too much)
Of course there's other things that everyone does with kids which aren't themed but are equally suitable for either gender:
going to the playground,
playing on the climbing frame,
climbing a tree,
feeding the ducks,
playing snakes and ladders,
teaching them to ride a bike,
teaching them to swim,
learning ball skills (throw / catch / hit with bat). Swingball is particularly good for this because when they hit the ball in a random direction it doesn't matter,
going to interesting places e.g. zoo, cathedral, airport.
It depends on the individual child and their preferences. What does she like doing?
Some of the background research on play, careers and gender, for those who are interested:
Interestingly Flouri and Panourgia (2012) in a study of the career aspirations of seven-year-
olds found that at this age they were very ambitious with over 80% showing preferences to
be managers, professionals or associate professional, however, both the boys and girls had
preferences for traditional gender-stereotyped occupations e.g. girls said they wanted to be
a hairdresser or a teacher and boys chose fire fighter and police officer. In addition, they
could not be considered realistic, with the most popular choices being teacher, hairdresser,
sports player, fire fighter, police officer, scientist, artist, actor/entertainer, animal carer, vet,
doctor and builder. Similar findings were established by Butler (2005) who looked at the
career aspirations of primary school children in Wales and found that the young people had
ideas about career from age six but that they were both un-realistic and gender-stereotyped.
Beck et al.(2006) argued that choices made at
an early stage in young people's lives have considerable influence on an individual's career
trajectory, often resulting in a reinforcement of labour market segregation. This was based
on findings demonstrating that young people generally have a conservative approach to
labour market possibilities which leads them to conform to stereotypical notions of what men
and women do. This view was also represented in guidance from Estyn (2008) which argues
that both girls and boys often make stereotypical choices of options and subjects at all
stages and girls tend to leave school with lower career aspirations.
Gendered Horizons: Boys’ and girls’ perceptions of job and career choices, pp. 10-11. See the full report for more detail.
Here's a rundown of gendered toys for very small children:
Notice how the girls’ items direct and confine a girl’s attention inward towards herself, whilst the boys’ items direct the boys’ attention outward towards his physical world, where there are limitless possibilities. The tool box lays the foundations for boys’ greater spatial awareness and understanding of physics (i.e. how objects interact with one another). It encourages movement and coordination. The toiletry box on the other hand, teaches girls that they can (and indeed should) focus all their efforts on boosting their attractiveness.
tl;dr: Boys get tools, girls get beauty products.
PinkStinks: Makeup for babies
For some really sweet examples of gender-neutral play, check out the twitter feeds for #activegirls and #caringboys:
The Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls is also worth a read:
Research suggests that parents’ gender schemas have a
significant effect on children’s gender self-concepts and
gender-related attitudes toward others (Tenenbaum &
Leaper, 2002). Fathers’ attitudes in particular influence the
gender typing of children’s activities and whether children
conform to this gender typing (McHale, Crouter, &