Stereotypes Lesson for Kids: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Stereotypes surround us every day in our interactions with others, in books and other media, and in our own opinions. This lesson will help you explore your ideas about stereotypes.

Definition of Stereotype

Have you ever gone to a fast-food restaurant to eat and gotten a kid's meal that came with a toy? Sometimes those meals have different toys for boys and girls—maybe a truck for the boys and a stuffed bear for the girls. Who decided that boys like to play with trucks and girls like to play with stuffed animals? I know many boys who like stuffed animals and lots of girls who play with trucks and other vehicles. When we decide what someone will like or how they will act just because they are a boy or a girl, we are stereotyping.

Are these toys for girls or boys?

A stereotype is a category, or a group, that we put people into. Our human brains do this all the time; it's one of the ways that our brain has learned to deal with the world. We see someone and put that person into a group—for example, old or young, or boy or girl. Is that a bad thing? No, it's not. It helps our brain be able to think about people and make quick decisions. It's not the grouping that is bad. What can be harmful is when we think that everyone in a group is the same. We usually view stereotypes as being negative because they make assumptions about all the people in one group.

Problems with Stereotypes

When we stereotype, we think of a group and we give everyone in that group certain characteristics. For example, the fast food restaurant who gave out toy trucks to boys and stuffed bears to girls, believed that all boys like to play with vehicles and all girls prefer stuffed animals. They decided what everyone in the groups 'boys' and 'girls' would want, based only on whether they were boys or girls.

Do they look crabby to you?

Stereotypes are a problem when they include beliefs about groups that are not necessarily true. Have you ever heard anyone say that 'Men are better drivers than women' or that 'Old people are crabby'? These statements take a group of people and give all of them the same behaviors or characteristics. I know men who are good drivers, and I know women who are good drivers. You probably know some old people who are crabby and some who are always in a great mood. It's not fair to judge all people in a group by a stereotype. We need to remember that everyone in the group is an individual who has different abilities, interests, strengths, and behaviors.

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