Hairdressing Mannequins

Another of my favourite provocations you can set up for children to explore their gender identity and expression is hairdressing mannequins.  Kids love this too. You can set up a table with hair dressing mannequins, brushes, combs, a spray bottle of water, and a variety of hair accessories such as ties, clips and bands (both for fashion and sport). 

It is important that the mannequins reflect the diversity of hair types including different colours, lengths, and textures.  Ideally mannequins should have varied skin tones and facial features also. (I’m currently exploring mannequin skin dying techniques… if you have one that doesn’t involve submerging the entire mannequin in a liquid, let me know.) Some mannequins may have a beard, or you can add an adhesive moustache to mannequins with long or short hair. 

This provocation allows children to imagine how they might like to have their hair. Most often haircut and style decisions are made by parents with limited input from children themselves, so this will give them a chance to express their opinions. You can encourage them by asking questions about the styles they create, “Is this how you’d like your hair?” and “Why did you choose those clips” etc.

Often children will ask about the gender of the mannequins – Is this a boy or a girl? – particularly if the hair is around jaw length. This is a great opportunity to complicate their thinking around gender. You might ask,

“What do you think?”

“Or do you think maybe they are nonbinary?”

“Hmm, I don’t know, we can’t know someone’s gender just by looking at them, but the mannequin can’t tell us. What do you think?” following up with “Why do you think that?”

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