Three girls playing with Lego

Five-year-old girls face perfection pressure: ‘It’s essential we change our biases’

New research has raised alarm bells

Girls as young as five are already feeling the pressure to be perfect, with the fear of making mistakes holding them back from experimenting creatively.

Almost three quarters (74%) of girls aged five-12-years old said they avoided tasks when they are afraid of not doing them perfectly.

So what can you do to help? Read on and we’ll tell you.

Little girl playing with Lego
Girls are struggling with pressure to be perfect (Credit: Cover Images)

Watch your language around our little girls

The LEGO group surveyed parents and children across 36 countries. This included 1,000 British parents and their under 12-year-olds. It found that 89% of British girls feel under pressure to be perfect. Meanwhile, 79% said when adults around them use the word it triggers negative emotions.

The study shows that everyday language is playing a role in inhibiting girls from freely expressing themselves. In fact, 76% of girls in the UK aged five-12 say that the language they hear makes them worry about making mistakes. This leads to a reluctance to experiment.

It underscores the urgent need for change.

Parents acknowledged that girls were more likely to pushed towards perfection than boys, with 78% believing this was true.

And terms used to describe the creative outputs of girls were commonly sweet, pretty, beautiful or cute. The efforts of boys, meanwhile, were much more likely to be brave, cool, innovative or genius.

The LEGO group enlisted TV star Etymologist Susie Dent and Harvard-trained parenting researcher Jennifer B Wallace to explore how language can affect confidence and how to help unlock creative potential in young girls.

Two little girls posing with Lego models
We need to work together to bring about change (Credit: Cover Images)

More than Perfect film

A short film More than Perfect also highlights how much more girls can achieve when they are encouraged to play for fun and stimulation rather than aiming for perfection.

Ms Wallace said: “When children fear failing, it can hamper their willingness to explore and think outside the box. This impacts the key skill of creative confidence. Which can carry into adulthood. Creative confidence is the self-assurance to generate ideas, take risks and contribute unique solutions without fear of failure.

“It’s been found to be a cornerstone of well-being by boosting self-esteem. It also reduces stress and increases happiness, as well as a top-ranked skill for future workplaces. This is according to the World Economic Forum. With over three quarters of girls aspiring to work in creative industries it underscores the urgent need for change.”

Susie Dent on ‘enormous impact’ of our language

Writer and broadcaster Susie Dent, who found fame on Countdown and its spin-off 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, said: “The findings from LEGO Group confirm that the language we use towards children, and particularly young girls, can have an enormous impact.

“It’s essential that we challenge our biases if we’re to foster a society where girls can fully explore their creative potential. Every girl and woman deserves the freedom to explore her creativity without fear or pressure. The good news is that, by changing our language, we can be instrumental in changing the future.”

Change through play

Nine in 10 parents say play helps their child’s self-expression. It also boosts their confidence to experiment, builds creative confidence and provides a safe space to explore and experiment without fear of failure. LEGO play, whether it’s free building or instruction-based, helps develop essential skills that are equally relevant to all children in today’s world. Through building and rebuilding, it becomes a bedrock for creative confidence, courage and self-belief.

The LEGO Group is committed to inspiring and developing the builders of tomorrow through the power of play. Together with partners and industry experts the company pledges to continue to spotlight and help break down limiting societal stereotypes and biases that hold back creative potential. This includes further broadening inclusion and gender equality across its products and content with support from its ongoing partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

Fearless women inspire young girls

To continue championing what can be achieved when girls can play without limits, the LEGO Group has brought together Team Unstoppable 2024 in the UK. This is a squad of bold, fearless women to inspire girls. They’ll do this with their stories of overcoming the pressure to be perfect and what they have been able to achieve when they can play unstoppable. The team includes inspirational, fearless UK women. Watch out for more this year.

A series of exciting, free creativity workshops are being introduced in select LEGO Stores and on aimed at young creators aged six-12. Developed to show the power of creative freedom, the building workshops focus on Entertainment, Space, Gaming, Dreams & Imaginations and will take place throughout the year. They’re starting this month. Sign-up for the first in-store workshops is now open but be quick, tickets go fast!

To help equip parents with fun tips to support creative development, the LEGO Group has developed a new 10 Steps to Fostering Creative Confidence guide. It’s been produced in collaboration with Harvard-trained parenting researcher and bestselling author Jennifer Wallace. Equally, to engage children on the critical topic of creative confidence, new content developed with Peppy Pals will go live on LEGO Life in April.

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Nancy Brown
Associate Editor

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