Forget separating the boys from the girls, there's a genderless preschool in Sweden. At the Egalia preschool the staff avoids using words like "him" or "her" and addresses the 33 kids as "friends" rather than girls and boys.

Every detail, from the color and placement of toys, to the choice of books, has been carefully planned to make sure the children don't fall into gender stereotype. Lego bricks and other building blocks are intentionally placed next to the kitchen to make sure the children draw no mental barriers between cooking and construction.

"Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing," says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher.

"Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be."

The taxpayer-funded preschool which opened last year in the liberal Sodermalm district of Stockholm for kids aged one to six is among the most radical examples of Sweden's efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood onward.

Breaking down gender roles is a core mission in the national curriculum for preschools, after it is believed that the society gives boys an unfair edge.

Many preschools have gone as far as to have hire "gender pedagogues" to help staff identify language and behavior that risk reinforcing stereotypes.

Director Lotta Rajalin says that Egalia places a special emphasis on fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

Nearly all the children's books deal with homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children. There are no Snow White, Cinderella or other classic fairy tales seen as cementing stereotypes. Rajalin, 52, says the staff also try to help the children discover new ideas when they play.

"A concrete example could be when they're playing 'house' and the role of the mom already is taken and they start to squabble," she says. "Then we suggest two moms or three moms and so on."

Some parents are worried things have gone too far and that this could confuse children and won't prepare them for the world outside kindergarten.

"Different gender roles aren't problematic as long as they are equally valued," says Tanja Bergkvist, a 37-year-old blogger and a leading voice against what she calls "gender madness" in Sweden.

But Rajalin says that parents don't seem to mind. There's a waiting list to get into the school.

Would you send your child to a genderless school?

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