Applied Psychology OPUS

Gendered Toy Preferences and Preschoolers’ Play Behaviors

Alesha Gooden

Play is essential to child development in that it encourages social, physical, and cognitive growth. However, many factors influence the toys that children play with; one of the most significant of these factors is gender. As strict adherence to gender-typical toys limit children’s play opportunities, and the play-based acquisition of specific skills, the present study investigated the gender-typed beliefs of ethnic minority caregivers, the gender-typed beliefs and play behaviors of their children, and the relation between caregivers’ gender-typed beliefs, and children’s gender-typed beliefs and play behaviors.

Thirty-seven, predominantly Latino children (ages 3-5) and their primary caregivers (predominantly female) were recruited from two classrooms at a Head Start site. Caregivers were asked to complete a gender-sorting task. Children participated in semi-structured classroom play interactions with masculine, feminine, and gender-neutral toys provided by the investigator, and completed an adaptation of the adult gender-sorting task. Classroom play interactions were recorded and coded for play.

Results show that while caregivers rated toys as predominantly gender neutral, girls had higher feminine toy ratings, while boys had higher masculine ratings. No significant relations were found between caregivers’ and children’s gender-typed beliefs. However, sampled boys were more likely to engage in a less active form of engagement with the feminine toys if their caregivers were more gender stereotypical. Results are discussed in terms of the intergenerational transmission of gender schemas, and the importance of integrating ethnic minorities into developmental research.