Gendered Toy Play as Mediated Action



This text presents some analyses of 4- and 5-year-old children’s video-taped play with gendered dolls and figures in a Swedish preschool setting. Based on sociocultural and semiotic theory, the analyses try to identify in what ways boys and girls play differ and how the play can be understood as mediated by the gendered character of the dolls and figures used. It was found that social and cultural gender stereotypes, represented in the dolls and figures used, were reflected in most of the play episodes that were analyzed. The boys play with figures representing masculine men were mainly instrumental and the boys identified themselves with the aggressive thematic built into the toys. Girls play with dolls representing feminine women was mainly relational as the girls were involved in inter-subjective relations with the dolls. This was found to be enabled and supported by the character of the feminine dolls themselves and their accessories. Some examples of children’s strategies to overcome constraining designs of dolls were also found.

General Information

Keywords: play, dolls, figures, gender.

Journal rubric: Developmental Psychology

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Nelson A. Gendered Toy Play as Mediated Action. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2011. Vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 93–101.


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Information About the Authors

Anders Nelson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Psychology and Education, Halmstad University (Sweden), Halmstad, Sweden



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