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Psychological Science and Education

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

ISSN (printed version): 1814-2052

ISSN (online): 2311-7273


License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Started in 1996

Published 6 times a year

Free of fees
Open Access Journal


Gendered Toy Play as Mediated Action 1910

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

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.

Keywords: play, dolls, figures, gender.

Column: Role of Games and Toys in a Child’s Psychological Development

For Reference

  1. Berg L.-E. & Nelson A. Identitet och genus i lek med dockor och figurer i förskolan. [Identity and gender in play with dolls and figures in preschool]. Nordisk Pedagogik [Nordic Education] 2, 2006.
  2. Knutsdotter-Olofsson, B. Lek för livet. [Play for life]. Stockholm, 1987.
  3. Kress G. & van Leeuwen T. Reading Images – The Grammer of Visual Design. London, 1996.
  4. Nelson A. & Nilsson M. Det massiva barnrummet – teoretiska och empiriska studier av leksaker. [The massive rooms of children – Theoretical and empirical studies of toys]. Doctoral dissertation, Malmö University, Sweden, 2002.
  5. Nelson A. & Svensson K. Barn och leksaker i lek och lärande. [Children and toys in play and learning]. Stockholm, 2005.
  6. Säljö R. Lärande och kulturella redskap. Om lärprocesser och det kollektiva minnet. [Learning and cultural tools. On learning processes and the collective memory]. Stockholm, 2005.
  7. Van Leeuwen T. The Semiotics of Kinetic Design. Presentation at First Multimodality Workshop, University of Sydney, December 15–17, 1997.
  8. Van Leeuwen T. & Caldas-Coulthard C. R. The Social Semiotics of Toys. Final report on part of the Toys as Communication project. NCFL, Halmstad University, 2001.
  9. Vygotskij L. S. Fantasi och kreativitet i barndomen [Fantasy and creativity in childhood]. Gothenburg: Daidalos AB, 1995. 10.Wartofsky M. W. Models: Representation and the scientific understanding. Dordrecht: Reidel, 1979.
  10. Wertsch J. Mind as Action. New York, 1998.

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