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Children gender and toys Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: May 21st, 2020


If one walks in a home and finds children, one is able to tell whether these kids are boys or girls by quickly having a glimpse at the playroom. If one comes across baseballs, trucks, planes and trains, automatically there are boys. If the room is full of dolls, animals and is of colors such as pink, the right guess is there are girls (Daniel, p1).

Toys have come to be gender specific just like the clothes and parents get disturbed when a girl chooses a train instead of a doll, or a boy chooses a doll instead of a truck. The real idea of specific programming is not known by the children and therefore it is learnt in most cases from the parents (Daniel, p1).

Toddlers simply know that they are enjoying doing certain activities with the toys. Some of the activities are; role playing, sorting and building. These could be performed using toys of different colors. Unless children are being prompted by adults or siblings, they view the toys to be gender specific (Vygotsky, p4).

The paper will look at the impacts certain stereotyped toys can have on the complexity of the children’s play, identify the way the behaviors influence the cognitive development of the child while making use of the play assessment. The research involves thirty children who are of one and a half years to four years.

The children were observed for minutes playing in a room. The results obtained demonstrated that high complexity levels were revealed when the children used female toys. Other results are discussed in the paper. I will also identify the toys that are mostly used by the boys and those used by the girls and whether it really matters to use any (Linder, p2).


The aim of using play as a part of cognitive development in a child is not a new phenomena. Play is one of the contributors in the cognitive development of skills in a child (Piaget, p1). Play therefore exemplifies the ever changing and current child’s cognitive functioning throughout their entire life as children (Linder, p2).

The development is seen in the change from the exploratory to the symbolic play. Here, a lot of the research attention is focused on the several decades that have passed. Children enjoy and find pleasure while playing because play occurs in the natural environment of the child. Play is regarded as a motivator to the children. It makes higher development levels in mental ability and behavior (Vygotsky, p4).

The age of the child and the interests the children have on the toys and plays should come first and the gender follows (Payne, p1). Children always love to be with other children so as to play with them. They can spend a lot of time playing with the toys and use their imaginations like their guide.

Even if a parent may have the feeling that driving the child in one direction when they are young could improve their interest, talent or potential, the chances are that if the children are not passionate about it, it will tend to reduce as they grow older (Daniel, p1). The negative effects of gender norms come up in the way girls are become nudged in dolls and princess fantasies while boys are involved in the building blocks (Grinberg, p1).

Many people differ in their arguments because some parents will buy gender specific toys for their children. If it is a girl she would be given dolls while boys are given cars to play with while at home (Emma, P1). Toy centers participate in confirmation of the gap in gender because they stock toys in a manner to suggest the ones for boys and the ones for girls (Fleming, p1).

Method used

Participants involved were thirty children still in their developing stage. 15 boys and 15 girls were involved who have an average age of about 2-3 years.

Most of these children are Caucasian and come from middle class families. These children were first recruited through word of mouth and flyers posted in Midwestern University. The participants were provided with a certificate and a shirt as the price for participation (Cherney, p 98).

Materials used involved the playroom located near the university laboratory. The room is square, has two windows and is carpeted. There are shelf units where various toys are placed.

The toys are of different colors so as to provoke various behaviors (Grinberg, p1). The number of toys is balanced to stereotype as female, male and also neutral. Some of the toys available were the mechanical toys, kitchen sets, toy houses, farm sets, and crayons, clothes for dressing up, blocks, accessories and dolls, puzzles, shape sorters, toy phones, puppets among others (Cartel and Levy, p 783).

The procedure

The children who are accompanied by their parents are introduced and shown inside the playroom where they are instructed to play with whatever toy the kids’ desire. The room for playing had many toys which were of different types.

The toys are arranged in the areas of play just like the way they are arranged in a classroom of preschool (Vygotsky, p4). That is, the block area, kitchen area, art area among others. The play toys were then kept on the shelves at the walls and on carpeted floors so as to ensure that all the children have access to the play materials (Cherney, p 98).

The parents are then warned not to take part in initiating the play. They were only allowed to respond when the play is directed to them. Camera operators as well as the session coordinator were allowed to be present when the play was going on. Session coordinator was to sit on the floor with the playing child.

She was also not supposed to facilitate or initiate any play. Just like the parent, the session coordinator was supposed to only respond to the play the child has initiated. The plays were videotaped by the person operating the camera which lasted for about forty minutes (Cherney, p 98).


Video tapes were recorded and were coded later. Each child’s 30 minutes play was viewed and used to determine the different behaviors. A protocol was used by well trained observers to transcribe the sequence of the play. Another trained observer reviewed the transcripts coding the behavior of participants at intervals of about 15 seconds.

The third well trained experimenter also recorded the time each and every child played using a given toy. This was done using the transcripts which were written showing the behavior sequence. This was meant to analyze frequencies the participating kids played using the toys. Records of total time taken by a child in playing with the toys were recorded and later analyzed (Grinberg, p1).

The complexity of each of the child’s play in the scenarios of the unstructured play was coded to give a measure of level of development. Evaluation was done by two experimenters using inventories of play assessment. 90 %among the people experimenting agreed while 10 % disagreed. A 1 evaluation was given to behaviors which were in the part of a combination of single scheme using the playing materials provided.

The same behavior play with same toys became directed to two or more people or objects. Same behavior play going with different toys went with one person or object. If the playing child takes a picture with a doll, then picks another one of the facilitator of the session; the combinations of multi scheme got an evaluation of two.

This means 2 or 3 different behavior plays appear in systematic order. When 4 or 5 behaviors appeared in a systematic order, a three was assigned (Cherney, pg 99). The ranking that was highest became 4 which were assigned to 6 and even more behavior plays combined in a systematic order. In a case like when a child clothes a doll, places it on a sit or a table and prepares tea which she also offers to the doll is an illustration of the responsibility vested in a woman which the young one tries to express (Vygotsky, p4).


The results for each child on the toys depending on the age and sex were obtained at intervals of 25 seconds. The boys and girls in average played with the toys for about 713 minutes. Of these, 323 minutes were used by girls while boys used 390 minutes. An analyses was done and showed that girls used less time to play with the toys (an average of 21.55 minutes) while boys spent more time (25.02 minutes). There was no effect on age or interaction.

Toy categories

According to research done to see the way girls and boys differed in the time spent in using certain toys, the toys were divided into eight categories such as doll play, animal toys, farm toys, food and kitchen toys, house toys, puzzles, sorting toys and mechanical toys (Cherney, p100).

By timing in seconds the period each of thirty children both boys and girls spent on a certain category of toys showed that, both boys and girls spent more time with the mechanical toys i.e. three hundred and ten seconds. Food and Kitchen toys followed with 82 minutes, house category toys 81 minutes. The frequency counts showed that 87% participants played with phone, 70% with cash register, 67% were manipulating a farm. 60% of the children were attracted by the car and camera.

The total time used per gender by the students was obtained and it was found that the mechanical toys had been the favorites to the kids as the girls spent about 7.2 minutes and the boys manipulated them with 13.2 minutes. The other game they enjoyed was sorting out house category toys and puzzles. The results also showed that girls spent more time with puzzles (about 10.5 minutes) as compared to boys who used about 4.10 minutes (Cherney, p100).

Gender stereotypes on the Toys

In determining the stereotypes of the toys, six women and six men were used to rate the toys. From the available 59 toys, 14 of them were said to be male toys, ranging between 1.25-3.50, 28 were said to be female toys and were ranging between 4.50 t0 6.58.Half of those regarded to as female toys were the food and kitchen play materials. Those considered to be neutral were 17 and the range was between 3.58to 4.42.

The following table shows ten toys that the boys and girls played with for a longer period of time basing on the play time with every toy. 51% of the girls’ playtime as well as 61% of boy’s total play time was used in the toy manipulation.

Table of gender stereotypes on toys showing toys the boys and girls played with for a longer period of time (Cherney, p101).

gender stereotypes on toys showing toys the boys and girls played with

Unlike in the predictions, the girls did not use the toys said to be female stereotypes. The toys that the girls used most were the neutral stereotyped, which were followed by the male stereotyped and then the female stereotyped ones.

Play complexity

It was noted that the play complexity was increasing with the frequency as well as the levels of age. 17 children demonstrated complex play. Three children who were one year old showed a combination of single scheme with the cash register, kitchen set as well as the phone.

A combination of 2 boys and four girls who were two years old demonstrated complex levels which ranged from a combination of single scheme to 4 and 5 play behaviors combined (Cherney, p 102). The doll play was very much demonstrated in this age group. The last group which had five boys and three girls, a total of eight participants who were of the age between three to four years, demonstrated all the complexity levels of 1 to 4.

The most elicited plays in this complex group were the doll, kitchen set, nesting cups and paper or toothbrush. 73% of girls and 6% of boys played in the food and kitchen at certain points. Also, 33%boys and 46% girls were at one point playing in the area of dolls. These two areas had high levels of the so called play complexity. The graph below shows the number of toys (stereotyped) at every level of complexity manipulated both by girls and boys (Vygotsky, p4).

Number of toys and level of play complexity chart


The previous research on the preferences of toys (Cartel and Levy, p 784) showed that girls are very likely to engage themselves in playing with the toys that are female stereotyped than the neutral and male stereotyped toys. The research however showed that about five out of the ten toys being used by the girls were the neutral stereotyped.

The results are opposite to our previous predictions. However, about five of the 10 popular toys with boys, were regarded as male stereotypes. These results match our earlier predictions which were that the boys are more interested on the male stereotyped preferences. Boys aged three years tend to play with vehicles and other motor activities (O’Brien et al, p1).

Due to high familiarity with stereotyped toys of own sex, the girls had high level play complexity in the case of playing with the toys which are female stereotyped unlike when playing with the male stereotyped. The boys on the other hand showed high level in the play complexity in the case of manipulating the toys regarded as male stereotyped than when they manipulated the toys which are female stereotyped.

Highest level of girls’ play complexity in every group became elicited when manipulating the toys that are female stereotyped (O’Brien et al, p1). In the case of boys, the highest play complexity level in every age group was much elicited frequently in times of manipulating the toys that are female stereotyped such as the kitchen and phone.

This is unlike when they use the male stereotyped ones such as the camera. In addition, levels three and four which were the highest became manifested only when the kids played with toys of female stereotype like the kitchen sets and dolls. It is therefore important to have the toys regarded as female stereotyped when an exercise like the play assessment is being conducted (Cartel and Levy, p 785).


According to the research findings, it is important that the toddlers be made aware that they can make use of anything that is of interest to them regardless of whether they are male or females. Segregated toys always discourage the friendships among the cross sex (Robertson, p1).

Some of the toys given to children are grouped in various categories such as; the mechanical toys, kitchen sets, toy houses, farm sets, and crayons, clothes for dressing up, blocks, accessories and dolls, puzzles, shape sorters, toy phones and puppets (O’Brien et al, p1).

The moment children go to school, other kids who have been raised with the notion of gender specific will call a boy sissy if he plays with a doll or even if he plays with girls. On the other hand, the girls are nicknamed tomboys especially when they are very good in sports and when they do not show any interest in fancy dresses, bows and ribbons (Cartel and Levy, p 790).

The main role of the parent is to make sure that he or she supports the child in whatever they do without paying much attention on what they think is best to their children or rather what the child should be doing.

If the parents give a shameful message to their kids, the kids will tend to feel insecure and feel ashamed of themselves which may lead to the children failing to develop cognitively and fail to use imaginations. The children will also not be able to know of the gender equality. Every interaction, experience and activity the children experience when playing strengthens some neural circuits (Orenstein, p1).


Cartel, D. Bruce, & G. D. Levy. “Cognitive aspects of early sex-role development: The influence of gender schema on preschoolers’ memories and preferences for sex typed toys and activities.” Child Development, 59 (1988), 782-792.

The article focuses on the cognitive aspects that are in the development of children during the early stages. It looks into details the influence of gender schema on the preferences and memories of the preschoolers for the sex typed toys as well as the activities of child development.

An interview was conducted to children aged 33-68 months to assess the relations on the knowledge of sex stereotype, stereotype flexibility, preferences on toys that are sex typed, gender constancy, recognition memory for the illustrations of gender relevant and gender schematization. The authors are well acquainted with the knowledge about children psychology and development of children

Cherney, Isabelle, D. “The effects of Stereotyped Toys and Gender on Plays Assessment in Children Aged 18-47 Months.” Education Psychology, 23.1. (2003), 95-106.

The article looks at the impacts certain stereotyped toys can have on the complexity of the children’s play, identify the way the behaviors influence the cognitive development of the child while making use of the play assessment. It involves a research where thirty children who are of one and a half years to four years are observed as they play with toys.

The children were observed for minutes playing in a room. The results obtained demonstrated that high complexity levels were revealed when the children used female toys. The author is a psychologist dealing with gender psychology and has done research on factors influencing cognitive sex difference and gender stereotypes.

Daniel, Stef. “Gender and Toys: Does it Really Matter?” Every day Family. 2013. Web.

The article looks into details of the aspects of gender and toys. It explains the way toys have been made to be gender specific at homes and tries to look into whether it really matters whichever toy a child uses. The paper further explains the impact this has in the lives of the child. The article proceeds to show the parents their responsibilities in raising their children. The author is a well experienced mother and a career woman in law enforcement. She is also well known for her passion in writing several articles both for the children and adults

White, Emma. “Gender Specific Toy Debate: Cars for Boys and Dolls for Girls.” The Real Super Mum. 2011. Web.

The article is a debate on whether the cars are meant to be for boys and the dolls meant for girls. The paper looks into both sides of whether the toys should be gender stereotyped or not. One notices that the toys have become very gender specific than the other times. In this article, people support their arguments depending on their views. The author is an advocate of mental health who is very much involved in blogging about the stigma and taboos in the society.

Fleming-Davies, Arietta. “Gender Specific Toys: Increasing the Gender Gap?” Iasalle Academy. 2004. Web.

The article talks about the gender gap that is very much evident in the toy store. It explains the way toys are placed in the shelves and one can clearly be able to tell the section for boys and that of girls. The paper continues to analyze the results of the way children use toys. The author is a Phd holder in Ecology and evolution.

Grinberg, Emanuella. “When kids play across gender lines.” Cable News Network. 2012. Web.

The article looks at the way parents praise Harrods because of the toy kingdom which has toys arranged by themes and not by gender. It looks at the way the toys which are colored foster animosity to the kids. The author is a reporter in the CNN and very much involved in the growth and development of kids.

Linder, Toni. Transdisciplinary Play Based Assessment. (2nd edition). Baltimore: Paul H. Brooks, 1993. Print.

The book looks into the details of Transdisciplinary play based assessment which is a functional and natural aspect in assessment. The paper gives the analysis of the disciplinary in the developmental level, interaction patterns, learning styles and different relevant behaviors.

The paper continues to look into whether the child can be tested on the standardized testing. The assessment reveals the exact developmental levels through the team approach. The results then formulate the child’s objectives and elucidate the strategies of intervention for the team working with the child. The author is an experienced person in the Tran disciplinary play based assessment and a well known writer.

O’Brien, Marion, Aletha, Huston, & Tood, Risley. “Sex typed play of toddlers in a day care center.” Journal of applied Development Psychology, 4.2 (1983), 1-9.

The article entails the various plays which are sex typed in a toddler day care center. It focuses on the way the boys like vehicle play and gross motor while the girls will prefer the house keeping and doll plays. The paper tries to define and analyze the study of age at which the sex differences appear.

This is done by examining the play behavior of the children at the age of one year, two years and three years in the day care centers. It also explains the way research was done on use of the stereotyped toys to children of the age 15-35 months during the free play. The authors are well informed with child psychology and the development of children in the early stages especially on play with the sex typed toys

Orenstein, Peggy. “Should the World of Toys be Gender-Free?” The New York Times. 2011. Web.

The article looks into details of whether the toys should be left free to be used by different genders. It further looks at the neutral aspect and the way it can be used to reduce the gender stereotype. The author is an award winner in writing. She is a contributor in writing the New York Times.

Payne, Cathy. “USA Today. 2013. Web.

The article looks at how good it is when girls and boys make use of the toys without being discriminated or gender stereotyped. The paper stresses the point that the interests and the child age are more important than the gender. The article continues to emphasize the role that parents have when it comes to providing the toys because of the image the children can have over their parents such as being bias, as well as beliefs.

It continues to talk about the traits of a good toy for the children. The author is a very concerned person on children especially the growth of toddlers and their exposure to different toys. She is a healthy producer and of snapshots at the USA Today. She has worked win many places such as Detroit Free Press.

Robertson, Carolyn. “The problem with gender specific toys.” Baby Center. 2011. Web.

The article tries to look at the negative effects on the gender specific toys in the development of children. It further looks at the behavior of the children brought up with the specific toys in their school life and how they relate with others children. The author is a counseling psychologist who was previously a dean in the counseling and career development in the Howard University.

Vygotsky, Lev. Play and its role in the mental development of the child. All about Psychology. 1966.

The article looks into details of the preschooler development and discusses the way play arise in the development, its origin, the role of the developmental activity or the play. It also looks at the play as a development form in the preschool age of the child. The article continues to explain that play is not an activity which is predominant. It is a leading form of development in the years a child is in school. The paper also looks at the problems that play faces. The author is a psychologist specializing in the mental development of children.

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