Kiddie See, Kiddie Do? - The Effects of Familiarity on Play
Ruomei Wu, Amy
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Children are ac0ve learners who acquire knowledge by examining and exploring their environment. Because this environment is gendered, it behooves us to inves0gate how children think about gender and how it affects their behavior. The current study examined the play paAerns of sixty‐four children aged three to five and their categoriza0ons of forty gender‐stereotyped, neutral, or ambiguous toys. Specifically, we examined the role of familiarity on children’s toy selec0ons and behavior and the reasoning and categoriza0on of toys by gender. We found that overall children spent more 0me playing with novel toys, but they spent longer playing with each familiar toy that they chose. Children are more likely to categorize toys as their own gender, but as they grow older, these strict gender stereotypes loosen and children are more likely to allow both genders to play with a toy. Children are more flexible with assigning gender stereotypes for novel toys and will assign a greater percentage of novel toys to the opposite gender than familiar toys. Lastly, children are most likely to assign a gender for reasons that they cannot explain. They will also assign gender roles based on a gender associa0on from viewing children of a specific gender playing with the toy or “liking” the toy and specific characteris0cs and play paAerns that are aAached to the toy. Since the world around them affects the toys with which children play, even in a new, gender‐“balanced” environment, it is important to pay aAen0on to the experiences children have everyday and the gender stereotypes that they experience.