The gender-specific appeal of toys and the set of toy attributes

Toys have appeal - and especially strongly to gender - such that many toys are designed and produced so that they emphasise some qualitative values connected to gender.

These values are also connected - figuratively - to the set of toy attributes.

A set of attributes is composed of the aspects or qualities which can be identified and utilised to characterise a specific toy.

The characterisation or interpretation of the attributes of a toy is undertaken naturally by the person-at-play/user in the following order:

  • Values
  • Set of attributes
  • Toy/Sign
  • Characteristics/Interpretation

It is therefore reasonable to describe how gender culture dominates the set of toy attributes so strongly - although in some cases the opposite is true!

This description of gender culture as a basis for toys’ attributes is a general description motivated by some interesting descriptions of gender related by Sørensen (1990).

Gender culture is the way in which the toy appeals to the differences between girls and boys and simultaneously underlines these differences. The two sexes form different networks which have different meanings.

The most apparent and well-defined differences will be described here:

From infancy, girls seek to go together in twos, in close girl-to-girl relationships or dyads. The dyads are connected to larger cliques or clusters in any given group of girls, e.g. in a kindergarten or class at school.

Boys associate in more loosely structured groups, gangs or hordes.

Individually, children are gender conscious from around 18 months. In kindergarten gender cultures are formed in which girls and boys live in relatively separate worlds until they are 12-15 years old.

This doesn’t mean that girls and boys don’t play together because home, the supply of playmates and number/gender of brothers and sisters are influential factors. But the children are usually conscious about gender differences and cultures.

There is much foreign literature on this topic. In Denmark, there are only very few gender-based investigations of kindergarten children’s grouping and friendships which can give the development psychological discussion a gender-cultural dimension. See Hjort (1987), Kryger (1988), etc.



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