Boys’ doll and dream universes

By contrast to 3-4 year old girls who are interested in the classic function dolls (baby, pretty lady, “Daddies-Mummies-and-Babies”), boys of the same age are interested in function figures or dolls which clearly represent functions in society. They are interested in the fireman, the policeman, the soldier, the car mechanic, the pilot, etc.

When small boys play solitary play or parallel play, they become absorbed in the roles connected to the familiar figures in society.

Regardless of whether the doll is a function doll for a smaller boy or a character with a personality structure for the older boy, the doll always appeal to masculinity. The masculine concepts and aspects which are apparent in boys’ play are:

  • narrativeevents and action
  • hierarchyand competition
  • heroic deeds
  • “the aesthetics of victory”
  • strength and might
  • the masculine and the ugly (role of hero and villain, respectively)
  • mythor legend about heroic behaviour (what makes the hero good/strong)
  • confrontationand battles (fight between villainous and heroic roles).

The boys assign dolls and figures, which include the concepts of victory/defeat, win/lose (the good heroes against the evil villains), between them in play in order to make it possible to test out the different roles and positions and to experiment in play with violent or aggressive themes.

For older boys (from about 6 years) to an even greater extent, it is the very distinct masculine play universe of the hierarchy of action dolls and their mutual positions in relation to strength and weaponry which are topics for discussion and experimentation through play.

In typical boys’ play, older boys in particular gather in groups or “gangs” where the prominent motivation is mutual admiration and approval. Boys play with signals and messages which are interpreted identically, with orders and with informative monologues which will become evident in play and with facts and data, the durability of which they discuss and test within the group.

In the following we will describe four universes, each of which is subdivided into four spheres which describe the content of the boys’ play and dreams:



1. The guardian/the monster

2. Roles of the fairy characters

3. Fairy dreams

4. Fiction and fairy tale

5. Toy examples: Turtles, Masters of the Universe



1. The warrior, the big hunter

2. Cryptic hero roles,

3. Dreams about power and victory

4. Fiction/social realism

5. Toy examples: Miniature soldiers, GI Joe, Action

    Man, cowboys and Indians



Border between fantasy and reality



Border between fantasy and reality




1. Older boys, grown ups and teenagers

2. Clever boys’ roles and functions

3. Dreams of being strong and clever

4. Soap realism

5. Toy examples: pilot, fireman, policeman




1. Mummy, Daddy and Baby

2. baby (gender) and mother roles

3. Functions, lots of noises, motor skills

4. social realism, everyday drama

5. Toy examples: classic dolls’ house as farm, zoo,

    garage, cars




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