Parents and Playtime

Posted on September 10, 2018

Recent studies suggest that parents can influence their children’s toy preferences over time simply by exposing them to more variety of play items. What this means, however, is not that explicit and excessive re-direction of their attention to other toys will get them to change their preference, but rather, highlights that there are more than just biological factors that determine children’s toy preference.

It has always been argued that children’s toy preference is determined by their gender, but what this study suggests is that there is a certain element of later socialization and exposure that contributes to what children reach for during playtime. This is the good old “nature vs nurture” debate.

The question is, how much of our behavior is pre-determined and how much of it is dependent on our socialization?

Parents begin the socialization process early: as soon as they know the gender of their child, they tend to begin and focus the preparatory work – for example, buying certain toys, painting the colour of the child’s bedroom a certain colour etc. – based on their concept of gender roles. This usually translates to trucks for boys and dolls for girls, blue wallpaper for baby boys and pink wallpaper for baby girls etc. Hence, it may not necessarily mean that girls are biologically more predisposed to the colour pink, for instance, but rather, the product of socialization from the get-go.

In the initial test, the study found that 5-month-old infants did not show a preference for looking at either dolls or trucks. 12-month-old girls also did not show a preference, but 12-month-old boys preferred trucks over dolls. A possible reason for why the preference did show in girls, but showed in boys of the same age could be due to the stronger emphasis on masculine traits taught to boys from an early age.

The next part of the study involved the parent guiding their child’s attention towards a pre-selected toy and directing their child’s attention away from other toys. The results showed that the parents were not effective in overriding their child’s preference. The researchers postulated that short-term explicit re-direction was not effective. What predicted children’s toy preference was the type of toys that parents exposed their child to at home. This means that simply exposing your child to more types of toys over a longer period of time would be more effective in influencing children’s toy preferences.


Source material from PsyPost

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