Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Toy preferences...

Recently in the news
There could be a biological reason why boys love to play with toy trucks and girls prefer their dolls, British researchers say.

Dr. Brenda Todd and her student Sara Amalie O'Toole Thommessen from City University London studied 90 infants between the ages of nine months to 36 months and concluded children choose to play with gender-specific toys from the moment they can first crawl.

This study is the first to find such consistent and stable differences in toy choices between genders in children younger than 18 months.

And more
The finding raises the possibility of a biological basis for toy choices. A study from 2001 found even 1-day-old boys spent longer looking at moving, mechanical options than 1-day-old girls, who spent more time looking at faces.

In the study, researchers found no association between parents' reported views on gender-appropriate toys for children, or parental roles at home, and the toys children chose. In other words, dads who did their share of housework and moms who held high-level jobs outside the home were just as likely to have girls who picked dolls and boys who picked cars and trucks.
There seem to be similarities in monkeys
Evidence indicating that sex-linked toy preferences exist in two nonhuman primate species support the hypothesis that developmental sex differences such as those observed in children's object preferences are shaped in part by inborn factors. If so, then preferences for sex-linked toys may emerge in children before any self-awareness of gender identity and gender-congruent behavior. In order to test this hypothesis, interest in a doll and a toy truck was measured in 30 infants ranging in age from 3 to 8 months using eye-tracking technology that provides precise indicators of visual attention. Consistent with primary hypothesis, sex differences in visual interest in sex-linked toys were found, such that girls showed a visual preference (d > 1.0) for the doll over the toy truck and boys compared to girls showed a greater number of visual fixations on the truck (d = .78). Our findings suggest that the conceptual categories of "masculine" and "feminine" toys are preceded by sex differences in the preferences for perceptual features associated with such objects. The existence of these innate preferences for object features coupled with well-documented social influences may explain why toy preferences are one of the earliest known manifestations of sex-linked social behavior.
Found via Pelle Billings great blog who pins the whole topic down

The important task for us as adults is to accept the child, regardless of whether he or she fits into our preconceived notions of how they should behave. If a boy enjoys playing with a doll, do we have the guts to allow him to do so, or do we clearly demonstrate that this behavior is unwanted?

The important thing is that our openness needs to go both ways. Regardless of whether a young boy prefers playing with cars or dolls, the challenge for us is to support him in whatever is the organic development path for him. The same goes for girls of course. Staying open to the fact that each child is an individual, and not automatically a mirror image of what we expect a boy or girl to be, can be a real challenge.


Treating each child as an individual is the best way to secure that the child gets the kind of socialization process that he or she needs. The end result will likely be that most boys play with cars, since there are genetic and hormonal drivers for this. However, some boys will prefer dolls most of the time, and some boys will want to play with dolls a smaller proportion of time. If we cannot accommodate the needs of these boys (or the girls that prefer playing with trucks), then what kind of people are we?

The ultimate answer to the nature vs nurture debate is as always that both matter. And the way to allow nature and nurture to combine in the most beneficial way for the child is to see the unique needs of each child.

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