Building a Pink Dinosaur: the Effects of Gendered Construction Toys on Girls’ and Boys’ Play
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Play with building toys such as LEGO® sets promotes spatial learning in children. The present study examined the effects of the color of the bricks (either pink or blue) and the femininity/masculinity of the object built on boys’ and girls’ play with LEGO® sets. Children (n = 116, M age = 7.27 range = 5–10) were given the opportunity to build with LEGO® brick sets, both instructed and free play tasks. For the instructed task, the type of object (feminine: cat; masculine: dinosaur) and color of the bricks (pink, blue) were counterbalanced across participants. Their play was coded for accuracy of following the instructions and time to complete the task. In the free play task, brick color (pink, blue) was counterbalanced across participants, and structures were coded for femininity/masculinity and the number of bricks used. Overall, children took longer to build a feminine object with blue bricks than with pink bricks. In the free-play task, boys built more masculine objects than girls did, regardless of the color of bricks they were given. Results showed that boys completed the LEGO® tasks faster than did girls, controlling for interest in and experience with LEGO® play. These findings suggest that toy color and type can impact how children interact and play with toys.
KeywordsConstruction play Gender-typing Spatial ability
The present research was supported in part by the Lenfest Summer Research Grant awarded to Megan Fulcher. The authors would like to thank Addie Healy, Catherine Simpson, Nelson Helm, Rebecca Olson, Kristin Hixson, and Stephanie Masters for their help in data collection. Also, we would like to thank all of the children and families for their participation.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The research reported on in the manuscript, Building a Pink Dinosaur: The Effects of Gendered LEGO sets on Girls’ and Boys’ Play complies with ethical standards for research as directed by the American Psychological Association. The project was approved by the Institutional Review Boards at Washington and Lee University and the University of Texas at Tyler. Parents of participants gave written informed consent and children gave verbal assent before participating in data collection.
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