Gendered language and toy preference and use were analyzed in an observational research study with over 400 minutes of play therapy sessions with 24 adult and 22 child participants. Observations were focused around what type of toys were most selected by male compared to female children. In addition, observation research was used to determine what toys are identified as female, male, or gender neutral by both adults and children. Female children played with more toys overall and with a greater variety of toys than the male child participants. Male children chose to play with a far greater percentage of masculine toys than did female children. Across the 4 participant groups, male child, female child, male adult, and female adult, all 4 groups labeled toys as male most frequently. In addition, both the male and female children labeled toys associated with acting out or aggression as predominantly male. These findings were in keeping with expectations around learned gender stereotypes found in numerous other studies.
Describe what types of toys are most selected by children in play therapy and if they vary by gender.
Analyze and discuss how therapists and child clients label or identify gender in the playroom.
Identify ways in which play therapists can be more gender inclusive and reduce gender biases in play therapy.