• Do boys and girls like different toys?
  • What social, cognitive, and biological factors influence the design and marketing of gender-typed toys, and children's interest in such toys?
  • What are the long term implications of gendered toy play for children's development and later adult roles?

In this book, scholars in developmental psychology, education, and neuroscience examine the fascinating intersection of gender and child play.

Contributors consider the innumerable ways in which toys today are gender-typed, alongside the expression of gender preferences in early childhood, and they review research showing that children who play with different kinds of toys reap different cognitive, emotional, and social benefits.

Through playing with toys, children learn various skills, including lessons about how they should or should not behave. Gender-typed play, therefore, both reflects and solidifies gender stereotypes and constrains children's later social roles.

With theoretically and empirically based play interventions, as well as descriptions of ongoing campaigns aimed at raising public awareness, this volume offers concrete steps researchers, clinicians, parents, and activists can take to help children grow up to realize their full potential, independent of preconceived gender roles and stereotypes.

Table of Contents


Erica S. Weisgram and Lisa M. Dinella

I. Toy Preferences and Gender

  1. Gender Typing of Toys in Historical and Contemporary Contexts
    Erica S. Weisgram
  2. Research Methods in Studying Gender and Toy Preferences
    Lisa M. Dinella
  3. Gender-Typed Toy Preferences Among Infants and Toddlers
    Kristina M. Zosuls and Diane N. Ruble
  4. Characteristics of Masculine and Feminine Toys and Gender-Differentiated Play
    Isabelle D. Cherney

II. Causes of Children's Gender-Typed Toy Play

  1. Sex Hormones and Children's Gender-Typed Toy Play
    Melissa Hines and Jacqueline Davis
  2. Environmental and Social Contributions to Children's Gender-Typed Toy Play: The Role of Family, Peers, and Media
    Christia Spears Brown and Ellen A. Stone
  3. Cognitive Perspectives on Children's Toy Choices
    Carol Lynn Martin and Rachel E. Cook

III. Consequences of Gender-Typed Toy Play

  1. Impact of Gender-Typed Toys on Children's Neurological Development
    Lise Eliot
  2. Fashion or Action? Gender-Stereotyped Toys and Social Behavior
    Sarah K. Murnen
  3. Cognitive Consequences of Gendered Toy Play
    Lynn S. Liben, Kingsley M. Schroeder, Giulia A. Borriello, and Erica S. Weisgram
  4. Working at Play: Gender-Typed Play and Children's Visions of Future Work and Family Roles
    Megan Fulcher and Emily F. Coyle
  5. Societal Causes and Consequences of Gender Typing of Children's Toys
    Campbell Leaper and Rebecca S. Bigler
  6. Conclusion: Toward a Greater Understanding of Children's Gender-Typed Toy Play
    Erica S. Weisgram and Lisa M. Dinella


About the Editors

Editor Bios

Erica S. Weisgram, PhD, is a professor of psychology at University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point (UWSP). Her research focuses broadly on gender development in children, adolescents, and young adults.

Her recent work explores the cognitive construction of stereotypes in preschool children and how cultural stereotypes affect children's interest in toys. She also examines how gender and gender-related factors (e.g., stereotypes, values, familial roles) affect individuals' occupational and academic interests with a specific focus on girls' and women's interest in math and science occupations.

Dr. Weisgram earned her bachelor's degree at Luther College and her PhD at The University of Texas at Austin. She is the 2016 winner of the UWSP Justus Paul Sabbatical Award, the UWSP Excellence in Teaching Award, and the 2017 UWSP University Scholar Award.

Lisa M. Dinella, PhD, is a research scientist who investigates the relations between gender, academic achievement, and career development.

Dr. Dinella studies children's toy play and media exposure, and how gendered experiences shape academic and career pursuits across the lifespan. She is principal investigator of the Gender Development Laboratory at Monmouth University, where she is an associate professor of psychology and an affiliated faculty member of gender studies. Her school-based research endeavors led to her edited book Conducting Science-Based Psychology Research in Schools.

Dr. Dinella recently presented on gender disparities in children's media and toys at the White House in Washington, DC. She drew from her research to provide key recommendations to toy, media, and youth-serving organizations on how to break down gender stereotypes.

Reviews & Awards

In this unique and important volume, leading experts in the field describe how early play experiences shape gender socialization. Toys seem somehow to be so innocent, yet these chapters convey how powerful toys are in children's development.
—Janet Shibley Hyde, PhD
Professor of Psychology and Gender & Women's Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison

This book proves how necessary it is to step back and allow our children to navigate their own journeys of self-discovery. Parents, educators, and advocates will rejoice at the excellent tools and advice for helping children to explore all types of play, regardless of gender.
—Jess Weiner
CEO of TTJ Consulting and Cultural Changemaker

Weisgram and Dinella have gathered a thoughtful collection by top scholars who examine why girls morph into princesses while boys play with cars. Is it marketing or biology that drives toy purchases? And what are the consequences of children's toy choices? The authors open our eyes to the latest science on gender and toy choice and debate whether boys' and girls' toys are forever stuck in blue and pink wrapping and stacked on different shelves.
—Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD
Stanley and Debra Lefkowitz Faculty Fellow, Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, DC