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How does gender impact play?

The article “The Roles of Child Gender and Parental Knowledge of Child Development in Parent-Child Interactive Play” by Marjanovič-Umek and Fekonja-Peklaj assessed how a child’s gender impacts how parents and their children play together. They also investigated the relationship between parental understanding of child development and how they play with their children while they are in toddlerhood and early childhood. Participants included 99 children (50 toddlers aged 1–3 years; and 49 preschoolers aged 3–5 years) and their parents. Parent-child pairs were observed in their homes using a standardized set of toys which included things like a baby doll, a toy tractor, a cup and plate, several stones, and scraps of paper. Results indicated a strong correlation between parental and child play behaviors across both age groups, meaning parents and children played with each other in the same ways. Findings revealed that the gender of the child influenced the way they played, in particular, girls were found to participate in increased structured and symbolic play. Symbolic play is essentially pretend play, so in this study, it could have appeared as having a tea party with the baby doll, or using the stone and paper to “make cookies.” They also found that the parent’s gender did not impact how they played with their child.

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