Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 9/10, November 2005 (
Characteristics of Boys’ and Girls’ Toys
Judith E. Owen Blakemore
and Renee E. Centers
In Study 1, 292 undergraduates rated 126 toys as to whether they were suitable for boys, girls,
or both. From these ratings, we established ﬁve categories of toys: strongly masculine, moder-
ately masculine, neutral, moderately feminine, and strongly feminine. Using these categories,
we constructed four toysets; each consisted of 15 toys, three from each category. In Study
2, 706 undergraduates individually rated the toys from one of the toysets on 26 scales that
measured the toys’ characteristics. We found that girls’ toys were associated with physical
attractiveness, nurturance, and domestic skill, whereas boys’ toys were rated as violent, com-
petitive, exciting, and somewhat dangerous. The toys rated as most likely to be educational
and to develop children’s physical, cognitive, artistic, and other skills were typically rated as
neutral or moderately masculine. We conclude that strongly gender-typed toys appear to be
less supportive of optimal development than neutral or moderately gender-typed toys.
KEY WORDS: toys; gender; masculine; feminine.
Toys play important roles in the lives of young
children. They stimulate pretend play, the develop-
ment of cognitive skills, and social play with other
children. Toys are also highly gendered. Boys and
girls generally have different toys, and it is important
to know how those toys impact their development.
More than 30 years ago, Rheingold and Cook
(1975) observed the toys and other objects present
in 1- to 6-year-old boys’ and girls’ bedrooms. They
found that boys and girls had the same number of
books, musical items, stuffed animals, and the same
amount of furniture. However, boys had a greater va-
riety of toys, and they tended to have more toys over-
all. There were also differences in the kinds of toys
that boys and girls possessed.
Boys had more vehicles (e.g., toy cars and
trucks, and also larger items such as wagons). There
were 375 vehicles in the boys’ rooms and 17 in the
girls.’ Not one girl had a wagon, bus, boat, kiddie
car, motorcycle, snowmobile, or trailer in her room.
Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne,
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of
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Boys had more “spatial–temporal” toys (e.g., shape-
sorting toys, clocks, magnets, outer-space toys); they
also had more sports equipment (e.g., balls, skates,
kites), toy animals, garages or depots, machines, mil-
itary toys, and educational and art materials (despite
the fact that these may be seen as gender-neutral).
Girls’ rooms contained more dolls, doll houses,
and domestic items (e.g., sinks, dishes, stoves). Boys
almost never had domestic toys. Although dolls were
more common for girls, it depended on the kind of
doll. Girls had six times as many female dolls and
nine times as many baby dolls as boys did, but boys
and girls had about the same number of male dolls.
In the boys’ rooms, however, “dolls” were usually
in such categories as cowboys and soldiers, probably
comparable to today’s action ﬁgures.
Since Rheingold and Cook’s study, other re-
searchers have reported on the kinds of toys boys
and girls request (e.g., in their letters to Santa Claus),
or what toys are purchased for boys and girls. Such
studies have consistently shown that girls request and
receive more clothing and jewelry, dolls, and domes-
tic and musical items, whereas boys request and re-
ceive more sports equipment, vehicles, military toys
and guns, and more spatial and temporal items such
as clocks (Almqvist, 1989; Bradbard, 1985; Bradbard
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.