Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 1/2, January 2005 (
Children’s Toy Collections in Sweden—A Less
The aim of this study was to describe and analyze differences between girls’ and boys’ toy
collections in a country that strongly emphasizes gender equality (Sweden). The study was
based on the assumptions that toy collections reﬂect social values in the society where they
are found and that Sweden has less gendered values than do many other countries. The toy
collections of 152 3- and 5-year old Swedish children were inventoried, and the results were
analyzed and discussed in relation to previous research on children’s toy collections and toy
preferences in North America and Western Europe. The Swedish toy collections were found
to be gender-typed in ways similar to those reported in previous research in other countries.
KEY WORDS: toy collections; gender stereotypes; social values.
According to the International Council of Toy
Industries (2001), global retail toy sales in 2000
were USD 54.7 billion. In a recent study (Nelson &
Nilsson, 2002) of Swedish children’s toy collections,
3- and 5-year old children were found to have an av-
erage number of 536 toys in their bedrooms. These
ﬁgures are but a few indicators of the growing con-
sumption of children’s toys.
Some previous studies have focused on patterns
of children’s toy preferences in experimental (e.g.,
Servin, Bohlin, & Berlin, 1999) or naturalistic (e.g.,
Eisenberg & Shell, 1990) settings. These patterns
most frequently relate to gender. They show that girls
and boys prefer and choose toys according to tradi-
tionally feminine and masculine traits, i.e., toys that
represent a private and a public sphere, respectively
(e.g., Richardson & Simpson, 1982). This pattern is
also evident in studies of toys found in children’s
bedrooms. A number of studies in different coun-
tries have identiﬁed signiﬁcant gender differences
in children’s toy collections (e.g., Nash & Fraleigh,
1993; Pomerleau, Bolduc, Malcuit, & Cossette, 1990;
Rheingold & Cook, 1975).
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Stockholm In-
ternational Toy Research Centre, Royal Institute of Technology,
S-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden; e-mail: email@example.com.
Gender-related patterns in toy preferences and
in toy collections are sometimes considered to be a
result of the attitudes and preferences of the chil-
dren (e.g., Robinson & Morris, 1986) or of their
parents (e.g., Fisher-Thompson, 1993; Rheingold &
Cook, 1975). In some studies these patterns are in-
directly related to the inﬂuence of the media upon
children, for example, through television commer-
cials or gender-typed presentations in toy catalogues
and on toy packages (e.g., Schwartz & Markham,
1985; Sobieraj, 1998). Other researchers, such as
Raag (1999), have shown that attitudes toward gen-
der roles among peers, siblings, and other signiﬁcant
others inﬂuence the child’s choice of toys.
There are a few studies that focused particu-
larly upon the relation between social attitudes to-
ward gender and children’s toy collections. In one
such study, Zammuner (1987) examined the toy pref-
erences of Italian and Dutch children and found
empirical support for the notion that children’s toy
preferences reﬂect the social view of gender dif-
ferences. Italian children’s preferences were more
gender-typed, and this was interpreted as a reﬂection
of more gender-typed social attitudes in Italy than
those found in The Netherlands.
Virtually none of the previous researchers
reported any gender differences between the total
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.