Pedagogy Market Research | Review #10


An Analysis of Children’s Play Behaviors Towards Toys Representing Diversity

By Fulya Ezmeci, Esra Akgul, and Berrin Akman

Review Summary by Diya Jaishankar
Grade XI Student, Market Research Intern, Adaptive Instruction

Diya Jaishankar is a eleventh grade student in Bangalore. She is curious and observant and enjoys playing the piano, watching crime shows, solving puzzles and chatting with her friends.

This is a summary of a published paper written by Fulya Ezmeci, to which Esra Akgul and Berrin Akman contributed. Ezmeci and Akgul are part of the Faculty of Education of the Early Childhood Education program in Turkey. This paper explores children’s attitude towards diversity and their perception of it through analysis of their behaviour towards toys which represent diversity, which acts as a means of self-expression. It then makes observations, draws conclusions and recommendations based on the findings of the study.

Analysing children’s thoughts on and attitude towards diversity is imperative. This is because by the age of 5 years, children start discovering their own identity and ethnicity. Additionally, they start noticing bias towards people with special needs in society and think about what victims of discrimination can do to improve their condition. Other studies have found that children with special needs do not have sufficient interaction with other communities, and so they lack social awareness. Also, few studies study diversity surrounding disability from a child’s perspective. Whereas this study aims to find the difference in play behaviour of children when playing with toys representing diversity versus the lack thereof, and the influence of the children on toys’ diversity.

The study is based on Psychodynamic play theory, which stipulates that children reflect their emotions or the lack of them, in play. It uses the basic qualitative research method. Through this method, data was collected by taking observation notes in the classroom. Observations depended on a theoretical framework which includes individual/physical differences, cultural differences, and special needs. The participants in the study comprised of 52 pre-schoolers aged 60-72 months from 4 classes in Ankara, the criterion being lack of education on cultural and individual diversity. These children shared the same dominant culture and willingly participated in the study, consisting of a pilot study that was modified into the main study.

The Pilot study was conducted in a preschool classroom. 24 toys were kept in the middle of a preschool classroom with 12 showing diversity and the others, not. The children played with them for 45 minutes per day for 4 days. The researchers observed that the children were unaware of the toys’ diversity and ignored toys with special needs. This was modified in a few ways to conduct the main study. Here, the study was only conducted during activity hours, and the same toys were introduced separately using posters for 15 minutes each, detailing their diversity. The children were then given 30 minutes to prepare a game to play with these toys.

The analysis was done based on Dey’s Qualitative Analysis, which includes:

  • Description – of a person or object
  • Classification – Data points coded and organized under themes
  • Association – Emerging themes defined based on their relation to each other

The themes found on grouping the data points consisted of ‘Not included in play’, ‘Making fun’ and ‘Rejection’.

The paper also explains that credibility of a qualitative study can be improved by prolonged engagement. In this technique, the children’s behaviour is observed in the classroom environment, with other children and their own toys. This helps to ascertain each child’s general behaviour as opposed to their behaviour towards diverse toys.

This paper states that dependability of a study can be increased using researcher triangulation. In this technique, multiple researchers are involved in the data collection, analysis and interpretations of observations, and function independently.

Confirmability can be ameliorated using audit trails, which ensures that the decisions made, procedures followed, and problems encountered during data analysis are meticulously recorded. Consequently, the research can easily be implemented by other researchers.
Criteria for Confirmability include:

  • Raw data – field notes, voice recorder data
  • Analysed data
  • Access to themes, codes, and categories to form findings
  • Detailed research process – which consists of the procedure, purpose and expected results
  • Details of development and implementation of the study – such as quotes from children instead of the researchers’ opinions

The study showed various play behaviour exhibited by the children. The researchers observed that children’s behaviour towards toys were similar in case of culturally or individually diverse, or non-diverse toys. However, their play behaviour towards special needs toys was shown in 6 distinct ways, from being excluded from the play completely or ignored, to being assigned a passive role or being completely included in the play. This gives strong indications of children developing discriminatory attitudes even before they enter pre-school education.

This study also demonstrated the different roles assigned to the toys. Both diverse and non-diverse toys were given positive (passenger, blind friend) and negative roles (fighter, thief). The researchers also noticed that roles of diverse toys were assigned either depending on diversity or irrespective of it.

Some recommendations are to modify this study by conducting it as an outdoor activity and allow researchers to interact with children for them to explain their play behaviour. Other factors that may influence the child’s attitude to diversity may include family and society, which can also be studied. Finally, the relevant authorities can supply materials to explain how to show respect for diversity and reflect it in learning centers.

Link to the publication:
An analysis of children’s play behaviors towards toys representing diversity