Collaborating, Animating, Improvising: Young Children in Mixed-gender Dyads Participating in Digital Pretend Play with a Story-making App


  • Sandra M. Lawrence Mount Holyoke College, Department of Psychology & Education, United States


digital play, young children, peer interactions, digital pretend play


Children in preschool classrooms generally do not select playmates of the opposite gender during traditional play activities; boys play with boys and girls play with girls most of the time. When boys and girls do play together in mixed-gender groupings, play practices at times are unequal. There is limited information, however, on how children play together across gender lines during digital play situations. The present study, informed by Vygotsky’s sociocultural perspectives of children and their environments, addresses this limitation by providing close examination of young children’s interactions as they played in mixed-gender dyads with an open-content iPad app. Data from children’s peer interactions, their video productions, and teacher interviews analyzed using constructivist grounded theory techniques suggest that digital play provided children of both genders opportunities to use their imaginations and creativity as they created pretend scenarios. Findings also point to the ways enduring play themes, embedded gendered scripts, and play objects influenced the different play opportunities girls and boys experienced.