An analysis of a child's experiences in playing a gendered character during playworld

Ade Dwi Utami, Marilyn Fleer, Liang Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Although numerous studies have investigated gendered play in early childhood settings, they have mostly explored educators' gender beliefs and practices or gender positioning in children's stories and toys in Western contexts. Little is known about gendered play in Indonesia. This paper explores how children take up and experience different gendered roles within a playworld activity setting of a traditional Indonesian folktale. Vygotsky's (1966) cultural-historical play concept and Hedegaard's (2002) concept of motive were used to understand how one 4-year-old focus child experienced the tensions and drama of gendered roles. From a total of 98 h of video observation of nine teachers interacting with 18 boys and 20 girls (3.5–5 years; mean age 4.4 years) during group-play activities, 11 h of data were selected to observe the focus child's interactions. The findings show how playworld creates conditions and possibilities for the child to experience different gender roles, and also suggest that more attention should be focused on how children experience gender role tensions while entering a play-based environment. In its support of children's development through play, playworld can be seen as a pedagogical approach that highlights the teacher's active role. Consequently, playworld supports motive development while children experience gender tensions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100454
Number of pages11
JournalLearning, Culture and Social Interaction
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Early childhood education
  • Gender
  • Indonesia
  • Playworld
  • Teacher

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