The Toy and the Sociology of Childhood

Gilles Brougere - Professor of Education Sciences; University of Paris-Nord, Paris, France

From the article: "It may seem strange, on two counts, to speak of childhood and sociology in the same breath. Firstly, the toy is more commonly studied in relation to the child’s psychology and secondly the sociology of the child is noticeable for its absence, especially in France. The result is that the toy tends to be studied as a child’s tool, an instrument in its development, incorporated in the individual dynamics which enable the child to emerge from childhood!
Our purpose here is, in a sense, quite the opposite: we wish to apprehend how the toy leads the child to be a child, to affirm itself socially and culturally as such, to see how it contributes to producing the childhood of our societies. To this end - and despite the paucity of the literature in this field - we need to approach the subject from a sociological and not a psychological point of view.
The sociology of childhood (to which I hope to contribute through this address) has as yet been little explored, interest being most marked in England. We shall use three different ways of considering the social dimension of the toy as a vehicle for advancing a synthesis of different works, including our own, but more particularly for proposing a programme which, we hope, will form the basis of future work."

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