“I needa cut up my soup”

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American English-speaking preschoolers reinscribe implicit understandings of gender prescriptions in their food-related talk and pretend play. Girls discussed and coordinated complex, sequenced meal preparation, sometimes explicitly as mother or child. Boys’ food-as-comestible play was shorter and less developed. They imaginatively transported themselves to places outside of the home setting (to a swamp, a spaceship), planning and enacting scripts of gender normative adventure and danger, in which food was symbolically transformed for use in nondomestic, noncomestible activities, e.g., a piece of bread becomes a camera. Boys also style-shifted linguistically, but usually in non-family roles. This study contributes to research on preschooler’s gendered social language and spontaneous symbolic play, and to research concerned with the meanings children ascribe to food and eating.


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