Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Human Development and Family Studies

Program or Major

Child Development

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Jill Trumbell


Both play and parental sensitivity serve an important role in children's lives. This study aims to investigate how parental sensitivity and gender impact children’s play in a museum environment. Specifically the research questions addressed in this study are: Is parent gender related to parental sensitivity and the types of play activities parent-child dyads engage in at the museum?; Is child gender related to parental sensitivity and types of dyadic play activities?; Does the combination of parent and child gender impact parental sensitivity and dyadic play?; and Does parenting sensitivity promote different types of play behavior in the museum context? Data collection took place at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire. Fifty-seven parent-preschooler dyads engaged in a 15 minute freeplay session in a river-themed museum exhibit, followed by 5 minutes of clean up; interactions were coded for play behavior and parental sensitivity. Analysis revealed that children spent the most time engaged in object exploration and imaginative play in the museum context and that girls engaged in more imaginative play than boys. Higher parental sensitivity was correlated with more time spent in imaginative play and less time in games with rules. No significant parent*gender interactions were found. Implications for parenting behaviors that support positive play activities are discussed.