Toy manufacturers have started to release STEM toys for girls designed to draw their interest at an early age. In some cases, such as GoldieBlox, companies have been formed entirely on the premise that designing STEM toys for girls requires a different approach than with boys.
As the parents of a young girl, my wife and I encourage her to play with a wide range of toys–currently dolls and Legos are her two favorites–and do not specifically target gender-specific items. However, several of these items should be obvious additions to the playbox regardless of your child’s sex (heck, even I enjoy some pink and purple additions to the Lego collection).
I have not yet had the pleasure of playing with Roominate–ahem, I mean watching my daughter play with Roominate–but there’s always Christmas. As building toys, Roominate stimulates cognitive thinking and spatial reasonsing, as well as just being plain fun. Each Roominate set focuses on a theme (e.g., power or schoolhouse; check Amazon for full listing) with construction suggestions–similar to Legos. Also like Legos, young inventors are encouraged to deviate from the original plans and develop their own ideas. Roominate provides space on their website for users to upload their creations, as well as videos to guide those who may have experienced an “inventing block”.
Legos have a longstanding tradition of teaching children how to build and explore their imagination. However, males have traditionally dominated the building bricks. In hope of attracting more females, Lego began releasing Lego Friends products in 2012. In addition to the building sets, there are a serious of television episodes depicting the five main characters. The building sets cover a wide range of suburban elements: veterinary clinic, juice bar, etc.
GoldieBlox’s overall goal is encouraging girls to enter STEM disciplines through a kits with story and construction elements. To that end, kits often come with a book, or some other form of narrative, and construction equipment (e.g., axles, rods, etc.). The award-winning company launched in just 2012 but has quickly gained a presence in more than 6,000 stores worldwide. Products are generally geared towards ages 4-12 and follow Goldie–a budding inventor–as they solve problems using simple engineering concepts. Goldie serves as an inspiration to both girls and boys aspiring to enter STEM disciplines.
Whereas GoldieBlox’s primary focal point is storytelling, BlinkBlink relies on creativity to attract girls’ attention. The company’s product intersects arts, crafts, and fashion with circuit theory, design thinking, and engineering logic. Their Possibilities Kit contains everything a young woman needs to start designing her own wearable technology. Check out their about page for more information.
JewelBots started out as a kickstarter–a successful one judging by the money pledged ($166,945) and the rapidly declining number of pre-order units available. Not just a simple bracelet, Jewelbots is an excellent example of STEM toys for girls: it provides a fun approach for learning to code. Or, as the Kickstarter frames it: “[they are the] friendship bracelets for the iPhone era”. They work on a fully open platform, allowing the more adventurous tinkerers to customize the device in countless ways.
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