The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Builders and Babes in Toy Land


Goldie Blox brings engineering to girls’ playtime

I haven't been this excited for a new toy in over a decade. Adults get excited about their toys, too—an iPod, a new camera with more megapixels, or gaming headsets—but this is different. This is picking up a big wrapped mystery box and hearing 2,500 beads for stringing and weaving and losing rolling around. Call it a quarter-life crisis if you want to, but I am psyched for the new Goldie Blox book and building set.

Goldie Blox is a little girl who loves building different contraptions to solve problems with her colorful array of friends. Sure, there's pink involved. But there are gears and blocks, and books, too! That's the great thing about this new toy. Debbie Sterling, a Stanford engineer, didn't like that girls didn't have any building toys--unless you count Lincoln Logs pink edition (at least this set still uses wood logs!). But what Debbie has done is really smart: she's used the same ideas that make Lincoln Logs, Legos, and K’NEX popular, but added a reading component to make it especially attractive to girls. Studies have shown that girls overwhelmingly like reading whereas boys overwhelmingly pass over the pages to get to the project. Well, now we can combine the two with a great role model who straps on a tool belt and figures things out!

The video got me excited about the toy, but also for what it promotes: introducing girls to engineering. The best part is that we don't have to give up dressing-up, princesses, pink, Barbie, or any other stereotypical girl-toy that, despite all the flack, many of us still love.

After I calmed down from my toy-shopping high, I thought about why I am so passionate about Goldie Blox. A male family member who is an acclaimed engineer in his late 80s wasn’t as impressed with the toy. He got to where he is with no help at home or at school, and even had to fight against overt discrimination trying to keep him from doing what he wanted. But I think more people, including Debbie Sterling, are recognizing that we don't have to do things the way they've always been done, we can expand kids' minds about who they can be and what they can accomplish. This is especially important as the boundaries of what people can do are being actively debated and expanded here and now. After all, whether or not a girl ends up an engineer doesn't mean Goldie Blox or toys like it can't add to her intellectual development and problem-solving skills! Nor does playing with Barbies mean you'll grow up to be a fashionista;  even if you do, there's nothing wrong in that.

But as with all things, we can't rely on the tool to do all the work. Goldie Blox doesn't fill the necessity of parents talking to their kids about what they are capable of and (hopefully) challenging preconceptions of the same. I played with Barbies galore (though pink was more my sister's thing) and loved the Disney princesses. But I also had access to toys like Lincoln Logs and a sizable car collection. Additionally, our parents made sure I knew that Barbie wasn't real, (nor was my zucchini ballerina toy), and that the Disney princesses are pretty and smart, but they got married far too young. Most importantly, they taught me that I can do whatever I want, with dresses or books or logs or cars, as long as I try hard and respect the choices of others to follow their own passions. So let’s build a belt drive with Goldie Blox and then celebrate our success with a tea party!

-K. Sarah Ostrach
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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