These days, men outnumber women in STEM degrees two-to-one. And although my former coworker mansplained it as, “It’s because most women just want to be nurses,” actual scientists believe that expectations and aspirations are formed from a child’s earliest moments. By the time girls reach high school, they’ve already formed their opinions about what they’re good at — which is why it’s important to let girls explore their possibilities from an early age. That’s where toys come in. Children see themselves in their toys; play is, essentially, practicing for adult life. What does it teach girls if the only toys marketed towards them are kitchen ware?
Thankfully, that’s not the case any more. Toys to inspire your little girls are out there — though they might be difficult to find. Here’s a few of our favorites.
Barbie’s Inspiring Women
Mattel believes that a girl imagines everything she can become with Barbie. This explains why I always thought I’d grow up to have an 18-inch waist! But now, they’re building better dreams. In June of 2018, the longtime doll manufacturer released a diverse line of Barbie “sheroes” which honor groundbreaking women like Amelia Ehrhart, snowboarding champion Chloe Kim, and artist Frida Kahlo. You can bet this computer geek preordered her Katherine Johnson (Hidden Figures) doll as soon as it became available.
Girls of all ages benefit from having a hands-on representation of their role models. And while Mattel has long offered career Barbies, they’re continually enhancing the line. Dolls are less than $10. So instead of the usual nurse or veterinarian, get the girl in your life the Barbie pilot doll and inspire the world’s next Tammie Jo Shults.
GoldieBlox Zipline Action Figure
What kid doesn’t want a zipline in their bedroom? The Goldieblox Zipline Action Figure comes with everything your budding engineer needs to endlessly create and re-create a 13-foot zipline. Plus, there’s a fully articulated action figure to ride on it!
GoldieBlox founder Debbie Sterling spent a year researching how to make an engineering toy for girls that went beyond the “make it pink” mentality that has guided toymakers for ages. She discovered that girls engage with stories and characters rather than just “building for the sake of building,” and the GoldieBlox line provides character-driven problem solving for girls ages four and up.
Karina Garcia DIY Slime Kit
Any parent of an eight-year-old girl can tell you: slime is the new Easy Bake oven. It’s also chemistry. And, it’s just plain fun. YouTuber Karina Garcia released this 15-piece slime kit which includes everything your budding chemist needs to make crunchy, clear, or glowing slime. Plus, there’s glitter. Need I say more?
In the 1980s, a box of Legos came with a letter reminding parents Legos were a creativity-building toy for both boys and girls. Sadly, by the 1990s, 90% of its users were boys, following years of Star Wars and action-movie sets.
Lego put tremendous research into finding out how to make toys that appealed to girls. They learned that, while all kids enjoyed building, boys and girls wanted to do different things when they were done. Boys were content to leave their creation as a backdrop, but girls were frustrated by their inability to “get inside.”
In 2012, Lego launched its Friends series, designed to engage the roleplaying aspects and interior engagement that appealed to girls in their focus groups. The line doubled sales expectations in the very first year and since then, it’s only continued to grow.
Roominate Alice’s Mansion
Speaking of engaging a girl’s interest, Roominate has developed a line of toys that will enable the girls in your life to architect the world’s coolest buildings. When she’s done constructing it, she can furnish and wire it. Your budding electrical engineer will build confidence and develop spatial skills, while adding such touches as a working elevator or a rotating swimming pool. Endlessly customizable, Roominate’s toys provide real-life lessons in circuitry and structural engineering.
Why Does It Matter?
My dad bought me a truck for my third birthday. When I was ten, we’d spend our Saturday afternoons assembling electronics kits. By the time I was twelve, he and I sat down to learn our first programming language together.
Would I have grown up to be a computer programmer if he hadn’t done those things? No one can say, but I do know doing those things gave me confidence to tackle anything later in life.
So head to your nearest toy store and pick up one of these fantastic toys. Sit down with your daughter, niece, or neighbor. You may be building the confidence that will shape her future.