Wednesday, July 3, 2013

More Than Just a Princess

Today is Wednesday, July 3, 2013.

GoldiBlox were invented by a young woman who is an engineer.  Debbie Sterling says that she didn't even know what engineering was until she was a senior in high school.  She had a normal upbringing, complete with ballet lessons, and she says she still likes pink and she still likes "playing dress-up" and all that girl jazz.  But she likes engineering, too, and she says that the toys that boys typically play with hone the spatial sense that is crucial to engineers and architects.  Sterling says it never occurred to her parents to buy her a set of Lincoln Logs Connectors or Lego Bricks, but she wishes her folks had given her a chance to play with toys like these when she was a child. 

Debbie Sterling, CEO of GoldieBlox
Sterling is perfectly OK with girls liking pink or wanting to be a princess.  But when we only allow our children to play with toys that are considered suitable to their gender, we limit their opportunities.  How do parents know that their little girl, who looks so adorable in her pink tutu isn't also a math whiz?  How do we know, for that matter, that our little boys, who love playing with toy trucks aren't also interested in cooking or in ballet?  We don't. 

There's a really cute video on YouTube introducing the product concept, with the jingle sung by a chorus of little girls.  The text at the beginning of the video reads: "For the past 100 years toys have inspired our boys to be thinkers, builders and inventors.  Our girls deserve more."   The song goes, in part, "I've paid my dues / time after time / I've done my sentence / but committed no crime..." and in the end the girls sing, "We are the champions... more than a princess, 'cause we are the champions of the world." 

The video shows little girls solving problems the way boys would.  One girl nails her ballet slippers to a skateboard.  Another girl builds a wagon and attaches it to her bike so she can take her Teddy bear for a ride.  I captured the ending shot of the video because I thought it was just so darned cute.

Another video shows Sterling talking about her product.  Sterling says it's not enough just to package toys that used to be for boys only in pink packaging.  She did her own research and learned that "boys like to build, but girls like to read," so she invented a toy that comes with a story that you can read.  As the girls read about how Goldie solves problems, they use the toy to build the same type of simple machines that Goldie does in the story.  As a teacher, hearing comments from little girls such as, "Oh, so that's how it works!"  proves to me that the girls are interested.

In the future, I hope that more little girls and boys are given the chance to play with all sorts of toys, including ones that encourage kids to hone their spatial and mathematical skills as well as their verbal skills and their nurturing instincts.  We are all so much more than our physical – and social – programming allow us to be. :-)

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