One sweep through the toy aisle and you’ll realize something’s a little… off. Whereas boys get building blocks and science experiments, girls get dolls and homemaking training—things like kitchens, cash registers, restaurants—and most of it, is pink.
Even more alarmingly, according to research byProfessors Judith Elaine Blakemore (psychology, Indiana University/Purdue University) and Jeffrey Trawick-Smith (Eastern Connecticut State), most toys associated with boys are related to fighting or aggression, and most associated with girls are related to appearance. They also found that moderately masculine toys encouraged children’s physical, cognitive, academic, musical, and artistic skills more so than moderately feminine ones.
The relationship between children’s toys and their future potential career choices is clear.
According to the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP), women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce. And although women receive over half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences, they receive only 17.9 percent of computer science degrees, 19.3 percent of engineering degrees, 39 percent of physical science degrees, and 43.1 percent of math degrees.
Their passions are fostered as children, and if most of the toys designed for little girls are focused on physical attractiveness, nurturing, and domestic skill, they’re not going to support their involvement in STEM careers later on down the road.
Here are 8 toys you can buy your little girl to foster a potential career in the sciences. She’ll thank you later.
Designed for students K-2, Puzzlets is a gaming system used by teachers across the country, focusing on crucial STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) programs for kids. It's a hardware accessory that plugs into your tablet or computer and offers games that teach users preliminary coding, math, and color theory. They currently only have one game out (focusing on engineering), with two coming later in 2017.
2. Goldie Blox
Goldie Blox is the full package. With toys, books, apps, videos, animation, and merchandise solely marketed towards girls, your little scientist can channel Goldie Blox's signature blonde "girl inventor" and her friends Val, Ruby, and Li. The toys are essentially building blocks for girls. She can build a cable car, a club house, a skate park—anything she wants, really, and all the little pieces make it genuinely challenging.
According to their website,Roominate teaches hands-on problem solving, spatial and fine motor skills, self-confidence, creativity, and basic circuitry. It's a set of "blocks" or panels that connect to form whatever she wants to create, from a car to a desk to a dance studio.
4. LEGO Women of NASA
It's about time LEGO represented! The winner of the LEGO Ideas competition, the Women of NASA set aims to immortalize the contributions that women have made to space exploration. It features astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, NASA's chief astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, and mathematician Katherine Johnson.
A line of robots and action dolls,SmartGurlz is designed to engage girls 6 and up in STEM. The robot, which is the scooter that the dolls ride, connects to your smartphone or tablet and the dolls themselves are all girls in math, tech, chemistry, or mechanical fields.
Jewelbots are friendship bracelets with a twist. Using technology, the Jewelbots bracelets light up and buzz to send messages between wearers. Girls can write messages by coding them via their software, and they can program their Jewelbots to deliver whatever messages they like.
7. Microsoft's DigiGirlz Tech Camp
Although this isn't an actual product you can buy, DigiGirlz is a two-day, overnight camp you can enroll your high school-age teen in. Taking place in cities across the country, the campers "listen to speakers, participate in technology tours and demonstrations, network, and learn though hands-on experience in workshops." The next session is taking place in Sacramento, CA from March 23-24, and applicants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.
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