BY ABBY MAC
You may have heard recently of the new girls’ toy, GoldieBlox, designed to encourage young girls into engineering and thinking beyond pretty pink Barbies and dolls. As the GoldieBlox website words it, they desire to “Get Girls Building”. The whole concept is quite original and has attracted support world-wide for providing girls with a broader range of toys than the typical “Pink Aisle” offers. Now, before you stop reading because you think I am going to either criticize the toy or totally jump on board and go way over the top with what a cultural revolution this toy is, I’m not. I have an immense amount of support for this addition to the girls’ toy aisle, it supplies options to those who aren’t interested in playing dolls or caring for babies, however, this is about something a little bit different.
When I was investigating for this post, I read quite a bit of research stating something along the lines, that continued lack of interest for science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) subjects by girls, is due to culture, as in the toys they play with. Other studies revealed that if you don’t expose your girl child to toys such as Goldieblox, which promote building and engineering, before the age of five, then they will be less likely to show interest in any STEM subjects or career options.
Don’t call be pessimistic about the whole idea of GoldieBlox or showing young girls the importance and value of STEM subjects and careers in life because I’m not. What I deeply worry about is that parents and significant adults in children’s lives will feel “complete” after letting their girl child play with a GoldieBlox toy and feel no obligation to nurture their learning more. Adults might enter a stage of complacency thinking if they have let their girl play with GoldieBlox before five, then their world will be open to an infinite world of career options and abilities in the building field, and if they haven’t, well then, let’s go back to Barbies.
As I have grown up, I watch parents stress about missing events in their child’s lives such as their first word, first steps or first day of pre-school, however, once they enter mid to late primary school, events in their child’s lives aren’t as important and missing every music recital or sports games don’t seem that bad, when it is quite the contrary. This is when the child needs and wants the parent the most and a continued interest in their child’s life should be never-ending. Hence, I am concerned that with all these new studies and statistics claiming that exposing your child to toys such as GoldieBlox before five will almost guarantee them an interest in engineering, that parents will just stop playing, teaching and quenching the child’s want to be always learning; right from cooking, to engineering, to swimming.
With the release of GoldieBlox, many generic girls’ toys have been criticized with their limiting features of pink, make-up, dolls, pink, pretty, pink or caring for babies dressed in pink clothes. Parents, the media, experts and general commentators are appealing that having this depleted options of toys for girls are instating in their minds that all they are made for are being housewives. And, I agree, however, just like thinking that the GoldieBlox toys will solve the answer to girls’ lack of interest in STEM, nor are pink toys the direct reason for some girls thinking they are limited to cleaning.
When I was small, I played shopkeepers and teaching and with my dolls but did I grow up thinking that all my skills encompassed caring and interacting with other people and in fact men were more capable? No. My dad use to tell me that he worked in the Poo Factory, as a joke, and for years that’s all I wanted to do was work in the Poo Factory. Now, I want to work as a writer, author and in diplomacy but I don’t remember ever playing with a Barbie who internationally worked and wrote.
Children are influenced by their toys, but most of all by the people and places they are exposed to. Growing up, I have been guided by people from all ranges of life that have taught me ambition, simplicity, health, your own personal influence, kindness, humor, knowledge, the power of questioning, success, equality and integrity. My doll didn’t teach me that. People did.
I am not trying to undermine the incredible advancement that the toy industry have made with developing something for girls beyond pink and dolls. We have begun a step to empowering girls with more knowledge about building and creation but toys do not donate all factors to success or the likelihood of being an engineer. As a society, we can actively enrich girl children to positive culture, people and places and in turn, enhance more positive movements to a girl’s personal self-belief and career diversity. No doll, Barbie, GoldieBlox, My Little Pony or Lego block could ever do something as powerful as that.