Want Your Girl To Be An Engineer? Here is How.

Toy stores are no strangers to gender politics. But the new trend in science and tech toys for girls has brought the debate to an all-time low. Some common refrains:

Why is the doll blonde? Isn’t it supposed to be the Anti-Barbie?
Why are they so thin and what’s with the short skirts?
Does everything have to be pink? My daughter loves blue!

Notice anything unusual? No one is talking about the actual learning potential with these toys. It’s as if just labeling something a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, and math) toy is good enough for our daughters.

It’s not.

The good news is that there are great STEAM toys that offer exciting opportunities for girls to build a strong foundation of skills in science, technology, engineering, and math. The best STEAM toys, like the toys in this guide, will always be the kind that offers a wide range of opportunities at varying levels of difficulty. Metaphorically speaking, these are the kind of toys that grow with a child. If anything, that should be the most important criteria for choosing any STEAM toy for any girl or any boy.

Here is a guide to top choices in five different categories:

Best logic puzzle

Three Little Piggies (Ages 3+; $18.5)

Three Little Piggies

Logic games aren’t very popular in America, which is a shame because they are such a delightful way to build spatial and logical reasoning skills. These makeup core skills that we need to thrive in science and math. They even help with life skills, such as how to efficiently pack a backpack.

Kids as young as three can build these skills as they work to place the pigs in safe houses and lock the wolf out in Three Little Piggies. The houses are on differently shaped pieces and these pieces must be placed in a way so that they will fit on the grid. Each puzzle contains a set of challenges where the pigs and wolf are placed in different locations on the grid, so the child must rotate the house pieces in order to save the piggies. For little ones too afraid of the wolf, an equal number of challenges are provided without the wolf thus totaling 48 puzzles in one box. If you find that your daughter loves this game, then also check out Trucky 3, another preschool logic puzzle which also doubles as a set of three clear container toy trucks.

Best Learn-To-Code Game

Puzzlets (Ages 6+; $99.99)

puzzlets

My 6-year-old tester dove right into Cork the Volcano, the first game from a new coding instruction platform called Puzzlets. Puzzlets is similar to other popular block-based programming methods like Scratch, and Blockly,. But I chose Puzzlets for this guide because it allows kids to code using actual blocks on a Bluetooth-powered tray instead of a screen. This hands-on approach is more multi-sensory in nature, thus enabling children as young as six, to learn faster and more easily. The instruction is game-based so there is plenty of motivation to learn. Kids will find secret doors, get extra points for solving challenges quickly, and the cute characters and cheerful music make learning this important skill much less daunting. Additionally, if a child runs into a challenge too difficult for her, the parents will be automatically notified via email along with suggestions for possible solutions. I find that incredibly helpful, as not all parents know how to code, myself included.

Best Engineering Toy

Roominate Village (Ages 6+; $29.99 – $149.99)

Roominate Village

Roominate encourages young girls to think like engineers by playing with building pieces and simple circuits. The building pieces can be used to create anything from desks and chairs to beds, stairs, and even a car. There are also ample opportunities to decorate their structure, which further adds to the challenge of using the tools to create their vision. Roominate also offers simple circuit-based components, such as lights and motors, so girls can light up rooms and power anything, such as ceiling fans, carousels, and even elevators. New this year, Roominate launched its r-Power technology, which gives kids the ability to control their circuits via phone or tablet through a Bluetooth hub . This new development makes Roominate not only a leader in the field of girls’ STEAM toys but also in STEAM toy market overall, as I have yet to find any building toy for six-year-olds that uses Bluetooth-controlled circuits.

 

Best Robotics Toy

Wonder Workshop (Ages 6+; $45.00 – $399.99)

Wonder Workshop

Anyone who has purchased the two adorable robots named Dot and Dash when they first appeared on Kickstarter in 2013 has made one seriously awesome educational investment. The two robots can be used with great accessories such as a bulldozer, xylophone, LEGO brick adaptors, and this year, a catapult was added to the mix. However, the biggest improvement these two robots have made since is all in the software. This year, a new app, Wonder (iOS, Android), was launched to teach kids how to code in a gamified format called Scroll Quest, so the learning requires less parent intervention. As children learn new tricks from Scroll Quest, they are able to use the free play mode in which they can program their robot to carry out certain “behaviors” they have created such as spin in circles when I clap or say “whoa” when I pick you up. Wonder Workshop also launched the Dot and Dash Show in which two kid hosts, Mimi and Wally (10 and 11), teach children how to play and invent with the robots. The company even launched a robotics competition in October. You can find here

Wonder Workshop2

Best Rapid Prototyping System

littleBits Gizmos and Gadgets (10+; $88.99 – $299.95)
littlebits1There is no toy out there that even looks like this tiny little system that can do very big things. Depending on which bits you have, you can use littleBits to create music, wearables, a draw bot, a bubble blower, and even a remote pet feeder via smartphone. My favorite kit this year is Gizmos and Gadgets, which has enough instructions and modules for beginner projects. The same modules can also be used to do more complex projects, including building a remote controlled car (no smartphone necessary).

 

 

littlebits2

Self-Driving Vehicle is one of several “bots” that can be made using Gadgets and Gizmos.

What does this mean for girls in particular? I asked Lesa Wang, a STEAM Coordinator at Marymount School of New York, an all girls school. Wang works with students in grades 3-5, each of whom has their own littleBits kit. When asked why she chose littleBits for her students she said, “There is an immediate sense of satisfaction when you build and prototype with littleBits.” Wang added, “They snap together and the girls can turn on a light or move something so easily.” She considered littleBits to be gender-neutral, but she explained that it wouldn’t have mattered if they weren’t. “I think the way we challenge our students is way more important.”

Wang makes an excellent point. A great STEAM toy for girls may not be a great STEAM toy for boys for the sole reason that some boys want different challenges than girls—not harder or easier, not more blue or more pink—just different. How challenges are framed by a toy company will help parents and children choose what will work for them, more than colors or other gendered signals. Removing gender assignment in toy store aisles will have the most impact with these type of toys.

25 comments

  • Kenny Lee

    My son who’s turning 4 this year has outgrown basic jigsaw puzzles and logic puzzles. I’m thinking that something like Roominate Village could be suitable for him. It seems like he’s playing toys which are a couple of years ahead of him. Seriously running out of ideas of what to get each time I visited toys shop.

  • Chris

    I love this site!

    I currently have a 6 year old and of course all he does is talk about toys! He can’t get enough toys.

    We go into the big toy stores and just looking for an hour or more. But for a parent this gets old after a while and a lot of the toys are not that great quality.

    Your site provides a good description of the different toys available that you may not be able to find in your local stores. Some even have videos to see them in action!

  • jackie

    This is such a useful page. Thank you for giving me so many ideas for presents! You know I have not thought beyond the barbies and the princesses when it comes to girl presents, even though I myself never really enjoyed playing with them when I was young, but I just wasn’t aware of what else would be interesting as a present. Thank you for sharing, and I am so happy to know that there are non-stereotypical toys that encourages thinking!

    • Efi Azulay

      I am glad that you like it.

      And you right I even did not thought about buying other toys to my daughter other than Barbie or dolls.

      I bought my daughter littleBits Gizmos and even I play with it 🙂

      I will appreciate if you will share my post.

      Thanks.

  • Racheal

    This teacher really appreciates this selection of STEM toys for girls. I agree that gender roles are so clearly defined that it discourages girls from pursuing careers such as engineering or architecture. I use STEM activities in my classroom and all of my students enjoy them much more than other types of activities we have done. It encourages critical thinking and teamwork!

  • Tony Lee Hamilton

    STEAM toys is an awesome idea for any child. I only recently learned that STEAM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics from my 10 year old Nephew. He actually told me that the E stood for electricity so I looked it up and let Him know what the E really stands for. I must admit though at first it was strange learning something like that from a 10 year old that I am glad that I did. The STEAM toys would be a wonderful way to help any child boy or girl to learn the skills to become and Engineer. Thank you for sharing all of these great ideas.

  • Grace

    Dear Efi,

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I also am a strong believer that toys should be educational to young children, especially when their minds are so young and ready to absorb knowledge. For the Dot and Dash robot, would you recommend using this as a way for kids to learn how to take care of pets? Would it teach enough responsibility?

    • Efi Azulay

      It couald be.

      But I think that if you want to teach your kids a responsibility with pets,

      Just give him one 🙂

      It worked with my kids.

  • Dave

    Efi this website has a great layout. The graphics of the products you offer are terrific. I like way you have separated the products by ages and the adds that are composed on your site. This should work very well. I would be a buyer if I had young children. Good job!

  • Wil

    Haha i plan on starting my child off with all the intellectual possible. Not that I favor engineers over everything else, I just want him/her to know and learn about the world. Haha of course being an engineer would be a plus considering pay and job security, but the intrinsic value is also great.

  • Brenda

    I like how the toys are describe and I saw the video of Best Learn-To-Code-Game Puzzle. It is a good Brain game which I can get for my 6 year old grandson. I also like the quality of the toys, it’s hard to find them in the stores now a days.

  • Heathguy33

    This is great. I have bought many of these items for my daughters. I have four all under the ages of 7. I love this site. I will share it and bookmark this site. Keep up the good work. Thank you so much.

    Are these in order or did you just randomly list them?

  • misaelvelasquez1226

    Hey efi,

    i have a two year old sister and she cant seem to sit still no matter the toy. She we endlessly bug me but not endlessly play with her toy. Her birthday is coming up and i have hoping you had some suggestions? Also shes not quite the sharer kind of girl. Is there a tor for two so she can start playing with other kids?

    Thanks, misael

  • We can only encourage them that much, to be a doctor, engineer or a beauty pageant. But what we introduce to them when young will certainly have an impact to their interest when they grow older. STEAM toys are really interesting, I think kids will really love them.

  • Cat

    I love these kinds of toys! I have sons and they have always been into problemsolving, constructing, building and designing things. I’m glad that there are so many things to market these days and that they are not aimed solely to boys as it used to be. Brilliant post and useful site.

    /Cat

  • Hey really awesome post!

    I agree with you when you say logic game are not popular in America. I see a lot of my relatives complaining about the same.
    Being an engineer myself, I especially loved the learn-to-code toy! I wish it had been around when I was a kid though.

    I will definitely recommend this article to some of my relatives as they have small kids who love new toys.
    And this collection will please the parents too as it is learning and fun combined!

    Thank you so much for the post!
    Pushkaraj

  • EJ

    Hello Efi, what an amazing toy wonderland! I have not heard of STEAM toys before today. However, looking at the images and all that can be done with them, they seem like great learning tools for young impressionable minds and a lot of fun. It certainly gets them thinking and exploring their young minds. Children love pulling apart and putting things back together.

    An exciting post Efi for those around young children. Well presented – very colourful too!

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