Through play, children can discover what they want to be when they grow up. Unfortunately, outdated gender biases limit their options by dictating how boys and girls should play. How will a young girl aspire to become an engineer, and a boy, a chef, without building with a construction toy or cooking in a play kitchen?
Luckily, toys that promote careers in science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM) are providing girls and boys with the same opportunities to play. It’s feminism at work in the toy industry, and it’s spurred a crop of exciting new products.
Jodi Norgaard created the Go! Go! Sports Girls line of athletic dolls and books to show girls that leading a healthy and active lifestyle is more important than how they look or dress. Citing a recent EY Women Athletes Business Network and espnW study, Norgaard says playing sports gives women the skills and competitive spirit necessary for success on the field and at work.
Playing with a dollhouse has come a long way since you were a kid. Now, girls can play contractor when they design, build and wire a dollhouse with Roominate.
Based in London, Makies are dolls that children design online and receive by mail. Kids can create a Makies to look like them and produce accessories for it with a 3D printer. Named for renowned scientists, such as Nikola Tesla and Marie Curie, Makies collector characters are role models for boys and girls.
Engineer Debbie Sterling hopes her construction toy, GoldieBlox, brings more girls into engineering. Within the story of Goldie’s adventures are instructions for building the toy.
Modeled after professional female athletes, Soccer Girls sports action figures by KaskeyKids get dads on the floor playing with their daughters, says Winnetka toymaker Christy Kaskey. Soccer Girls come with a carrying case, felt playing field, instructions for making plays, and enough figures to make two full teams.
Children learn to classify animals and identify trees with Na2ure board games and apps. Your child will toss around words that PhDs use, like vertebrate and octopod, and understand their meaning, says Na2ure founder Alex Wolf. Bonus: with every purchase, a tree is planted through Trees for the Future.
By looking and dressing like actual kids, Lottie dolls celebrate childhood. “The way we see it, girls can get involved in science projects, climb trees, dress up as pirates or gaze at the constellations,” say Lottie’s creators Lucie Follett and Ian Harkin. “The point being, be yourself.”