The toy, media, and clothing industry for young girls is often nauseating to look at. It’s a blur of pink frills with nothing below the surface, an aisle of toy kitchens and plastic babies that cry. Maybe this, combined with subconscious clues from parents and teachers, has contributed to the dismal amount of women in STEM careers.
Toys influence the interests and preferences of their children as they mature. This includes toys, chores, and other preferences. Many parents encourage sex-type-related activities for boys and girls; girls are encouraged to play with dolls, dress-up, or homemaking-related activities, and boys are encouraged to play with trucks or engage in sports-related activities . Sometimes, even subtle comments can enforce stereotypes; a mother telling the child “I can’t fix this- this is your dad’s job!” implies that it is the father’s duty to “fix” things. It may seem silly or petty, but these comments can heavily impact the child’s self-perception.
So to hit back at those assumptions, here are nine games, toys, or activities to get young girls interested in STEM.
GoldieBlox got some major publicity last year, as it emerged as one of the hottest new toys for girls. Founded by Debbie Sterling (who was introduced to engineering by her high school math teacher), GoldieBlox includes a book series plus a variety of construction sets starring Goldie, the girl inventor. One of the most popular ones is GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine.
It makes a perfect gift for little girls who enjoy storytelling and helps build spatial skills, establish engineering principles, and promote confidence in problem-solving. And while many of the boxes are in pink or purple, a victory is a victory!
littleBits doesn’t just teach girls about using electronics- it encourages them to build their own! With hundreds of bits and accessories, their highly customizable sets allow young girls to pursue their own interests and turn their imagination to reality. Additionally, littleBits also provides many online lessons and instructors personalized by grade level and interests for them to truly reach their full potential.
While it looks complicated, this coding kit is a fantastic way to get your daughter, sister, or any young girl in your life interested in coding. It challenges them to cut past simple engineering ideas and focuses on the deeper concepts behind coding and programming. It comes with a whole new world of opportunities that most of these kits can’t offer to younger audiences. By learning breadboarding, soldering, wiring, and more, girls will be able to push past their limits and make incredible things. The satisfaction they’ll receive through their accomplishments with the littleBits Electronics Arduino Coding Kit will help them truly love engineering!
Alice Brooks and Bettina Chan from Stanford masters engineering invented these sets of hundreds of colorful pieces that can be put together to build almost anything. Using motors, light circuits, and modular furniture building pieces and walls, Roominate empowers kids to build endless amazing creations!
- Hands-On Problem Solving
- Spatial + Fine Motor Skills
- Basic Circuitry
Inspire girls to reach their best through the simple, yet effective Roominate sets!
4. STEM Programs (like Stemettes or AAUW Camps)
STEM Camps are a great way to get a young girl involved with other peers while learning engineering, math, or science principles! These camps each provide their own valuable knowledge and hands-on experience in STEM related topics, and girls are guaranteed to enjoy these fun courses with others their age, and with informed instructors to guide them through the process.
5. Discover with Dr. Cool Sets
Assisted by the cartoon Dr. Cool, these sets allow girls to explore various fascinating science-related topics. From geology to astronomy to chemistry, they include countless experiments through which children can delve into many of their favorite subjects.
The kits cater to girls of any age, who are bound to enjoy the hands-on lessons that may play a pivotal part in their futures with STEM.
6. Kid K’Nex Building Sets
The flexible, colorful pieces of these sets teaches girls to love engineering at very young ages. With just some simple parts, preschoolers will have no bounds as they assemble these lego-like pieces together. Although the kits guide young girls through a few building ideas, they are free to roam their minds and create anything they can imagine with the Kid K’Nex Building Sets!
7. Mighty Makers Fun on the Ferris Wheel Building Set
The little girl in your life will be encouraged to explore engineering with this story-based building set featuring a character named Emily who goes through exciting adventures. K’NEX parts can be used to replicate the constructions depicted in Emily’s story. With over 300 pieces, this set is perfect for girls who enjoy reading along to stories and learning along as well. It’s recommended for ages 7 and up.
8. Scientific Explorer My First Mind Blowing Science Kit
This kit involves over 20 pieces, designed for any young budding scientist to explore all types of interests. Packed with hair-raising experiments, any little girl can (with the help of a guardian) make a color-changing volcano, watch a sunset appear in a test tube, and grow jiggly crystals.
The supplies included include: Red cabbage powder, citric acid, baking soda, 3 color tablets, crosslinked copolymer, vegetable oil, corn starch, 2 cotton swabs, 3 test tubes with stand, 3 plastic cups, pipette, 2 sticks, 2 measuring scoops, and an instruction guide with helpful hints about scientific connections. Your little scientist will love these fun experiments!
9. Mega Bloks American Girl Building Set
From the loved American Girl brand, these sets (featuring the same characters) can go a long way in bringing younger girls toward STEM pathways. They will not only be engrossed with their favorite dolls, but will be obsessed with the countless ideas they can build and explore through this Mega Bloks product. These building sets make amazing gifts because they immediately attract girls and then let them pursue their imaginations as they create fabulous things with their dearest toys!
10. GeoSafari Jr. Bug Watch Boxed Set
Budding girls will enjoy watching bugs grow in this well-designed boxed set. Ignite a spark of curiosity in the sciences with this toy. A kid-size version of a microscope appears in the Double-Viewer Cone and the Double-Viewer Scope, perfect for a little one to see bugs and other specimen from both the top and bottom.
The instrument can also be used for viewing collected rock, minerals, flowers, leaves, seeds, fossils, and more. The set also includes three collecting jars with magnifying lids and two pairs of tweezers so any little girl can go out into nature, get her hands dirty, collect samples, and be just like any grown-up scientist!