Toys for girls.

I just saw the video of a commercial for GoldieBlox posted on facebook by a couple of different people. It was by people that I admire for being strong women, but this commercial, and it's sentiment, really, I mean REALLY makes my blood boil.

I understand where the company is coming from. Being a female engineer myself, I'm still shocked to see how few girls and women there are in the sciences. But after having a daughter of my own, and looking at toys, I'm amazed at how BACKWARDS toys have evolved.

One example is Lego. I had tonnes of Lego when I was a kid, and it was by far my favourite toy from about aged 4 or 5 until my teens, and I've even been knows to build with some Lego now and again as an adult. But somewhere Lego became known as the toy for boys. Why? I don't know, but to try to appeal to girls, they started making “girl” Lego. with shiny pink and purple blocks. Really? I loved Elvira Kurt's shaming of the Lego company on Q (sadly it's not in the Cultural Hall of Shame archive) for taking what really is a gender neutral toy, and categorizing it into “boy” and “girl” Lego.

I feel there is so much of this going on. Taking something common, and trying to widen it's appeal by “girlifying” it. I think most toys don't need to be categorized as being for boys or girls, they're just toys!

I looked up the GoldieBlox website, because I couldn't really tell what the heck the product was that the commercial was actually for. I still don't quite get what it is, but what I do get is that it's pink and plastic. Yes, that's what makes it great, yet another drab pastel toy to really engage the girls. Personally I think that Tinker Toys look much more fun.

Which got me thinking about what really inspired me to write this, before I started ranting. What do I think are great toys for girls? Well, here are some of the things that I came up with:

Blocks - Build em up and knock 'em down. Learn how to make strong structures or balance really tall towers and make lots of noise as it crashes down.

Balls – Roll, bounce, throw, kick and catch. What girl doesn't want to run around with a ball? Don't know a sport? That's fine, make up the rules as you go along. What Rube-Goldberg machine doesn't start with a marble?

Ride on toy (tricycle/bicycle) – My daughter's “Tiny Trike” was endless hours of fun as a car, motorcycle, scooter, horse etc. I remember my bicycle being a Viper fighter from Battlestar Galactica back in the 80's.

Sand box and toys – All girls should get down and dirty and hands on. Sand is a fascinating material, and can changes considerably when mixed with water. Go mining for treasure, build all kinds of landscapes, explore hydrology with streams, learn how sand behaves differently between when it's dry and wet. A simple sand toy set will have all kinds of fun things to explore beyond a shovel and pail. Add a sieve and funnel and all kinds of different shaped containers, and you might find it turning into a percussion band.

Blankets, pillows and sheets – The most miserable and rainy day is an adventure with a fort! Just watch the ingenuity unfold as the fort gets built and modified and fixed endlessly.

Boxes, tape, scissors and string – It's true, most girls find the box more interesting than the toy inside. Make a barn for horses, and elevator for stuffies, a basket for her bike or a magical dinosaur land, the possibilities are endless with a box.

Play dough – Let her hands get gushy in some play dough. Adding tools like a rolling pin and knife to explore patterns and shapes, or simply sculpt and squish away. Make your own home made play dough and you've got an example of everyday kitchen math and chemistry ready to go.

Puzzles – Great for cognitive spacial recognition, and just plain fun. Think outside the box when it comes to puzzles, any kind of shape manipulation and/or matching falls in this category.

Magnets – Simple shapes are great for creating patterns on the fridge, or simply explore throughout the house for what they react with and let curiosity lead her to discover polarity and other magnetic properties.

Crayons, paint and paper – Every great invention starts with a plan! It's more than just art, it's a concept drawing, or a map.

Information – OK, this isn't a toy, but it's more powerful than that. I was amazed at how many parents I saw at the library telling their kids “no, we aren't getting that book.” Explore the non-fiction section of the library and let her pick out any books that she finds interesting. My daughter was drawn to a colourful book that explained static electricity. For the week after she was continuously combing her hair to “experiment” with static electricity on everything. When a girl asks questions, research the topic along with her, or tell her about the latest thing you've learned about. Information abounds on the internet these days.

I could go on and on and on with all kinds of “girl” toys. It doesn't have to be pink, and even if it's blue it doesn't mean it's not for a girl. In fact, the best toy for a girl is anything they are interested in playing with. So drop your bias on what is for a “girl” and let her play with all the toys.