GoldieBlox – more than just a princess

P1050150

I first heard about GoldieBlox toys last year when my parents brought them back from their visit to Canada. They were out shopping when they noticed a sales frenzy with customers snapping up GoldieBlox sets. Determined not to miss out on these innovative and clearly popular toys, they purchased a few sets to give to my daughter. I’ve been raving about them ever since to my friends.

If you haven’t heard of GoldieBlox, they can best be described as construction sets for girls aged four to nine. Created by a female American mechanical engineer, Debbie Sterling, GoldieBlox’s mission is to introduce the joys of engineering to girls and encourage them to design and build. Despite there being ample career opportunities in engineering, in Australia, women make up only 9.6% of the total number. (The Institution of Engineers Australia).  This is similar to other places in the world. To address this gender imbalance, GoldieBlox hopes to inspire future female engineers through these innovative toys.

What’s interesting about these sets is that they incorporate storytelling into a construction kit. Before developing these toys, Sterling spent considerable time researching gender differences in play. She noticed that when girls play, they use verbal communication and appreciate stories and characters. This led her to replace the 1-2-3 instruction manual found in traditional construction sets with a story book.

P1050146

This book is filled with characters and a narrative as well as instructions so girls can build the toy described in the story. The main character is Goldie, a smart young girl inventor who designs and constructs different products to solve a particular problem that her and her friends are facing. The book also provides designs of additional structures which can be built showing girls that these blocks can be used to design a variety of things, not just what is outlined in the story.

In addition to GoldieBlox encouraging design and problem-solving, each set introduces an engineering principle. GoldieBlox and the Parade Float introduces the engineering concept of the wheel and axle while GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank focuses on the hinge. The Spinning Machine kit centres around the belt drive.

My 5 year daughter has been playing with these sets for a few months and it’s been interesting to watch how she plays. She really enjoys the stories of Goldie and her friends as they design parade floats, dunk tanks and spinning machines and will follow along the story as we build the toys together step by step. She also picks up the little characters like Nacho the dog and Katinka the dolphin and plays with them. But I’m also noticing that she spends a lot of time just tinkering with the pieces and inventing new products using the different components. I have no doubt as she gets older and more confident in her designs and construction ability, she’ll be building more elaborate inventions. Also terrific about these sets is that they are interchangeable meaning that kids can combine sets to create megaprojects.

Of the sets that we have, GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank is our favourite. Goldie uses a carnival dunk tank to trick her dog Nacho into taking a bath. Using a combination of short and long axles, blocks and targets and utilising the principle of hinges, kids can build a structure to dunk Nacho in a glass of water by aiming a ball at the target. It’s a lot of fun even if water does go everywhere!

I have to confess that I play with GoldieBlox when my child is asleep. Can’t help it! So much fun and educational as well. I wish I had toys like this when I was growing up.

The beauty of these toys is that they offer an alternative to traditional girls toys such as princesses, fairies and other “feminine” toys. I don’t have an issue with my daughter playing with dolls but I do want her to be exposed to other toys as well including construction toys. It’s interesting that boys have role models like Bob the Builder to encourage building and construction but until Goldie came along, there wasn’t really a female equivalent.

P1050157

Even though GoldieBlox is marketed towards girls, Sterling is pleased that boys also play with GoldieBlox and in future male characters will be introduced. After all, design and engineering are useful skills for both boys and girls. Let’s encourage the next generation of engineers!

For more information about GoldieBlox, check out this video from Debbie Sterling.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/104670437

The following sets are available in Australia. Locally you can get them at Aldi, Frontline Hobbies and The Spinning Top. However, Aldi seems to have the most competitive price with a Special Buy price of $24.99

GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine

goldieSM

In this award-winning debut story, Goldie builds a spinning machine to help her dog, Nacho, chase his tail. Soon all her friends want in on the action. Help Goldie build a belt drive machine to spin everybody!

GoldieBlox and the Parade Float

goldie2

Goldie’s friends Ruby and Katinka compete in a princess pageant with the hopes of riding in the town parade. When Katinka loses the crown, Ruby and Goldie build something great together, teaching their friends that creativity and friendship are more important than any pageant.

GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank

goldie3

In GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank, Goldie has to find a way to get Nacho clean. As kids read along, they help Goldie build a dunk tank (and learn about hinges and levers) to get Nacho clean so everyone can go to the carnival on time.

Disclosure: Many thanks to Grandma, Granddad and Uncle Jay for providing the GoldieBlox kits.

Have you tried GoldieBlox toys? What did you think?