For years, there have been “boy toys” and “girl toys.” The boy toys were geared toward construction, war, and competition. Meanwhile, girl toys were aimed at being nurturing or fashionable. Girls had dolls; boys had Erector sets. While there is nothing wrong with either of those categories, it stunts a child’s growth to be limited to just one. This prompted Debbie Sterling, an engineer recently graduated from Stanford, to have an idea to bring little girls to engineering, a field dominated by 90% males.
Sterling performed a year of surveys and trials, determining that, culturally, girls wanted to interact while boys acted more abstractly. Girls did not interact with construction toys as much because there was no presented need or community-oriented goal. Sterling bridged the gap by creating a storybook that shows what engineering can do, and GoldieBlox was born.
The idea took off instantly. After a successful Kickstarter in 2012, the completed first set, Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine, raked in 2014 Toy of the Year awards for educational and people’s choice. The set comes with a storybook, construction pieces, and an array of plastic characters including Ben Cranklin the cat with an attitude, a sloth named Phil, and Flavio, a bear from Brazil.
In the story, Goldie Blox’s dog Nacho likes to chase his tail. Inspired by the mechanism that makes her ballerina dolphin Katinka twirl in her music box, Goldie wants to build a machine that will help Nacho spin to his heart’s delight. Through the story, Goldie faces engineering issues, but she never gives up, pressing on and eventually builds a machine that allows all of her friends to spin, spin, spin. After the story ends, kid-friendly diagrams show other machines young engineers can build as well as an invitation to create unique inventions to be featured on the website.
While the story itself is entertaining and quite suitable for kids aged four to nine, the best part of the set is its toys. Designed to teach the engineering principle of the belt drive, the set comes with a pegboard, axles, and wheels all in durable plastic. A ribbon wrapped around a wheel set into the pegboard by an axle will provide the power for a machine that both kids and adults will enjoy as they watch the pets spin. As the story progresses, so does the machine, eventually creating a system that uses additional axels to change the direction of force to cause wheels at different positions to spin easily. The same principles allow car engines to drive the vehicle down the road, now without mystery.
Much of the GoldieBlox drive has been to dispel the ideas that girls should only be limited to “pink” toys, although the set does include girl-friendly pink, yellow, and purple pieces. That being said, there is no reason a boy would not enjoy Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine and hop into creating as well. With a fun story, an excellent set of construction toys, and encouraging the limitless imaginations of children, GoldieBlox promises to bring a whole new dynamic to the world of toys.
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