Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Toys and Games Tuesday: Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine

Hey All! This week I'd like to introduce a new column, Toys and Games Tuesday! It will appear once a month or so. In honor of Back-to-School Month, we're going to talk about the much buzzed-about toy, Goldie Blox.

If you have school-aged children, it's hard to avoid hearing about STEM. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and is an acronym that anyone involved in education is throwing around the way troublemakers once threw paper airplanes in class. American children don't know enough about the STEM fields, politicians, big technology CEOs, and some educators have argued. This is bad for national security and the Future of the Nation in general. I'm not certain I agree, as it's been eons since I've stepped into a classroom, but I am all for anything that makes children more curious, passionate, and excited about the world we live in. Here is where Goldie Blox steps in.

Goldie Blox is the brainchild of Stanford engineer Debbie Sterling. Noticing a lack of women in the engineering field, she developed Goldie Blox to help get girls excited about building and engineering. Girls can do more than just play dress-up princess she argues. Her hope is that the more girls are exposed to engineering, the more interested they will be in pursuing engineering as a career, and the better the chances are that more women can help solve problems in the world.

What's Inside

  • Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine story book
  • One pegboard
  • Ten axles
  • Five blocks
  • One ribbon
  • Five blocks
  • Five wheels
  • Five Washers
  • One crank

Through the story in the book, Goldie and her friends figure out different ways to configure the machine parts to solve their problems. There are also pages where the child can copy and create different formations using the materials.

What I Like About This Toy

I like that this toy came into being because its creator (Sterling) wanted to empower girls. As a character, Goldie is as adorable as they come. The book shows Goldie solving problems but also having fun (even playing dress-up with her star sunglasses!) With her toolbelt and overalls, she is unambiguously ready to build. But Goldie's flowing blonde locks and her adorable animal friends also make her accessible to the princess set. The book and toy parts are also made out of high-quality plastic.

What I Don't Like About This Toy

My daughter, who is seven-years-old and my Official Tester of Everything Kid complained, "Ma, the ribbon isn't long enough!" I agree. It seems that once you get these cool formations going, you can't do much because the ribbon is too short. Are they inadvertently encouraging us to do Goldie Blox hacks? You could certainly get around this by using your own ribbon with some velcro sewn on the end. But still, seeing as this is a toy that is supposed to encourage young girls to build, why stop the fun when it had only gotten started? I would definitely recommend they start selling booster packs with extra long ribbon, parts, etc, if only for the lazy and technologically inept among us.

I also don't like (and this probably wasn't their intention) that by marketing an "engineering toy for girls" they create a further rift between life and science that an increase on focus on the STEM fields was supposed to fix. Life and engineering are inseparable. If you really want to get girls building, let them get involved in some real-life building situations. Let them help you put together some furniture you just bought (IKEA anyone? LOL!) or let her help you fix the car or bike (even if they just hold the tools because they might be too young or small to help you for real). Point out the beauty of a bridge you are about to drive across. These activities are free, and show STEM in everyday life.

*end rant*

Still, I love the toy and its message. If you've got a young girl in your life and the $30 to spare, you might want to consider this for her birthday or Christmas gift.

To find out more about Goldie Blox, check out their website. Their kickstarter page, though expired, is also rather informative. Goldie Blox is recommended for children ages 6+, and has small parts which may be a choking hazard for younger children.

Photo Credits

The photo of the inside of the box came from here. The picture of the Goldie Blox banner came from here, and "More Than Just a Princess" came from here. Thanks heaps!

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