While I was playing with my 10 year old daughter, I was thinking how exciting and interesting she finds the toys of my 12 year old son. I am not referring to not just the new toys but even the ones he has out grown. And then I remembered my recent visit to the toy store which has distinct displays for boys and girls, and thought how in-congruent it is. One one hand we wonder why more girls do not take up STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) courses when they get in Universities on the other we stereotype our children attitude by providing gender specific toys; almost all STEM toys being toys for boys.
In fact I was reading a Microsoft sponsored research which found that 61% of male students pursued STEM because they enjoyed games/toys focused on their area of subject. The other interesting point which jumps out is that the interest in STEM subjects (in school) begin at around 8 years. Fast Company put this research in rather nice perspective to highlight the ‘The Shortage of Women in STEM explained‘. This article goes onto say that we need to give girls a a compelling image of their future selves.
- Cubelets – Awesome modular Robotics Kits to build robots to match her imagination
- The Super Exciting STEM Toy – Robot Turtle Board Game
- Dot-and-Dash the Adorable Robotic Toy which teaches Coding
Several women who have undergone STEM education like engineering have launched toy companies to develop STEM toyswhich appeal to girls but are also gender neutral. One such company is GlodieBlox and the other is Roominate. (You can watch the interview in the video attached)
Coincidentally I stumbled upon an article Psychology Today magazine, in which Daniel Voyer, the author suggests that we should shun the gender stereotypes. Dolls for girls and blocks or cars for boys actually reflect our social influences. He supports educational toys which focus on spatial abilities – which require relating between objects and among parts of the object. These inculcate imagination in 3 dimensions and have been linked with success in STEM fields. He further says that there are studies that playing with spatial toys during childhood has beneficial effects on spatial abilities in adulthood.
My son is interested in techie stuff and my daughter is developing interest in those stuff. I am now planning to get the right STEM toys which will build on their spatial abilities and STEM robotic toys which will help them build the problem solving skills.