As a Mum of two bright, funny, determined little girls I want them to know the world is theirs for the taking; that they can do whatever they want in life, and that their only boundaries are the ones they set themselves.
Which is why I take offence to the whole ‘blue for boys, pink for girls’ cliché. The fact that this insidious sexism still exists in the 21st century is ridiculous – if anything, it’s worse than it was when I was a child in the 70’s, when girls were encouraged to put on denim dungaree with rainbow patches on the knees, and ride bikes and skateboards, and make mud pies.
Now, when I go into a toy shop I see the same depressing sight: one side is piled high with pink dolls, fairies, and miniature household appliances, the other with blue and grey boats, building sets, and plastic swords. The shopkeepers will argue ‘little girls like pink, that’s why we stock it’. But of course they’re going to gravitate towards that when, from the moment they’re born they’re wrapped in pink blankets, and dressed in pink onesies, and given pink teddies to cuddle at night. They don’t think to question the choices they’re habitually making, because no one has ever offered them an alternative.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against little girls liking pink… if they’re given a range of options, and THEN select it. What I do object to is them choosing pink because there simply isn’t any other choice. And while it might seem like a small thing (is the colour of a plastic toy really that big a deal?) what’s to stop this insidious gender conditioning from being carried right through to adulthood, and resulting in a young woman not pursuing a career she is perfect for, because it’s a ‘man’s job’.
And that’s exactly why I LOVED the concept behind GOLDIEBLOX. Founder Debbie Sterling knows exactly what it’s like to break out of the pink glittery mould. With a creative mind and a flair for maths, her high school teacher suggested she study engineering at university. ‘I didn’t know what it was,’ she admits. ‘I couldn’t understand why my teacher wanted me to become a train driver. ‘
Then she looked into it, and realised this was something that not only appealed, but fit in perfectly with her skills. She gave it a try, and realised she was really good at it too. But there was something that bothered her – in a room of students, only a few of her classmates were female. Why? She wondered. Women were just as capable, smart and creative as men, so how come there was such a huge disparity?! She began to suspect the social conditioning played a part, that young girls just weren’t receiving the exposure and encouragement they needed to pursue careers in maths, science and engineering. And she decided to do something about it.
After a lot of planning, testing, tweaking, GoldieBlox was born – an engineering kit designed to appeal to girls aged 5-9. Yes, there’s pink in these sets, but there’s also purple, and yellow, and teal, and red. Every set utilises basic engineering principles to make a toy complete with moving parts – so far in the range you can make a spinning machine, a parade float, a movie machine and a dunk tank. You can even construct a zip line, complete with a figure of ‘Goldie’, the curious, adventurous and capable heroine that represents all those budding young architects and engineers.
Debbie was very careful to make sure Goldie remained feminine – she needed to strike exactly the right balance so girls could identify with her first, then aspire to be her next.
Big Sis has always had a fascination with building things. At four years old we gave her a little building blocks kit; when we turned around 10 minutes later to help her with it she’d already completed the mini model all by herself. So I knew she’d love GoldieBlox. When she first saw the parts she was a bit confused as it was unlike any building set she’d seen before, but it didn’t take her long to figure it out.
When I explained that she didn’t just have to build the model on the front, that she could use the components to make ANYTHING she liked, her face lit up. She started tinkering away, head bent over the pieces, figuring out how to make new structures that connected, and moved, and spun around. She was in heaven, and I could literally see her confidence growing as she completed each new design.
I’m now planning to add to her GoldieBlox collection at Christmas – there’s a fab BUILDER’S SURVIVAL KIT containing 190 pieces that I’m hoping will be available in the UK soon. Then she can truly let her imagination go wild; I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.
That’s not to say she won’t get pink stuff too – I have no problem with her playing with Barbie dolls, I just want it to be her choice and not one that society has groomed her to make. Thank you, Debbie, for helping smash these outdated stereotypes and encouraging my children to follow their dreams – whatever they may be.
• we were sent some GoldieBlox sets to try out but views are ABSOLUTELY my own!