STEM toys for girls are a great way to inspire girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), whilst being tons of fun at the same time. If you’re new to the concepts, you may be wondering why we believe STEM toys for girls are so important, but to answer that question we will have to dive into some STEMtistics!
The Importance of STEM Toys for Girls
When it comes to STEM fields, women are massively underrepresented. In the USA women made up just 26% of the computing workforce and 13% of the engineering in 2016. A similar story can be found in other developed nations, with women only making up 23% of the core STEM workforce in the UK. Given that jobs in these sectors earn significantly more on average than non-STEM careers, it is vital for wage equality that women become better represented in these fields. But how?
Research has shown time and time again that there is no difference in science and math ability of boys and girls, so the aptitude argument can no longer be used to explain the shortfall. To contrast, we now know gender stereotyping to be one of the major causes, with studies showing the beliefs about what subjects are for what genders can be formed as early as 6 years old! These ideas then go on to influence everything from basic interests to career choices.
So the age old notion that girls should play with dolls & kitchen sets and boys with building blocks is not only outdated, but harmful to child development. We think that changing this paradigm is essential to help break gender stereotypes and ensure girls have equal opportunities to pursue STEM. That aside, the STEM toys for girls below can also help develop valuable skills like coding, engineering and design through interactive challenges. What’s not to love?
Founded by two female engineers from Stanford University, Roominate was created to ”inspire the next generation of innovators”. The kits enable you to build your own structures using easy-to-fit together parts. You can then customize the inside by building furniture, staircases and adding stickers.
Additionally, some sets come with motors and electrical components which allow you to make things like an elevator, spinning windmill, carousel and more. The company also released an app allowing you to control and connect the different components. It’s like your very own mini smart-home!
Since being named the #1 toy of the year in Time Magazine a few years ago, the startup has expanded into an impressive range. From RV’s, to amusement parks, to mansions, the sets are all compatible with each other so your kids can let their imaginations run wild. We think Roominate is a top STEM toy for girls to develop engineering skills, and the best part is it’s super affordable. It’s easy to see why these multi-award winning sets made the cut this year.
Produced by consumer robotics company Anki, Cozmo is the artificial intelligence (AI) robot you’ve only ever seen in movies. Reminiscent of Disney’s Wall-E, Cozmo is just as cute and packed full of emotions and moods which develop the more you hang out! Download the app to play games and unlock new skills, features and levels – this is where Cozmo really comes to life.
If it loses it gets sad (only for a little while!), if Cozmo wins the robot is happy. If bored, it will nudge you to play, if you ignore Cozmo it can get cranky. Sometimes it’s easy to forget it isn’t alive – especially when state of the art facial recognition software enables Cozmo to call your name!
Cozmo Software Development Kit (SDK)
That’s fun and all, but the Cozmo SDK is easily the most interesting and exciting feature. This platform allows you to write your own custom code for Cozmo and create entirely new experiences. Anki provide 10+ example scripts to get things started, where you can learn how to program Cozmo to sing a scale or patrol for intruders. But after this it’s up to you to experiment with the code and see what you can do…
And Anki don’t just give access to low level functionality like movement and sensors, but also let you program high level behaviours and functions like animations, facial recognition and localization systems. What’s more, Cozmo can connect to 3rd party APIs like IFTTT and Twitter, which opens up a whole host more possibilities. The hardware is so advanced that even researchers are using Cozmo! This kit is full of potential and we think it is really one of the best coding toys for girls out there. If you want to find out more about the SDK, click here.
If you think this might all sound a little too advanced, Anki have also created a graphical drag and drop styled programming option in the App. This simplifies the whole process as kids simply move blocks of commands into sequences and execute the program, so is a good option for complete beginners to understand the basics.
Cozmo provides hours of fun at the same time as teaching your kids the essential skill of coding. Our best STEM toys for girls list wouldn’t be complete without this awesome robotics set from Anki!
Similar to Roominate, GoldieBlox is designed to develop mechanical engineering skills through creative exploration. Aimed at a slightly younger audience, the kit comes with a storybook where kids follow Goldie the inventor & her friends on adventures.
In order to solve Goldie’s problems and challenges, you have to build fun structures and machines. These include anything from ice cream trucks to parade floats to a fully-functioning guitar! We really like this story line styled learning experience and think it is great for keeping kids engaged.
The most popular set has to be the ‘Spinning Machine‘. The set comes with all the pieces to make a full functioning belt drive machine. The story hook is lots of fun and very relatable for the kids – Goldie builds the spinning machine to help her dog chase his tail, but then all her friends also want to join in the fun! The high quality and popularity of this STEM toy for girls is demonstrated by all the awards it has won, including Educational Toy of the Year, People’s Choice Toy of the Year, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Toy – Platinum and Parent’s Choice – Gold award. Impressive!
Girls are more engaged with building when what they are making has a purpose, says founder Debbie Sterling. So the story-line is really what sets GoldieBlox apart from the rest. If you are looking for something a little simpler than Roominate, this is a great place to start for younger girls.
Similar to Cozmo, Wonder Workshop’s Dash Robot is the multi-award winning programming toy for girls that makes learning to code fun. Using the visual and intuitive apps, you can program Dash to do a bunch of things such as navigate around the house, dance, make sounds, light up, avoid obstacles, and even react to a voice!
One of the best parts about this kit is that you don’t need any instructions – it’s ready to go straight out the box. The apps feature built in tutorials in a picture based format which makes it super easy to bring Dash to life and begin programming. There is literally hundreds of of challenges, projects and puzzles to get stuck into, as well as lots of ways to expand the learning experience with open-ended play.
We think this is one of the most engaging and inventive toys on the market, as well as being one of the best girls STEM toys for coding basics. We’d highly recommend Dash to a younger audience or any parents who feel Cozmo might be too complicated for their child.
That said, if you still feel it is too high level, Wonder Workshop also make an entry-level alternative called Dot – find out more here. It’s not hard to see why Wonder Workshop have won so many awards, they have certainly earned their place on our list.
Science is an important, but often neglected, area of STEM education. However, due to the high number of technology and engineering toys on the market, science toys tend to get forgotten about. Nevertheless, we have scouted out what we think is one of the best STEM toys for girls to get a headstart in the field.
Nancy Bs Science Club Chemistry Lab & Kitchen Experiments is a science kit for girls designed to safely teach basic chemistry and scientific principles. Using everyday household ingredients, you can make your own ‘bubbling lava’ in a bottle, cause chemicals to change colour, extinguish a flame with invisible gas and much more! But don’t worry, this is all safely taught through an exciting and educational activity journal which introduces atoms, molecules, density and teaches testing against variables.
The set also includes a beaker, 4 test tubes, a rack, a graduated cylinder, lab glasses, a dropper, a funnel and a stirring rod, which makes it a perfect introduction to scientific equipment.
What we love about this set is that it all the experiments can be carried out with things found in the kitchen. This is inspiring for young girls because it turns otherwise uninteresting things into something exciting, and helps foster a natural curiosity for science. With a masters in Science Education, Nancy Balter designed this kit to encourage confidence in science in young girls. And we think it does just that!
Founded in 1932, Lego are one of the oldest and most recognised STEM toy makers on the market. We think the sets are great for all ages and genders, but all too often are labelled as ‘boys toys’. However, with the launch of Lego friends engineering toys for girls have become a little bit more accessible.
The series features 4 characters who go on adventures together to build an amusement park, a puppy day care, a pizzeria and much more! The amusement park set features a full functioning, giant 27” long roller coaster and 12” high ferris wheel complete with lights and accessories. This may sound complicated, but Lego’s signature easy-to-follow instructions help guide you through the build.
Additionally, there are also loads of other sets in the Friends series that you can buy to expand the collection with more released regularly. Being Lego, they are of course all compatible with each other too, so girls can experiment with their own builds! It would be wrong to write an article on STEM toys for girls and not include a classic Lego set, and we believe this is one of the best on the market.
That said, it does seem a little counterintuitive to be designing ‘girly’ Lego sets and in some ways it seems as though we are playing into stereotypes. Is it harmful, or is inspiring girls to get into engineering a good thing regardless? We will let you be the judge of that…
Similar to Lego, K’Nex have become a household name when it comes to engineering toys for girls that develop construction & design skills. However, it differs in that the models are made up of simple rods and connectors, which provides greater flexibility in the builds. Additionally, they also cater to a slightly older audience.
The Mighty Makers series is designed to inspire girls through creative, story-based building sets – a recurring theme throughout girls STEM toys kits. In the World Travels set we follow Ava and her pet panda as they travel the world and construct famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Empire State Building plus 10 other cool builds!
What we love about this set is that it not only teaches engineering, but a little geography as well. With fun, interactive play, it introduces kids to diverse and interesting different cultures around the world. If your child gets on well with this set, The Mighty Makers series has tons of other great sets to get stuck into.
The Gears! Gears! Gears! building sets by Learning Resources are designed to develop early STEM skills in young children. The ultimate goal of this set is to learn cause and effect – if I make this design decision, what will be the result of spinning the gears in this way? Figure out how to make cascading flower streams, build horizontally and construct your garden bed complete with flowers, ladybugs and butterflies.
Children have to experiment, test and tinker to make their creations come to life and work. These are exactly the kind of skills required in STEM fields, and there’s no better way to learn than with play!
This is a great way to introduce your little one to girls constructions toys. A great precursor to Lego or K’Nex, this set should keep your kid entertained whilst learning at the same time. Furthermore, if they get on well with it, there is tons of expansions in the series! It’s not hard to see why it has won several awards from both the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio and The Toy insider…
The littleBits Rule Your Room kit is a multi-award winning set that aims to teach kids about electronic engineering. With easy to use snap together parts, girls can learn how simple circuits function by building their own inventions! The great part about littleBits is that the electronic building blocks are all magnetic with no soldering required, making them super easy to put together and take apart to build new things.
The 76 page guide includes instructions for 8 builds, such as a burglar buzzer, movement triggered catapult and alarmed safe! However, due to the nature of the parts, there is virtually unlimited scope for kids to experiment and build their own designs. For example, littleBits can be used to bring Lego creations to life with moving parts. Alternatively, check out the App for thousands more ideas and further inspiration.
We’ve told you that science is one of the most neglected areas of the STEM toy market, but have yet to introduce another science kit. Our STEM toys for girls list would not be complete without a microscope and we think the My First Lab Duo-Scope is a great option. The scope features lab-grade parts that produce high resolution images from 40x to 400x magnification.
You may have seen cheaper microscopes which advertise higher magnification, but this is essentially pointless as the low quality parts used mean you often can’t focus the image. To contrast, the Duo-Scope only uses glass optics, which produce a clearer image. The kit comes with 4 prepared slides, as well as tons of other bits of scientific equipment and 2 non-toxic stains to make viewing specimens easier.
One of the best things about the Duo-Scope is that it functions as both a compound and stereo microscope. The first being where light shines from beneath in order to view slides, and the latter where light shines from above to view solid objects. Usually they are sold individually, but with the Duo-Scope you have the freedom to choose.
Additionally, it’s battery powered which gives you even more freedom – take it out into the yard and explore! The users manual is also great for further discovery. Packed full of pictures, it clearly explains what all the parts are and how to use them. It also features loads of cool ideas for observations such as onion cell mitosis, staining specimens, comparing different fibres, mould growth and more. This microscope has won a ton of awards, and has definitely earned its place as our final girls STEM toy on the list.