Enriching a child’s world through play is the goal of GoldieBlox, a company founded by Debbie Sterling, an engineer from Stanford University. GoldieBlox was launched to encourage more girls to explore careers in engineering by providing them with fun toys to inspire their creativity and develop their problem-solving skills.
How GoldieBlox Was Created
I met with Sterling at The Pennsylvania Conference for Women last week where she told me her story of how she developed GoldieBlox. Sterling didn’t have brothers and grew up without building toys such as Legos, Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. While she was encouraged to go into engineering during her senior year in high school, Sterling believes that if she had been exposed to building toys earlier in life she would have been better prepared for her university studies.
Attending Stanford, Sterling was amazed to discover that 89% of engineers are male and began wondering how to get more girls interested in the field. After graduating from Stanford, Sterling came up with the idea for GoldieBlox, toys to spark an interest in engineering. Sterling realized that the way to get more girls interested in careers in engineering was to open up their minds early through play.
Sterling was frustrated at the lack of building toys for girls, with most offerings consisting of boys’ toys with pastel colors. “I didn’t want to just ‘shrink it and pink it,’ I wanted to design a toy that would get girls interested in engineering,” Sterling explained.
She had an “aha” moment when she decided to pair a building toy with a story. She recognized girls’ love of storytelling and realized that building toys lacked a story. “My idea was to create a book series with a girl inventor/engineer named Goldie who solves problems with machines and girls get to build along with her,” said Sterling.
She researched how kids learn through cognitive development and gain spatial awareness, then designed a prototype toy for girls which she tested extensively. “I became obsessed with the idea to the point where I had to quit my job and do this full time,” she said.
To raise funds for her fledgling business, Sterling launched a Kickstarter project in October 2012 that exceeded its goal of $150,000 within four days and was eventually raised over $285,000.
Once funded, GoldieBlox quickly blossomed into a full-fledged toy company, with its first product, GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine, on store shelves by February 2013. By the summer, that product had risen to the top of Amazon’s Toys & Games Best Sellers List.
GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine is designed to teach kids how to create a belt drive. While that may not seem like a particularly amusing task, GoldieBlox makes it fun by pairing the toy with a book about Goldie on an adventure. Children help Goldie on her journey by building the belt drive, creating the same thing that Goldie builds using their tool kit.
Check out this video from her Kickstarter campaign in which Sterling shares her story:
About GoldieBlox Toys
GoldieBlox currently has two products:
— GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine that helps girls learn to build a belt drive to help Goldie and her dog Nacho.
— GoldieBlox and the Parade Float that helps girls build a parade float along with Goldie and friends Ruby and Katinka.
The toys include a book, character figures and a tool box so girls can build along with Goldie.
After children have finished reading the story and building alongside Goldie, they can use their imaginations to build other items. “They have unlimited possibilities, you can make merry-go-rounds and cars and all kinds of stuff with it if you use your imagination.” Sterling has designed the tool kit to be versatile so children can use the pieces in ways beyond building for Goldie’s stories.
“Everybody’s got that thing that they’re good at. If you just give them the chance and the tools to see what they come up with, well, there’s nothing more exciting.” — Debbie Sterling
The company has recently introduced Goldie’s Playground, a page on their website sharing girls’ GoldieBlox inventions, complete video instructions of how to build the new designs. Check out The Launcher by Ocean, age 7:
“If you have GoldieBlox and you’ve built a belt drive and say, ‘What else?’ you can go on our website and see other ideas. We’re showing what the girls really made so girls can see themselves as inventors and get inspiration. That’s the best part, to see what the girls come up with,” said Sterling.
The toys are designed for girls ages four through nine, but Sterling has found that kids as young as three and as old as 11 enjoy GoldieBlox. “It’s appealing to a pretty broad range of kids, including boys. We have so many parents writing in saying that their sons are playing with GoldieBlox too.”
Sterling doesn’t intend to leave boys out of the fun so GoldieBlox is introducing a boy character in the next book in the series. “I hope it doesn’t feel like a ‘Girls Only’ club.” Sterling pointed out that primary colors are usually intended for boys so she designs the toys with a modern, gender-neutral color palette.
GoldieBlox toys are available at the GoldieBlox website and at 600 stores across the US and Canada, including Toys R Us and Amazon. You can check out the Store Finder on the GoldieBlox website to locate a store near you.
GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine retails for $29.95 and GoldieBlox and the Parade Float is available for pre-order for $19.95.
GoldieBlox is expanding beyond the US and Canada to Australia in 2014. “If you’re interested in GoldieBlox coming to your country, the best thing you can do is go into your local toy store and ask for it,” said Sterling.
If you’re looking for a gift for a child this holiday season, check out GoldieBlox. You may be opening up a new world for her and starting her on an exciting career path! My three girls are teenagers now and planning careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and I wish GoldieBlox had been available when they were younger!
Do you like the idea of children learning through play? Do you know a child who would like GoldieBlox? Do you like this way of encouraging girls to explore careers in engineering? Let us know in the Comments section below!
Good news for audiobook fans! Tales2Go, the children’s audiobook service is now available for Android devices via the recently launched app on Google Play.
You can read my full review of Tales2Go: Tales2Go – Are We There Already?