When I first heard of GoldieBlox, as a father of four girls I was very excited. I’ve always been bummed by the fact that building and invention toys have been marketed more at boys. Lego has tried to orient a few product lines at girls as well, but I have been disappointed with them overall as they overdo the pink and girly style and also lower the bar for construction. What I’ve always wanted to see were products that had some mechanical or structural complexity without turning them into “build your own dollhouse” sets – for the record, I’m happy to see products like the Easy Bake Oven come in colors other than pink. I’d be perfectly happy to see my sons pursue any stereotypically female career (including being the stay-at-home parent), or my daughters going after any job typically dominated by men. It’s not 1950 any more, and I don’t think our toys should conform to these outdated gender roles. But let’s get to the product itself:
GoldieBlox is a construction and invention toy marketed specifically to girls. It uses character and story-driven themes to show girls that they can pursue careers in building and inventing. (so far, so good). GoldieBlox centers much of its thematic material around the exploits of the main character, Goldie with her blonde hair and green eyes. Now 3/4 of my daughters are not white, so I was a little put off during the initial releases of the product because there were no non-white characters. GoldieBlox has since released a cast of supporting characters for Goldie that increases the diversity of the toy line. I get it – we can’t make a doll for every kid… However, that fact doesn’t help me when I’m toy shopping with my black daughter who is dying to be an engineer, and who would love to imagine herself doing all the cool things that Goldie does. (I don’t have all the answers… But I do know that having a doll you can relate to is a big deal).
Many of the GoldieBlox play sets come with a story that puts the play set in context; GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine, or GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank. In these sets, the child is often prompted by the story to build some sort of device that mirror’s the resolution of the story’s problem. It is an interesting idea, and models the thinking that often goes into inventing a solution to a real-world problem. There are also larger sized action figures for Goldie and Ruby Rails (her somewhat ambiguously not-white friend), and a few sets with an assortment of more open-ended parts.
The parts themselves are decidedly different from Lego pieces or any of the other construction systems out there. They tend to be a little rounder, slightly “girly” but not overly pink, and centered around the ideas of pulleys, drums and axles, and platforms that often serve as the base of the device. In addition to these plastic pieces, other materials are often included. Flat ribbons are used in a belt-driven vehicle or device, and thick paper facades are often used for easy decoration. In concept, I like the variety of materials. However, my practical experience is that the paper pieces lack the durability of the plastic, and are also often folded and therefore difficult to store with the rest of it. I’m mixed on the belts, ribbons and string. When my kids play with GoldieBlox, these pieces are used far less frequently. They aren’t really easy to store, but seem durable enough. I think they do have value in teaching some fun physical or engineering principles.
- GoldieBlox is an engineering toy made with girls in mind (yay!)
- Having the stories with the playsets gives the building a fun context, and also encourages reading.
- The different shapes and pieces open up some fun play possibilities.
- The paper pieces. I want to throw them away almost every time I see them, but that would make my daughters sad.
- It’s probably too much to ask (no company can make every kind of doll), but more diversity options would be cool.
- The sets are pretty low tech. It would be fun to have some interactive/electric pieces.
If you have a little girl in your life that loves building things, she will probably have fun with GoldieBlox sets. They are fun, lighthearted, and accessible to younger ages (5-9 years is ideal for many of these, I think.) I think for older girls who are interested in building, you might consider Lego or even Lego Mindstorms, as GoldieBlox might feel a little immature for them. Of course, every parent should take their own kids’ personalities into account. I’ve seen older kids (maybe even myself) have a great time with Goldie and friends, and I’ve seen much younger kids totally unintimidated by Legos.