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LEGOs for Girls? February 27, 2012

Posted by Science Club for Girls in Gender differences?, girls in science, Guest Blog.
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Guest Post from our All-Star Vacation Week Volunteer Laura Croal

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about a new line of blocks the company LEGO unveiled this past winter.  Though LEGO’s were originally created as a gender neutral toy, in recent years the company’s has focused on marketing LEGO kits for boys.  However, the new line called “LEGO Friends”, which was unveiled this winter, represents the final product of Lego’s extensive market research efforts to develop…drumroll please…a Lego product aimed at girls!

Hooray you say!!!  I love LEGOs!  What a great educational toy!  You can build such cool things!  Your only limit is your creativity!  Thoughtful pause…but, hey, what exactly does that mean that they made LEGOs for girls?

Well, according to the anthropologists the company hired to study how girls play differently from boys,

“girls wanted more reality-based toys that let them see themselves as the characters. Also, how girls could play with the kits after they built them was more important than it was to boys.”

Ok, this sounds reasonable so far.  As the girl plays with her kit, she wants to imagine herself to be the chief engineer on a big construction project! Or the chemist in charge of building a LEGO chemistry lab!  And then, after she accomplishes her goal, it’s important for her to understand and learn about the applications and uses of her product by playing out scenarios.  But what’s that you say?  The color schemes include pastel pinks, purples, and blue?  Hmm, ok, I can deal with those colors…  The settings of play include beauty shops, cafes and bakeries?   Uh, well that doesn’t sound very adventurous or inspiring…  The accessories designer to fit in the female LEGO character’s hands include hairbrushes and handbags.  Whaaat?!?!?!?!?!  How is a STEM savvy girl supposed to get any world changing work done while holding a HANGBAG!?!?

For a company’s who’s core mission statement says they are dedicated to the “development of children’s creativity through playing and learning”, many were disappointed by the new line as the kits seem to pigeon hole girls into some incredibly stereotypical, limiting, and just plain dated interests.  Hey LEGO!  This is 2012, not 1950!!!  Girls grow up to be doctors, microbiologists, and electrical engineers these days.   In fact, when I asked 5 of the amazing kindergarteners I am working with this week for SCFG Vacation Week Ecology activities, 4 said they want to be scientists when they grow up.  So listen up LEGO, if you want girls to buy your toys, today’s girls need and want you to design toys that allow them to explore technical careers at an early age so they can hone their interests and seek mentors that will help them develop their interests into a career.  In addition, it was a letdown to many that the LEGO Friends kits didn’t present the same level of challenging construction problems as the kits designed for boys.  LEGO, Barbie has the market cornered hair styling and accessorize and storytelling play.  Don’t compete; you’ll just lose the rest of our respect.  Stick with your mission and your core values: give girls challenging spatial problems to which they can creatively explore solutions.

To give LEGO some credit, it’s great that they are thinking harder about how to reconnect with girls because LEGOs are incredible toys that both girls and boys should be encouraged to explore.  Also, LEGO did develop an “Invention Workshop Set“, complete with microscope, chalkboard, crystals, power tools, chemist jars, an oil can, and a pet robot that can be remote controlled!  Hey LEGO!!  More development in this direction please!!   I know the kindergarten girls I’m working with this week, who are already impressive observational and experimental scientists, would love this set.

If you’re interested in seeing how LEGOs can be creatively used in hands on activities to teach girls about chemistry (or LEGO if you’re reading this and need some ideas for kits that girls can get excited about!)  check out the different volunteer opportunity with building LEGO kits like the one just sponsored by People Making a Different that SCFG volunteers just participated in at MIT this past Saturday.

Want to learn more about LEGOs and this story? Check out the Further Reading:

http://articles.boston.com/2012-02-14/opinion/31054279_1_girl-scouts-hispanic-girls-lego-star-wars

http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/tribu/sc-fam-0207-legos-girls-20120207,0,1160033.story

http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2012/02/22/Lego-Friends-022212.aspx

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