Aimed to attract girls to play patterns that encourage building and problem solving, the stuff engineering is made of, new toy brand Goldiebox came to market about a year ago. I watched the Kickstarter video in 2012 and loved the idea. CEO Debbie Sterling is a young engineer from Stanford who wants to disrupt the toy business with a line of products for girls that no one has ever heard of. I’m sold.
My mom bought the Goldieblox launch product for Scarlett. Since then a couple of really fantastic ad campaigns have captured the attention of my peer group.
Why I wanted it: My kids do not like to play with LEGOs; I guess neither of them has the building gene. Instead, they log many many hours in fantasy worlds with stuffed animals, and putting on costumes for a show, which is great stuff, but the construction toys are all collecting dust. To get a LEGO session going, my husband has to start building himself, and start asking the kids to “help”. When we got a marble track that fast became a favorite toy, I thought, “Finally! They will experiment with building,” but it didn’t expand their horizons.
I was personally less concerned about Scarlett being excluded from LEGO, K’NEX, and other engineering opportunities than that both of my kids don’t seem to have much tenacity for problem solving. If they can’t make it work, they move on to the next thing. I am always on the look out for experiences that will engage them enough that they stick with it.
Is Goldieblox the answer? Not really.
What is Goldieblox, exactly? The set comes with a spiral-bound book that leads children through putting together the included pieces to create a simple machine (think back to 8th grade science). The pieces are a pad with holes, posts, specially designed “blox” that act as nuts, spools, a ribbon, a crank, and plastic animals that ride on top of the spools.
Debbie Sterling’s research revealed that girls are verbal and attracted to storytelling, so she sought to incorporate that into the product. As the child reads about inventor Goldie, and follows the steps, she is creating a belt drive. Cool!
Except that after we completed the task, all the pieces went back in the box and stayed there for three months. Scarlett didn’t view Goldieblox as something with a lot of replayability, although other patterns are included in the book to encourage experimentation with different configurations of spools.
When we finally got it out again, she said, “I already know how to do this,” and impressed me by having remembered quite well the steps to achieving the final spinning machine.
The bottom line: I wanted this to be a miracle toy, but was frustrated by how poorly the crank adhered to the top of the spool, which made testing for success a let down every time. You can see in this video (the above image plays when clicked) how gingerly we had to interact with the pieces, and that Scarlett gave up on the crank and just turned the spool with her hands instead. There is a lack of stability, and I got so personally frustrated working on it that the phrase “Oh, crap!” is now a permanent part of Scarlett’s vocabulary.
So while I’m cheering for Debbie and other toy makers that are introducing building toys for girls, I am unlikely to buy more Goldieblox for my home.