NEW YORK CITY (WOMENSENEWS)–Goldie is pretty and has long blond hair, but her similarities with Barbie end there. She is the face of GoldieBlox, a new line of toys that tempts girls with science and math instead of fashion, pink corvettes and dream houses.
GoldieBlox, based in San Francisco, has been growing in popularity since its initial production in 2012 after reaching its goal of $150,000 in only four days on Kickstarter. GoldieBlox went on to beat out 15,000 other small business candidates in a $4 million ad space competition determined by popular vote during last year’s Super Bowl XLVIII. A year after the commercial went viral on YouTube, the toy line even boasted its own float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
The toy line’s creator, Stanford University engineer Debbie Sterling, formed GoldieBlox to "disrupt the pink aisle" and get young girls involved in learning science, technology, engineering and math, the male-dominated fields clustered under the acronym STEM.
Clad in purple overalls and a tool belt slung around her waist, Goldie looks ready to get down to real work. She comes with a variety of different sets and pieces so girls can build zip lines, movie machines, dunk tanks and more and develop an early interest in engineering. The toy sets can cost from $20 for smaller ones to $110 for bigger, more extensive building sets.
The trend of introducing children of all genders to building and engineering is reaching multiple toy lines. This holiday shopping season kids can have their dolls along with their mind-building toys.
Lottie dolls, for instance, made by the young London-based toy company Arklu, are free of the sexualized aspects of Barbie and Bratz dolls and come with parts to build robots.
Barbie Sales Down
In October, Mattel announced a decline of over 20 percent in Barbie sales compared to the same period last year. Nonetheless Barbie remains the bestselling doll, with annual sales figures in the hundreds of millions. While she still commands the biggest sales, however, the buzz is spreading to dolls that look a little different.
Mattel’s Monster High Dolls, dolls based on famous monsters such as Frankenstein, Dracula and werewolves, are enjoying sales growth, Business Insider reported. Monster High Dolls still promote typical beauty standards, though, with their perfect makeup and their thin forms. But Mattel also makes the popular American Girl doll series, which celebrates friendship and storytelling and lack any sexualized features.
The Lammily doll, created by digital artist Nickolay Lamm, is also making waves this shopping season with its refusal to meet Barbie beauty standards and its declaration that "average is beautiful." The doll has brown hair, average features and is created with a body type akin to the average woman. Gone are the glitz and glam and perfection that critics have blasted Barbie about for years. The doll even comes with a set of stickers that represent imperfections such as stretch marks, moles and scars. Demand for the dolls based on the idea alone was so high that there were 19,000 pre-ordered and crowd-funded. For now the doll only comes with white skin, but Lamm says he plans to release more diverse versions in 2015.
Meanwhile, Barbie stumbled when she tried to join the push for girls to enter predominantly male fields. In her new picture book, "I Can Be a Computer Engineer," she balks at doing real programming work. "I’m only creating design ideas," Barbie says. "I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!" The outcry against the new book was so immediate and strong that Mattel apologized and pulled the book.
Holiday Gift Guide
In keeping with the rise of kid technology, Purdue University’s College of Engineering released a holiday gift guide to help parents introduce their children to engineering. Among the toys listed are building kits that emphasize engineering and design-oriented thinking and creativity.
To boost awareness for the 2014 holidays and to follow up its 2013 commercial that went viral on YouTube, GoldieBlox released a video on Nov. 5 that smashed the pink and overwhelmingly glitzy stereotype of girl toys. On the screen of an ominous machine, a woman with perfect eye makeup and frost-pink lip gloss, or "Big Sister," looms over a line of robotic young girls dolled up in pink and heels. "You are beauty and beauty is perfection" she drones as the girls each pick up an equally pink, Barbie-like doll from a conveyer belt. The scene is bleak until a girl with wild blonde hair dressed in overalls and Chuck Taylors smashes the machine, breaking the system and revealing the GoldieBlox doll.
Doll sets of any sort, however, face tough competition at a time when kid-clamor is rising for gifts such as iPads and smartphones.
Technology and toys utilizing it are expanding fast and in kid-friendly packages, according to hot toy lists from big names like Toys "R" Us, Amazon and the annual DreamToys top 12 list compiled by the Toy Retailers Association.
Expected big sellers are the VTech Kiddizoom Smart Watch, a child’s version of the Apple Watch coming out in 2015, and the Kurio Xtreme Tablet, built to give tablet technology to young kids. Even girls’ dolls are tapping into technology: the My Friend Cayla doll connects to the internet and has voice recognition software.