As a woman working in the tech industry--I launched my email marketing software company VerticalResponse in 2001--I sometimes get asked whether I was interested in tech as a kid.
My dad was an engineer at IBM (for 35 years!) with a couple of patents under his belt, so I think my love for technology is in my blood. But back then, there were not a lot of toys, especially aimed at girls, when it came to learning how to build stuff or figuring out how things work.
Thank goodness, times have changed, and there seems to be more attention now on developing educational toys that encourage girls to build things and flex their technical problem-solving muscles. And those games will, one hopes, enable more tech-savvy women entrepreneurs in the future.
Here are three new toys, all developed by engineers, that fit the category to help out the girls:
1. Goldie Blox
Arguably, Goldie Blox put the whole "get girls to invent things" mantra in the public spotlight. (Winning a free Super Bowl TV commercial from Intuit this year--and all the press around it--certainly helped.) Its kits encourage girls to create various models using engineering concepts such as a wheel and axle, belt drives, and hinges. Kids can follow Goldie Blox's design guides or create their own and submit them to be featured on the Goldie Blox website. For ages 4 and up.
Kids can create a building and furniture using various flat plastic pieces and panels that lock together. What's really neat about Roominate, though, is that each set comes with an electrical kit (complete with motor, switch, and battery pack) so you can make a motorized component for your builds, such as an elevator. Roominate's creators are two women engineers with degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering, bonus points in my book. For ages 6 and up.
3. Rainbow Loom
I know several moms with daughters who are obsessed with their Rainbow Looms. Who knew you could make so many things from colored rubber bands? A simple peg-and-hook board is used to create a seemingly infinite variety of bracelets, rings, charms, and more. What's technical about the Rainbow Loom? It teaches young brains the importance of recognizing and creating patterns. Plus, the Rainbow Loom vocabulary includes terms such as triple hexagon and rhombus--an early introduction to geometry. For ages 8 and up.
Of course, there are always the oldies but goodies that are (mostly) gender neutral and may spark the best builds of all that truly stretch the imagination: Legos (and Mega Bloks for the lil' ones), Lincoln Logs, and K'NEX!