The more I think about this, the more it irritates me – girls’ building and science toys marketed in pink and glitter

December 4, 2013

Maybe it’s because it’s the end of the year and I’m tired, or maybe it’s because I’m working on a female tech site GirlGuides that’s got me quite irritated with this topic of girls’ science toys, which featured on Huffington Post recently.

I know that there’s a big divide in boys’ and girls’ toys, not only in colour, but in character (I also wrote about the dearth of strong female Lego characters here). But never did I stop to think that science  for girls would also come packaged in glitter, pink and prettiness.

It says a lot about how we’re marketing science and tech to girls, based on restrictive assumptions, and I think it’s offensive to think that girls will only be attracted to science when it comes with bells, whistles and pink. Plus, surely kits where you can make your own soap and lip balm are setting low expectations of girls, and later as women? And while the toys below are all American, I see similar things on local shelves.

What do you think?

1. The lip balm chemist set

lip balm

2. The bubble bath science lab

spa science

3. Princess-themed LEGOs

princess legos


4. Photo-editing in the name of makeovers
stylin studio

5. The soap-making experiment

luxury soap

6. The perfume chemistry set

perfume science

7. The beautiful goo lab

beautiful slime lab

8. The manicure science kit

magnificent manicure

9. Build-a-boutique

barbie boutique


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  • Steve from Beep Bank

    But just last week you offered Princess and Ben 10 annuals in your competition, stating: “Young girls can follow their dreams of becoming a princess in the enchanting pages that are filled with captivating stories, pretty colourings, delightful activities and fun puzzles.” and happily fielded comments like:

    Bernice November 29, 2013
    Disney Princess annual would be great for my daughter

    nirvana November 29, 2013
    My son would defenitely love Ben 10! and

    Charlene November 29, 2013
    I would like the Ben 10 for my son but wont mind either one as I have a pigeon pair!! Great competition this time of the year.

    I’m not saying that there isn’t a problem, I’m just saying that last week, you were part of it.

    December 4, 2013 at 8:32 am Reply
    • Tanya

      Hi “Steve”

      My issue wasn’t about gender-based toys, but specifically about girls’ science and building toys. I hope that I am not in any way “part of” an educational bias.

      Thanks for commenting,

      December 4, 2013 at 9:23 am Reply
      • Steve from Beep Bank

        Well, on that note, I think that anything that gets girls interested in science and engineering is a good thing. I have no issue with the pink in this case.

        December 4, 2013 at 3:02 pm Reply
        • Tanya

          That’s great to hear. Thanks for your comments again.

          December 6, 2013 at 9:07 am Reply
  • Lindsay Grubb

    Hi Tanya,

    Those particular toys you highlighted above aren’t great no, and it is a challenge to find stiumlating building and engineering type of toys for girls generally. Ciara is five and a half, and she’s her architect daddy’s little girl. Since she could pick up things up she’s been building, whether it’s creating bridges out of books, or symmetrical, aesthetically beautiful towers out of building blocks. She is however inherently drawn to pink. We have a lot of pink in our house – mostly because that’s what she’s chosen, it’s not a colour we’ve pushed her to favour, it just caught her eye. That being said after I showed her the Goldiblox video which caused such a stir, she freaked saying she had to have them for Christmas – she didn’t particularly notice the colour, she noticed what they could do, she saw the videos of what girls have made with the blox on the website and made us sit the whole weekend, pulling together all her toys that would work together to create similar effects. It was what they can do rather than how they looked that appealed to her. Personally, I think she would find the options above “lame” (her words), and would look for toys that could do more, make more, last more than one turn and could build different things, not just one product. Our daughter is clearly rather entrepreneurial though, and is always looking at the bigger picture. I suspect she isn’t the only one, and that we should be demanding more “AWESOME” (again her word) toys for our daughters.

    December 4, 2013 at 8:34 am Reply
    • Tanya

      Thanks for sharing Lindsay. Glad you are encouraging her choice of toys (and colours)

      December 4, 2013 at 9:24 am Reply
  • Melanie Pieterkosky

    My daughter (8) loves science but recently she said: “Even though I am a girl I still love science” . This upset me no end as we have worked so hard to make her feel equal in every way to boys.

    We have avoided gender based toys (unless they are requested) am I am a huge proponent of removing ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ sections from toy shops and sites. My daughters get Lego. I love lego, but the ‘friends’ as terrible and the sets marketed to girls are simply disgusting.

    Toys for girls tend to be beauty and shopping based, yet boys get banks and businesses. What are we teaching our kids? For an amazing science toy for girls (and boys) these are toys I wish were avaliable in SA. Unfortunatly the postage costs more than the toy to get it here.

    And for a handy guide to buying toys for girls or boys follow this flow chart:
    Also take a look at:

    December 5, 2013 at 9:38 am Reply
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