Toys (and Patient Parents) Made Me an Engineer
“How’d you get into that?”
“What made you decide to pick that major?”
“Really? You’re an engineer? You don’t look like an engineer.”
Just a few of the various responses I get when I respond to the question, “So what do you do?” The last one is my favorite, of course.
Normally I answer back something like, “my parents raised me with math and science,” and end the conversation there. But the truth is that such a short answer is a disservice to girls everywhere. Why? Because the reason I chose engineering is so simple that parents everywhere should be giving their girls this option from a young age also:
Toys made me an engineer.
Sounds a little crazy, right? Could it really be that simple? I say yes.
If we were to go back in time to I’m-not-telling-how-many years ago and look at my childhood bedroom floor, you’d see a jumbled mess of Legos, Erector Sets, K’Nex, and Capsela toys. I had dolls too, but they were mostly duct-taped to remote control vehicles I built… the perfect test dummies. I was constantly taking apart electronics to see what was inside. I usually left them in pieces, but rather than lose their patience, my parents encouraged this explorative behavior.
I learned to create, to build, and to discover. I learned I was capable of innovative thinking, and I learned how to turn ideas into actions.
There was never talk of boys’ toys versus girls’ toys. They were toys. I was presented with all of the options and allowed to explore the possibilities as I pleased. What resulted was a mind trained to constantly seek new challenges and a heart filled with a love for hands-on learning and creating.
That’s what led me to love science and math classes. It’s what led me to choose engineering as a major. It’s what gave me the courage to start my own startup while doing everything else a student and full-time stay-at-home mom has to do.
The encouragement I received shouldn’t be hard to come by. Parents need to know that their children -girls included- are capable of amazing things. As for the toys? These days there are SO many options to keep kids engaged in hands-on tech learning. Need ideas? Here are a few to get you started:
- Snap Circuits — Think Legos but for fully working circuit boards. It’s cool.
- Bedtime Math — For the kid that would take any excuse to stay up late.
- Hexbugs — Cool little robots that introduce the idea of sensors.
- LEGO Mindstorms EV3 — Not for the faint of heart (or pocket), but an amazing build-your-own fully functional robot set.
- Wedgits — Nearly indestructible plastic peices that can be ‘wedged’ together to create almost anything.
- GoldieBlox — If your girls really loves dolls and hasn’t learned to love science yet, these are great for introducing concepts.
- Erector Sets — A throwback to my childhood days. LOVE these. Something about the metal makes it seems so real!
- LittleBits — These aren’t just for kids. LittleBits are snap-together pieces of circuits, sensors, wires, and more. Everything you need to build anything you can think of.
There are so many amazing hands-on toys out there that every kid can find something that will introduce them to science, tech, engineering, and math in a way that they will truly love. It’s just up to us parents to make it happen!