When toys tell stories

I first learned about GoldieBlox from their superbowl ad, where they aggressively combat the toy industry’s stupid assumptions about what girls like (It’s not just about making it pink and putting a pony tail on it).

They are on a mission:

Only 13% of engineers are women and they believe that women innovators are our greatest untapped resource. 

They have a theory of change:

We inspire girls during a critical period, between age 6 and 13, and allow them to realize for themselves that building, creating, and owning their own ideas is what it means to be a girl.

Their latest ad campaign continues their message more thoughtfully:

(Note that begins as a parody of a 1980s anti-drug commercial, and so their ads are also targeting parents)

How is GoldieBlox “for” girls? (From their website)

Our founder, Debbie, spent a year researching gender differences to develop a construction toy that went deeper than just “making it pink” to appeal to girls. She read countless articles on the female brain, cognitive development and children’s play patterns. She interviewed parents, educators, neuroscientists and STEM experts. Most importantly, she played with hundreds of kids. Her big “aha”? Girls have strong verbal skills. They love stories and characters. They aren’t as interested in building for the sake of building; they want to know why. GoldieBlox stories replace the 1-2-3 instruction manual and provide narrative-based building, centered around a role model character who solves problems by building machines. Goldie’s stories relate to girls’ lives, have a sense of humor and make engineering fun.

That was an “aha!” statement for me. “Finally, something I can sink my teeth into!” I thought. So building blocks can be thought of as a storytelling tool, like the magic cards I made earlier. I know about character driven stories, and putting conflict into scenes to move it along and draw in the audience.

And in a way, GoldieBlox is using a conflict narrative to draw in their audience – girls. What a brilliant way to get girls on board, by reminding them from age 6 onwards that playing with these toys is an act of defiance against gender stereotypes.

And another company, play-i, offers a complementary approach to the same goal, for a younger audience:


I just wished they had similar toys for the teenage crowd? What will these Goldie girls do when they outgrow their blocks? Perhaps this?






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