Before you start your holiday shopping we hope you take a moment to reflect on the power of your choices. As part of the Ready for Girls campaign, Lego partnered with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media and surveyed parents about their toy preferences. Seventy-six percent of parents said they would encourage their sons to play with Legos, compared with 24% who would consider Legos for their daughters. Marketing and stereotypes shape our shopping lists and our imaginations. We hope this blog encourages you to expand your choices.
With the Million Girls Moonshot, STEM Next Opportunity Fund is re-imagining who can engineer, who can build, and who can invent. It is inspiring the next generation of innovators by engaging one million more girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) opportunities by 2025. We all can support this Moonshot with the toys and opportunities we offer girls. Let’s give experiences that support girls’ creativity, confidence, and genius.
Here are 10 ideas to support the mission of the Million Girls Moonshot. We created this year’s list with priority on gifts that are affordable and experiences that are free. We encourage you to shop local and support the small businesses and science museums in your community that need your support this year.
1. Challenge stereotypes with building toys. Legos are fun and build spatial skills. We like open-ended toys like the classic LEGO sets where girls create their own designs instead of one-and-done projects where they just follow directions. For younger girls, invest in a set of Duplo building blocks.
Did you know that playing with construction toys builds spatial skills? Block play also supports problem-solving, math, and language skills. After these toys are unwrapped, get on the floor and build with girls.
2. Reimagine holiday gift-giving traditions; instead of buying new things, give the gift of your time and attention. What’s it take to inspire a lifelong interest in STEM? It’s not rocket science! It’s the gift of talk from parents and caregivers. Invite your girl to talk about her ideas and dreams. Sign up for Technovation’s webinar in February and learn about asking questions that support your child in STEM.
3. Build confidence with tools. Girls like to make things and work with their hands when given the chance. Get a girl her first set of tools so that she can build a bird feeder or bookcase or repair her bicycle. Working with tools can be empowering for girls and build their confidence in STEM. For inspiration, check out Girls Garage: How to Use Any Tool, Tackle Any Project, and Build the World You Want by Emily Pilloton-Lam.
Did you know that just 10% of construction workers are female? Imagine how our homes, schools, and communities might be different if they were designed and built by women who found a passion in building with their first set of tools?
4. Bake it up. Set a play date to make family recipes and celebrate your family’s heritage. Invite relatives to share their favorite recipes. In This is How I STEM Yanet Lopez, Community Engagement Manager at the Fleet Science Center, shows how she uses STEM in her everyday life, while making salsa. You can find more fun STEM cooking and baking projects at Bedtime Math.
Did you know that baking and cooking offer the chance to practice math and science while measuring and transforming ingredients into delightful creations?
5. Plan a family visit to a science museum or zoo. Support these community assets that are eager to welcome visitors back with new programs and exhibits. Plan your visit in advance and invite your child to chart her visit. You can find STEM activities to do at home on the websites of museums. Here are a few to check out : Academy @Home from the California Academy of Sciences; Science at Home from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and Family STEM Activities from the Museum of Science.
Did you know that parents spend more time explaining the science behind exhibits to sons than to daughters during museum visits? With this insight from research, you will be more aware of giving girls their fair share of time and attention on your visit.
6. Inspire a love of reading and STEM. A Mighty Girl offers a great collection of books about girls and women who love STEM. The National Science Teaching Association 2021 winners celebrate creativity, persistence, and the joy of figuring things out. Check out Tumblehome Books which inspires kids’ love of science through the power of storytelling. For recommendations that build on your child’s interests, ask your child’s science teacher or the children’s librarian at your public library for their suggestions.
Be sure to check out Ada Twist, Scientist, a new Netflix series that comes from creator Chris Nee and executive producers Barack and Michelle Obama. This show brings to life one of Andrea Beaty’s many bestselling STEM characters.
7. Save the cardboard from gifts and deliveries. They can be turned into new creations like a kitty hideout, bike basket, or puzzle. Brainstorming, designing, measuring (and redesigning and measuring again) will bring new life to an old box. Instructables offers endless ideas for cardboard projects to make at home.
Did you know that an average household in the U.S. throws away more than 9,000 pieces of cardboard every year? You can encourage your child to use her imagination to reduce your family’s use of cardboard.
8. Get outdoors and back to nature. Your family can explore the wonders of STEM by hiking, bird watching, and observing the changing seasons. Children & Nature Network offers great ideas for connecting to nature like watching clouds and rediscovering the dark. When you can’t go outside, you can watch the outdoors from a window.
Did you know the average American child spends just 4–7 minutes daily outdoors in unstructured play while 8- to 12-year-olds engage in nearly five hours of entertainment media per day? Replace screen time with nature time and family together time.
9. Support the Million Girls Moonshot 365 days a year. Check out 10 Steps to Inspire Creative Play from the LEGO Group with input from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. What we like about these simple, fun, and free ideas is how they expand gender roles and promote healthy child development.
10. We encourage you to support girls in your community and around the world in STEM. Here are special programs to consider — Million Girls Moonshot, Techbridge Girls, Black Girls Code, Technovation, Scientific Adventures for Girls, Girlstart, Girl Scouts, Girls Inc., Girls Garage, Girls Who Code, and EngineerGirl. With your support, these organizations can help more girls achieve their potential for greatness as inventors and creative STEM forces in their community.
Linda Kekelis, Ph.D., is an advisor for The Family Engagement Project at STEM Next Opportunity Fund. Linda has devoted her lifetime to supporting families and educators in encouraging girls in STEM. These days she enjoys getting down on the floor with her granddaughter and building with Legos, blocks, and cardboard.
Teresa Drew is Deputy Director of STEM Next Opportunity Fund and leads the Million Girls Moonshot, a transformative nationwide initiative from STEM Next that will re-imagine who can engineer, who can build and who can invent. This project, which applies her expertise in and personal passion for gender equity and prosperity, aims to close the gender gap in STEM over the next five years by providing opportunities for one million girls to become innovators and inventors.