When my son is invited to a friend’s birthday party, I always try to get the child a toy that inspire them to be an engineer. I’ve found its pretty easy to find toys for boys that will teach them about engineering but finding engineering toys for girls is a lot more challenging. Walk down the “pink” aisle in any store, and you find very few building toys, aside from Legos. On the other hand, when you walk down the “boy” toy aisle, it seems like all the toys either teach boys about tools, building, or some kind of physics concept. All of these are critical skills for engineers to have. While I personally was able to eventually learn these concepts during my career, it was frustrating my male co-workers seemed to be much more familiar with manufacturing than I was. As I asked them where they picked it up, most of them said they had known these things since childhood, because of their toys. So I’ve decided to find the best engineering toys for girls available, so this generation of female engineers will not have the steep learning curve I had.
21 Engineering Toys for Girls!
When I was 10, all I wanted to Christmas was a Baby Alive Doll. I mean, her name said it all! She ate like a baby and pooped like a real baby (which now grown up me knows isn’t really that great). I finally got the coveted doll from my grandmother, and immediately started shoveling food into her mouth, and it started coming out the other end as promised. But after about the third day her mouth started moving a little bit slower, and she wouldn’t take the food I was trying to feed her (which I now know is pretty normal for a baby). I took her to my dad, and together we discovered that I was supposed to be flushing the baby out with water after every feeding! And that was my first lesson in piping systems.
The common misconception is that there are very few options for girls when it comes to engineering toys. Boys, on the other hand, have TONS of toys out there that teach them to build, projectile, and problem solve. But I couldn’t help but think that if we looked at girl toys a bit different, we would see that there are options about there that do teach them about engineering. So I went on a quest scouring every toy website and catalogue I could find. Turns out there are several toys that are marketed just for girls that DO teach them about engineering! I’ve created a list for you, starting with my favorite!
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When I was in junior high, I remember really enjoying learning how to sew a simple, square pillow. I wish I had found other ways to develop my sewing skills. Sewing also gives kids experience with STEM concepts such as tension, yield strength, and tensile strength of string. KiwiCo has a lot of really cute, hands-on activities. This super cute activity not only teaches sewing, but also includes building an electrical circuit. I’ve shared before than I really struggled with circuits in college, and an early experience with simple circuits would have really helped!
Does your daughter LOVE playing with Barbie? My sister did when we were kids (and she’s an engineer). Just like my son playing with his quadcopter, girls can explore lift and forces while playing with the hoverboard! Early exposure to these concepts is key. I don’t think its entirely necessary for kids to understand the details behind the concepts they’re exploring. Through play the concepts will become familiar, and when they are taught the details later, they have something tangible to relate the concepts to.
Based on a Netflix original series, Project Mc2 kits explore many engineering concepts. Do you know who comes creates the latest lip gloss? Who decides how to make the next must have shade of blush? Chemical Engineers do! With the Project Mc2 Create Your Own Lip Balm Lab Kit, girls explore chemical engineering by making their very own lip gloss. Through making a light up picture frame, they will explore the world of circuits with the Project Mc2 Circuit Beats kit. I love how these three projects are geared towards girls’ natural creative abilities!
Who doesn’t want their own mermaid ship? I know 7 year old me would have loved one! Build the ship structure using PINXIES interlocking building links, then add the colorful paperboard panels to build the ultimate, enchanting ship. Girls dive even deeper into their creativity and imagination with magical seashells, found pirate treasure, and much more!
Lukat building block sets are a great way to for girls to immerse themselves in play, while developing their critical thinking skills. Choose to build either a colorful, fun ice cream truck, or a beautiful castle straight from a storybook. Both sets will get the creative and problem solving parts of the brain working. The Lukat building sets include pieces to build the main structure (ice cream truck or castle), plus 12 smaller kits to customize the truck or castle. The 12 small kits also have two options to build, so the customization options are endless!
Roominate was created by Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen while they were both pursuing a masters degree in engineering. Younger girls can learn to build with the simpler kits, such as an ice cream cart or small RV. As their skills develop, they can move onto more advanced kits that also add circuits into the kit for an added level of difficulty, such as the Townhouse Building Kit. This kit includes a simple motor and light kit to create simple circuits in order to power them on and off. The best part is the motors and lights can be remotely controlled from a smart phone!
My boys love all their drill and build sets. With the design studio, girls will learn how to use a drill, and concepts like turning a screw right tightens the screw, and turning a screw left will loosen the screw. In working with the drill, they will learn most drills include a switch to reverse the direction of the drill. To some, these are simple concepts. But if you are never exposed to them young, then you do not learn them until, say, your first job. The screws are also multiple colors, encouraging girls to create designs and patterns as they drill the screws into the flower.
Chemical Engineering is the combining of different substances and forms of energy to create something new. In a process I worked in, we superheated a liquid, then rapidly cooled it, and several new products were generated. Similarly, several ingredients are used in making various solid and foamy soaps. By making their own soap and bubbles, girls see the magic of chemistry at work.
To be honest, I was hesitant to add this to the list. Who really wants to eat poop? But if it comes from a unicorn, maybe there’s someone out there. Plus, this baking kit has many more unicorn themed desserts. Eighteen different recipes to be exact. Kids will explore the science of cooking with recipes for lollipops, rainbow cake, donuts, marshmallow slime, meringues, and candy bracelets. Then the family can enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Growing crystals is big in our house. We’ve grown crystals on strings, leaves, and in a pot. Growing crystals on a unicorn sounds really fun! Simply dunk the unicorn into a supersaturated solution, and watch crystals grow all over the mythical creature. Once dry, girls can add beauty to the crystalized unicorn by painting it however they wish!
In middle school, my best friend and I wrote notes to each other during band class all the time. Until, that is, my band director intercepted our notes. If we had this kit, we would have never been discovered. We could have written our secret message is written using a UV pen, then read our messages using UV lights during lunch. Or we could have written notes in secret code, using the included code wheels. Or we could have used any other secret message tools in the kit. But what does any of this have to do about engineering? A lot! The UV pen and light teaches kids that UV light exposes some things no seen in normal light. The code wheel allows girls to develop their own code, similar to using programming code. Most importantly, the secret message kit opens minds to the possibilities behind revealing messages not seen before.
The BIRANCO remote control puppy is perfect for preschoolers! They’ll fall in love with their robot puppy as it follows them around the house in gesture mode. Or they could set up mazes for their puppy and watch as their pet dodges all the obstacles. The puppy can even be programmed to make up for 30 motions, giving preschoolers an early experience to coding. With so many incredible features, the BIRANCO puppy is sure to bring a smile to any kid’s special day.
13. 3D Models and Puzzles
Puzzles are always a great way to develop problem solving skills, as well as decoding skills. 3D puzzles just take development to the next level, as the extra dimension adds a level of complexity to the puzzle. A 3D Ferris Wheel puzzle also includes building a simple circuit to power a motor that enables the ride move. Or explore beauty and creativity with several 3D puzzles they can also color. For older girls, the mechanical musical carousel is the perfect 3D model to engage them in hours of focused building. Once finished assembling their puzzle, they have a beautiful decoration for their rooms. Choose any of these three as gifts, and they’re sure to be a favorite present.
Did you know every day cabbage is a science tool? Cabbage can be used to measure the pH of liquids. Yellow Scope (a creative science box created by two female scientists) has created a box to walk girls through multiple science experiments and activities to show the power of cabbage. Next time you buy some cabbage, make sure to buy some to experiment!
I truly believe early exposure to engineering concepts reduces intimidation to the sciences later in life for all kids, but especially girls. Each one of these toys allows girls to explore engineering and science concepts in fun and hands-on ways. Which one of these toys are most interesting to you?
For other Engineering gifts, see my other posts!
15 Unexpected STEM Gifts for Toddlers
11 Engineering Toys for Girls
25 Dollar Tree Toys for Exploring STEM!
8 Essential Woodworking Tools for Beginners
An Explosive View of a Dinosaur
Toys that Teach Engineering
Teach your kid to be a Materials Engineer!
Tinker Crate: Circuits and Optics
Tinker Crate: Exploring Polymers
Teach Your Kid to be a Reliability Engineer!
Reverse Engineering a Fidget Spinner
Teach your kid about Biomechanical Engineering!
The Time my Son Out-Engineered me!
Teach your child Newton’s First Law of Motion
Circular Motion with Star Wars
Teach Your Kid to be a Mechanical Engineer!
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