Last Friday my daughter had a sleepover guest, and they built a massive fort that filled my daughter’s entire bedroom. They spent several hours playing games in the fort, and eventually they even slept underneath. It was an impressive feat that used hardback books, furniture, and thumbtacks.
Knowing how excited my daughter is to build, I was pretty excited to check out Roominate, a new toy building kit that hopes to get young girls excited about building. The kit is unique because it doesn’t only include the parts to build rooms, but also some electronic elements that include a small motor so girls not only build, they wire.
I’ll confess, at first blush I was pretty excited by Roominate. There’s no doubt that my daughter would be thrilled with the toy and spend plenty of time building, and I particularly like the electronic element. Working with her to be creative beyond just making pretty rooms sounds like it would be great fun, and it is plenty safe for a 7-year-old.
However, there’s a part of me that rebels against gendered toys, even if they are geared toward girls (an earlier version of this article indicated that the walls came in typical “girl” colors, but I’ve been corrected; walls come in white and girls can decorate them as they see fit). But Roominate is not Lego Friends, which my daughter has absolutely zero interest in. The basic Roominate kit doesn’t even guide girls into making any one thing; it’s far more fluid and allows imaginations to run wild.
I’ll probably still buy this for my daughter (I’m thinking the basic kit plus the electronic kit). After all, it was created by women engineers and funded by a Kickstarter campaign, and I love supporting projects that take the grassroots path to creation. And there’s no doubt that the vast majority of toys that focus on things like building and electronics are heavily gendered toward boys (with pretty rare exceptions).
There’s no doubt that girls need to be encouraged to explore STEM concepts (science, technology, engineering and math), so if Roominate helps that happen, I’m all for it. Maybe then, things like this will no longer be anomalies. What do you think? Is Roominate a toy you’d buy for your girls?