The Daily Juggle
The Daily Juggle
Can the toys our children play with really determine their career choice?
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I read an interesting article recently on the American Association of University Women (AAUW) website about a body of research that indicates there may be a strong relationship between the toys a child plays with and their career choice down the track.
The story focuses on three women who have started a business that specifically creates toys they believe will lead to an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) careers.
Bettina Chen, Alice Brooks and Jennifer Kessler were in the minority at their respective universities. They were studying subjects like linear algebra, electromagnetic engineering and the findamentals of advanced energy conversion in classrooms full of mostly men. So they joined forces to launch Maykah and the first toy Roominate is apparently the sort of toy that inspired them as children.
Roominate is aimed at young girls. Instead of giving your daughter a dollhouse, you buy her Roominate and she can build her own, right down to wiring the electricity.
Brooks gives the example of asking for a Barbie as a child, but was instead given a saw. She used the saw to make a dollhouse. Clearly she is of the belief that if she had been given the Barbie instead then perhaps she wouldn't have chosen a career in a STEM-related field.
But is that really how it works? I think of my own two children. We gave them both a guitar as children. One of them played with it for a bit and then discarded it. The other never let it out of his sight and aspires to be a musician: a guitarist.
Both boys were given cricket sets for birthdays. One never played with it. The other became an obsessive backyard cricketer. Bob the Builder was huge when my children were young. Although one of them spent all day banging the toolbench with his hammer until mummy got a migraine, and is exceptionally strong at maths, he hasn't shown any interest at all in STEM-related careers.
When one of my sons showed an interest in cooking at the age of four, I used to stand him on a chair next to me while I was making dinner. An old tea towel doubled as a makeshift chef's hat and he wore one of my aprons. I taught him how to stir evenly with a wooden spoon. He loved it and although he now watches Masterchef, he isn't remotely interested in actually doing any of the cooking as a teenager.
Can we really influence our children's interests? Or are they hard-wired? CEO of the Green Building Council of Australia, Romilly Madew, is perhaps evidence of a connection between what you know and what you choose to do. She grew up in the country, engaged in sports with boys and pursued a degree in Agriculture. But did all of her siblings do the same?
Certainly my two boys have vastly different interests and we have always tried to provide them with the toys, equipment and music that they have asked for, rather than impose on them what we think they should have.
I think it's great that we are engaging in conversations that show there may be benefits to thinking of toys as gender-neutral, it is also important that we still allow girls who love dolls to play with them, do their hair, dress them in pretty, pink clothes, without fear of judgment.
My mother will tell you that I was a doll-playing girl, while my sister loved to play cars with my brother. I made my dolls dresses, plaited their hair and taught them to read. My sister cut and coloured their hair and eventually pulled their heads off to see how they were assembled. I showed no interest in fashion design or teaching. My sister didn't pursue hairdressing or engineering.
Do you agree with the idea that toys help determine careers?