Science is the theme for Mattel's most popular doll lines this year. Recognizing the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, the company decided their dolls can make a difference. From Robotics Engineer Barbie to American Girl astronaut-in-training Luciana Vega, these dolls are sending a clear signal to girls that STEM fields are attainable and worth pursuing.
Expanding her ever-growing list of careers, Barbie became a robot engineer in June. Four Robotics Engineer dolls were launched, and each comes with a tiny robot, laptop, and fierce safety-regulation clothing: I'm talking sleek ponytails and sock buns, pristine white sneakers, modern safety goggles, and sweet science graphic tees.
This doll is partnered with Tynker, a game-based platform that teaches kids to code. Tynker is creating coding programs related to the doll. That's right, your little one won't just play with this robotics engineer, she'll be given the tools to become her. At just 14 bucks, this toy is a no-brainer.
And then there is Luciana Vega. This American Girl doll isn't a blast from the past—instead she's blasting through the stratosphere. Luciana dreams of being the first person on Mars, and she is preparing with her realistic Mars habitat. The habitat does not come cheap at $350, but there is so much to it! (We know, we built it here in our Parents office!) It comes with an interactive control panel, first aid supplies, petri dishes, VR goggles for missions outside the habitat, and that's just the beginning. It includes more than 40 accessories, which means endless hours of playing and rearranging.
American Girl is taking Luciana a step further too. The brand has partnered with Space Camp to offer girls a Luciana-inspired version of the camp. In conjunction with a typical Space Camp experience, girls will participate in activities centered around Luciana's own experience at Space Camp.
And the coolest thing about these dolls? They really are influential. Don't believe all the 5-star reviews? Believe me. After playing with them in the office, I spent my whole commute home wondering why I'm not exploring outer space or building my own WALL-E.
From the test tubes and space food in Luciana's Space Station, to Barbie's prototype bot and mini laptop, science seemed, well, cool! I wanted to know how Barbie made the robot's shoulders move and for what Luciana uses her glove box.
And I've never felt that way before.
Maybe it's because I'm right-brained—or is it left-brained? (I wouldn't know, science has never been my thing). I didn't take care of space plants or learn to code because I didn't have dolls who thought that was cool. And that is a shame. I could be in space right now.
The influence a doll has on a little girl's life (or even on a big girl like me) is tremendous. These STEM dolls are exposing girls to topics that have historically seemed distant. I am not in space right now, but your little girl could be soon.
The dolls of 2018 can do that, and they will do a lot more for the next generation.
Rebecca Rakowitz is an editorial intern at Parents and loved playing with Barbies while growing up. She did not love when her older brother popped their heads off.