Barbie’s 59th Birthday: The Educational STEM Evolution of an Icon

Since time immemorial, toys have been a large part of childhood and used as a tool for learning and practicing social skills. Barbie is a playtime staple for many kids, particularly among young girls. One of the most valuable aspects of playtime is the ability for kids to emulate their role models, so it is particularly important for young girls to have the opportunity to see examples of women in STEM.

Many studies have shown that boys and girls are equally interested in STEM subjects at younger ages.  However, as they get older girls are less likely than boys to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. They would commonly see things connected with STEM subjects as too “boyish.”  No wonder males outnumbered females in scientific and technical fields. The good news is, at 59 years old, Barbie is using her influence to help diminish the gender gap in the STEM education. 

Barbie is a cultural icon and has received honors that are rare in the toy world. More than half a century after her creation, Barbie enjoys widespread popularity across the globe and a successful brand for the American toy company, Mattel. The doll has gone through many changes over time, but today, Barbie is going high-tech. Challenged with the unconscious bias that science, technology, engineering, and math are for boys, Mattel created a Barbie STEM line to make the world’s most famous and influential toy more educational. Listed below are some Barbie STEM Toys that promote to inspire and teach girls to enter STEM-related fields.


Barbie Fundamental Chemistry Set

Learn chemistry and physical science in this science experiment by Barbie and her classmates for their extracurricular project. Read the story in the manual and learn more series of science demonstrations. Experiment with six fun, engaging safe potions as you make a glittery pink slime, mix up a color-changing mood putty, lava-lamp-like fizzing reaction, grow a delicate crystal feather, erupting a volcano in a test tube and many more. Learning while your child is having fun with this portable carrying science case with all sorts of tools and materials for science experiments.

Barbie STEM Kit (with Barbie or Nikki Scientist Doll)

Barbie STEM is a kit that uses plastic building pieces and science experiment materials to build.

These experiments cover all of the essential STEM skills—biology, chemistry, physics, engineering—and also incorporate art and design, so kids can learn how their science and creative worlds merge. The instructions are set up in a storybook manual format that guides you through building projects, creating unique dresses and experiments and learn fundamental STEM skills and concepts. Train your child to make subjects like physics and engineering a lot less scary.

Barbie Crystal Geology

Learn about the geological sciences as Barbie and her friends visit a natural history museum to find and identify real mineral specimens. Learn to use the special tools to excavate actual mineral specimens from a plaster block and learn about the rock cycle, how minerals form, and mineral identification tests. The best part about these kits is that the fun doesn’t end once the experiment or activity is over. 

According to Sven Gerjets, CTO of Mattel, by exposing kids to STEM experiences, they may develop a passion for science and computing that could lead them to a career in a STEM-related field. Today, Barbie continues to take part in the new trend in STEM toys, providing meaningful play experiences that are fun while helping kids with science, technology, engineering, and math. While the doll industry remains geared towards kids and education, some are making advancements that may be helpful to promote STEM learning.

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