In a world that's increasingly driven by the products of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, it's more important than ever to get children interested in the mechanics and nuances of those fields early. Young girls especially have an issue with having to play catch-up when it comes time for that all-important question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
There's nothing wrong with Barbies, princesses and dress-up, but rarely do those provide a gateway to toys and activities that introduce girls to STEM. However, there's a perfect new product coming from Nintendo that is great for getting the entire family into the kind of play that helps kids form the connections between the abstract and the concrete.
The Nintendo Labo series of products is a line coming in April 2018 that is compatible with the Nintendo Switch video game console. Odds are, even if you have very young children, they're interested in video games. Whether it be a mobile phone, a handheld like the 3DS, or a console like the Switch, there are games available that are perfect for keeping kids busy. The problem is, do these games teach anything? Most of the time, games meant for children are as sophisticated as tapping a finger on some slowly moving target on a screen.
One fun way to introduce STEM to kids with a video game console is getting them to question exactly what makes the action on screen happen. While they're vegging out playing Angry Birds, they probably don't really care, but Nintendo Labo takes the Switch and converts it into a multitude of objects that can translate your physical actions to the console.
The Nintendo Labo Variety Kit includes five different projects that parents can build with their kids. Each project is made of cardboard pieces you can put together like a puzzle to create a facsimile of a real item. This in itself is great for kids because they get to see pieces of something come together to form a whole.
When you build the fishing rod project with them, for example, they get to see simple cardboard come together to form a working controller. You can then slip the Switch's Joy-Cons in the right places and use the stand to hold the screen, and suddenly this pile of cardboard turned into a fun fishing simulator.
Nintendo Labo is perfect for girls because it's totally unisex. Whether your daughter (or niece/grandkid/etc.) is the girliest girl or a little tomboy, she doesn't have to worry about the pressure of "playing with girl/boy toys!" — not that she should have to anyway, of course. Nintendo is one of those brands that has never gotten hung up on being for anyone specifically. Everyone can love and play with Nintendo products without judgment regardless of who they are or how old they are.Once your child gets interested in the way Nintendo Labo, combined with the Switch, transforms cardboard into a multitude of interactive objects, they'll likely become involved in more complex projects later. If you really sit down and take the time to help them form the connection between how physical action can influence digital information, they'll likely want to explore it further.
Nintendo Labo makes for a simple introduction to a type of product that stimulates interest in STEM and can teach real skills your child can use later in life. As they get older, you can bet that they'll be interested in things like the Arduino and Raspberry Pi microcomputers, which have a whole host of other great projects you can do with your kid.
It's important to give children the ability to develop interests that will help them succeed later in life. I wish when I was a little girl there had been something like the Nintendo Labo to do with my parents. Luckily, as the world gets more STEM-driven, there are more avenues like the Labo to help stimulate children's minds. Nintendo is genius for creating this line of products which is affordable enough to let even small kids play with. Hopefully, we'll see companies like Sony and Microsoft influenced by Labo and produce their own lines in the future.