The Science of Christmas

THIS is ace.

It was made by GoldieBlox – designers of a set of interactive books and games aiming to get girls involved in engineering. Their CEO, Debbie Sterling studied engineering at Stamford, and set up GoldieBlox to start to try and counter the culture that had led to the tiny percentage of female students on her course. (Just 11% of all engineers are women. Yikes.)

Having been alerted to this (and it is definitely the best advert I have seen in ages, possibly ever…) I felt the need to write my first Christmassy blog of the season.

If you don’t want your girls (or, indeed boys!) to end up with a load of pink tat this Christmas, here are a few ideas.

This is another cool Lottie doll. (I love Lottie. A lot. Probably a bit too much.) But this doll was inspired by female robotics experts Erin Kennedy and Kathy Ceceri. (And yes, I know it could be a bit disappointing that she has glasses, just so that you know she’s a scientist, but hey – loads of people wear glasses now, just to be cool. People even wear slightly baffling pretend glasses. So glasses are not the nerd-fest they once were. Or at least now everyone wants in on the nerd-fest!)

Lottie robot

You can learn more about Erin Kennedy and Kathy Ceceri on the information on the Lottie Girl packaging, and there is an accessory kit you can get with a Busy Lizzie robot to make! I should just add that Pirate Queen Lottie is another of my favourites:

pirate queen lottie doll 1

But back on the science theme, my good friend Rachael found this brilliant idea for a present: it’s a science kit you can make up yourself, with a handbook that you can print out yourself.



And finally, if like me, you grew up to the strains of pretend records on a plastic turntable, how about one of these:

Fisher Price

image from:

Fisher Price has re-issues their classic toy designs, and they are all great. Lo-fi, mechanical, and with a hint of nostalgia for the parents. You can buy this from this great website, which is just jam-packed with loveliness.

The camera is amazing too:


Girls deserve better than pink princess tat all the time (as my youngest daughter will tell me, there is a place for pink princessyness in her life) but there’s also a lot of room for science, inventiveness, engineering and thinking too.


Potter wisdom: on choice.

I am almost embarrassingly obsessed with Harry Potter. I’ve never been a proper geek like this about anything before. Star Wars kind of passed me by, I’m definitely not a Trekkie, I hate computer games far too much for all that world of warcraft stuff. but as soon as I stopped refusing to read Harry Potter on the basis that ‘I don’t really like fantasy novels’, I was totally hooked. I always think of HP as a perfect cross between Enid Blyton-style boarding school stories (I loved Mallory Towers and Saint Claires) and a classic mythology. Because the world of Potter is grounded in the real world, and exists in completely feasible parallel to it, I can enjoy it. But also: the quality of the writing is such that to be honest, I would read a shopping list written by JK Rowling, and probably think it was ace.

There are lines that could be Shakespeare: “Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest pleasure”, for example.  There are laugh-out-loud funny bits, there are really very touching bits, and the narrative all hangs on Rowling’s strong sense of social justice.

For me, this constitutes pretty much the perfect book. I’ve read the books over and over, and never got bored. I went to the Harry Potter experience and loved every minute of it. And now the kids are hooked: we have the audio books of the first 3 books on loop in the car, they’ve watched the first three films again and again, and Polly is itching to read the next book (the slightly more scary number 4.)


This though, is one of my favourite quotes. It’s true.  Our choices, not our abilities define us.

Which is great news for those of us with less than tip-top-notch abilities, frankly.



On fridge doors.

I’ve been reflecting lately, on how different life is now that all THREE of my children are in school. It’s not like I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on anything much over the last eight-ish years. I almost can’t believe I managed it. These days, the thought of trying to get the biggest one ready and out to preschool/nursery whilst trying to supervise a toddler on a scooter and put a baby into a sling leaves me in a cold sweat. And yet I did it. And all of us are still alive. (Which I’ll take as a win, thank you.)

There were many, many fun, happy days. There were lots of darker times too, but now when I look back on those few, mad years I mostly focus on the good stuff. This might be a survival instinct, it might be denial or rose-tinted glasses, but mostly I think it is because it is a privilege to spend those years with your children, even if during those times you might not be the best of friends. (And they might throw lego bricks at your head in anger at being told that yes, they really do have to put their shoes on and go to the shop for milk.)

I was thinking about it the other day, and decided that I could always tell how well or badly a day was doing by the results of my 4pm ‘what the hell am I going to cook for tea?’ look in the fridge. If it had been a relatively good day, I was able to put something vaguely (and I do mean vaguely) reasonable and nutritious together from the assorted contents. If it had been a bad day, I would usually have a brief glance, shut the door, mutter something terrible under my breath, open the fridge door again, stare at the contents for a very long time, shut the door again and cry. On a really bad day I would call Rich at work, pretending not to be a mad woman who needed help with a ready-steady-cook challenge with his offspring wailing at her feet.

I’m not saying that the fridge door scenario doesn’t happen now. (It does.) But now they are older, and have spent the day at school, when it does happen I don’t feel quite that same weight of responsibility and hopelessness. A six year old hungry child, although persistent and grumpy, is not the same as a hungry 8 month old; irrational, overtired and screaming. And anyway, the six year old helps himself to fruit and yoghurt if he is hungry now (which is nearly always.)

For ages when they were tiny, they would say ‘Mummy, draw me a car!’ Or ‘Mummy! Dinosaur!’ or ‘Mummy, draw a cat on a hill with a field of cows below!’ – depending on which one it was asking. My drawing is truly, truly terrible. And so I would draw something that in no way resembled the requested thing, but that was fine. A month or so ago, Tilly asked me to draw a grasshopper. I was reluctant to, but gave it a go anyway; Tilly can be quite persuasive. Halfway through, I paused. It looked like a tall, misshapen sea creature. Tilly examined it carefully and said ‘don’t worry mummy. I’ll get Polly to do it.’ And off she went to commission her seven year old sister to draw a better one.  It was a turning point in the way of things: I half expected to feel sad that I was no longer number one artist. Instead, I was nearly overcome with relief.

They still love me to read to them, they still need me to tell them where their lunchbox/PE bag/favourite My Little Pony/ Star Wars gun is; they still tell me their secrets at bedtime. But they no longer need me for absolutely everything. I quite like that.

And pretty soon, I’ll teach them how to cook a proper meal magicked up from the contents of a fridge at 4.30pm.