Alternative Ideas for Gifts for Girls (and Boys)

Choosing great gifts for girls shouldn’t be that difficult.

But it seems that it is. While you may know what your child likes, others may not and often they will revert to the same tired stereotypes of “what girls like”.

One of the things I want to achieve with my blog is broadening the spectrum of what people think will appeal to girls. So I thought it might be handy to detail some of the great things my daughter has enjoyed over the past year, as potential new ideas for gifts for girls.

These suggestions are of course fine for boys too, but I just wanted to counterbalance some of the traditional gift guides I see aimed at girls. However, as a former boy – and I love all the things on this list too, so I have no doubt they will appeal to them too.

I’ve mostly used Amazon affiliate links, but all these items are available from a variety of other retailers too.

1. Kano – the DIY Computer Kit for Kids

Girl coding, Kano
Learning to code at 3-years old with her Kano

If you and your family purchase only one present for your child, I would strongly urge it to be this one.

Kano is a fantastic build-it-yourself computer and coding kit. While intended for kids age 6-12, younger (like my daughter) and older (like her parents!) will love this too.

This is a wonderfully simple yet complex product. As opposed to the pretend computers that kids often have, this is an actual bona-fide computer for kids.

With this, your child will have a wonderful journey of discovery, and will also be engaged in the fundamentals of our increasingly digital culture.

The kit contains:

Coding for kids, coding for girls, girls in stem, Kano

 

    • Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, ARM 900MHz Quad-Core CPU and 1GB RAM
  • 8GB micro-SD Card preloaded with the latest Kano OS full of projects and games
  • Kano books, illustrated and intuitive
  • Wireless Kano Keyboard and mouse (USB RF & Bluetooth)
  • DIY speaker
  • Custom case, stencils and stickers!
  • HDMI cable
  • Wifi dongle
  • Mini-USB power supply (UK plug)

You put the computer together in LEGO-like fashion (no soldering required), connect it to a screen (via HDMI), fire it up, and you’re ready to go.

It is also a great family activity – my wife and I are as excited about using it as our daughter.

If there was any justice in this world, the Kano would be the number one toy this christmas.

The RRP is £119.99 – but you can get it for a holiday price of £89.99 until 31 December 2015.

It’s available from the Kano website and Amazon.

2. LEGO

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Everyone loves LEGO, right? It’s probably one of the greatest toys ever invented, LEGO is certainly a perennial plaything at our house. When considering LEGO gifts for girls, please don’t assume you have to limit yourself to LEGO Friends.

We’ve had some exciting new sets this year, but our highlights were these ones that also featured some great female characters.

We loved Rey’s Speeder from The Force Awakens. It’s a simple set with a really funky looking vehicle.

Other LEGO Star Wars sets we had included the Imperial Shuttle and Imperial Assault Carrier. Both were wonderful sets that each featured important female characters – Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels, and Leia in her non-slave Return of the Jedi look.

With a little LEGO invention, you can also make this Leia look a bit like General Leia from The Force Awakens. (Han looks pretty good with a beard too.)

General Leia, Old Han Solo, LEGO Star Wars, The Force Awakens, Gift ideas for girls
One of my daughter’s custom LEGO creations – old Han & Leia.

But our top set is Jokerland. It gets played with the most and also has the most female minifigs.

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Jokerland is a wonderfully loopy LEGO Batman set that features a theme park taken over by the Joker and his criminal pals. The set features 8 minifigures, and the female ones are Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Starfire. As well as Joker, you also get Batman, Robin, The Penguin, and Beast Boy.

Having female figures in these sets is important. For my daughter, it helps hook her into playing with these sets. But once she does, she enjoys both male and female characters alike. She’s a big fan of Batman and Robin at the moment.

3. Lottie Dolls

Lottie dolls, girls gift guide, gifts for girls age 8, gifts for girls age 5, gifts for girls age 9, We love Lottie Dolls. From their childlike appearance to the range of outfits and accessories , my daughter is constantly playing with them. The other day she professed that they were her favourite toy!

Choosing a favourite Lottie Doll is like choosing your favourite child (though I only have one of those to choose from), but my top ones would be Pirate Queen and Rockabilly.

To be honest they’re all great, and the key for us is the range of outfits and accessories you can get. They lead to great imaginative play, and show that girls can be dancers, engineers, athletes, or whoever they want to be.

Lottie is a doll that isn’t defined by being one thing. That is a great message for children to learn.

These are the dolls we have:

And these are the accessories:

4. The Films of Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli, gift guide for girls, Disney princess alternatives, alternatives to disney princesses, anti disney princessOur lives would be culturally bereft without the joys of Studio Ghibli movies.

If you haven’t seen them, I cannot stress enough how utterly magical and glorious these films are. I am immeasurably grateful that they exist, and that my daughter gets to experience them in her childhood.

Some are more age appropriate than others, but bear in mind I will happily watch any of these with my 3-year-old daughter (who adores them).

Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbour TotoroWhisper of the Heart, and Ponyo are our most watched.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away, and especially Princess Mononoke may be too intense for younger children – but I say again, my 3-year-old loves watching them.

We also have story books of Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro, which have been excellent ways for my daughter to engage with these stories without constantly watching the movies (it would be every day if I’d allow it).

Little Girl Dressed as Kiki, Kiki cosply, Studio Ghibli cosplay We also bought her this great Kiki dress up outfit.

While it’s simple, it’s a high quality outfit (unlike most kids fancy dress outfits).

The dress is nicely tailored in cotton, and the bow is delightful.

My daughter always gets smiles whenever she’s out wearing this – mostly from people who have no idea who she’s dressed as.

You can top the outfit off with a Jiji cat toy too.


5. Katie Morag – books and TV show

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My daughter was actually the one who introduced us to the wonderful Katie Morag books, stumbling upon one at a charity shop.

These delightful picture books, written and illustrated by  Mairi Hedderwick, are all set on the Isle of Struay, off the coast of Scotland, and center around the independent minded Katie, and her family and friends.

Our favourite books are:

I was pleasantly surprised to find that a live action Bafta Award winning TV series had been made, which captures the spirit of the characters and stories perfectly.

You can get series one of Katie Morag on DVD.


6. Tara Binns

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The Tara Binns series of books are a fun way to introduce different professions as valid choices for little girls to aspire to.

So far there are three books in the series, and in them the hero of the title explores the likes of being a pilot, and engineer, and a doctor.

They are fun to read and have already sewn the seeds of big ideas in our little girl.

7. Star Wars – Little Golden Books

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Like many parents of a certain age, Star Wars has been something I have introduced my daughter to from an early age.

However, I know some parents – while wanting to introduce their child to Star Wars – feel that the films are inappropriate in terms of action and violence for very young children.

These Star Wars Little Golden Books are a perfect solution. With pared down narratives, simple prose, and cute illustrations, this series of Star Wars books for kids is a wonderful way to introduce a small child to the galaxy far, far away…

These Star Wars books for kids are available individually or as a boxset.

8. LittleLife Gruffalo and Spider-Man Backpacks

A cut above the usual cheaply made kids backpack, the LittleLife collection are well made, with thoughtful designs that look great and are comfortable for your child to wear.

Spider-Man DaySack, Spider-Man backpack for kids, Spider-Man backpack for girls, Spider-Girl backpack

The Spider-Man Kids Daysack is a great looking bag, that has enough room for the essentials a 3+ yr old would need to carry.

LittleLife-gruffalo-toddler-daysack-stock imageWe also had a Gruffalo Toddler Daysack, for kids age 1-3, with a rein that some parents may find useful, plus there is a Gruffalo Kids Daysack for children age 3+. Both are wonderfully designed bags that will please any tiny Gruffalo fan.

 

9. Clothes from Sewing Circus

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We are big fans of Sewing Circus, who have a great range of skirts, dresses, tops, and accesories. The themes include dinosaurs, science, space, superheroes, and much more.

Founded by Francesca Cambridge, as a campaigner for unisex clothing (Let Clothes be Clothes) she would likely balk at being included on a gifts for girls list. Just to be clear – boys can wear her clothes too.

My daughter is the proud owner of the Star Wars skirt pictured above, that was the basis for a ‘How to make a Star Wars skirt‘ tutorial Francesca guest blogged here. I think it must be the most worn item of clothing in her wardrobe this year.

Some of my other favourites on the Sewing Circus site include this Batgirl dress, an Iron Man pinafore, and a Marvel Comics skirt.

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These are my alternative ideas for gifts for girls. What are yours? Please comment below.

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Is Black Widow’s Hairstyle Sexist?

Captain America: Civil War features the first appearance of a much-anticipated icon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). No not Black Panther, but Black Widow’s new hairstyle.

Black Widow made her first MCU appearance in Iron Man 2 (2010), and that was followed by The Avengers (2012), Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014), The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and now the Captain America: Civil War (2016). She has sported a different hairstyle in each movie.

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From L to R: Black Widow’s hairstyles in Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Captain America: Winter Soldier, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War. All images © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

I don’t recall any such attention to detail being paid to the locks of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, or even Thor.

This scenario of constantly updating the hairstyle of Scarlett Johansson’s female hero, reminds me of Star Trek: Voyager. The show aired between 1995-2001, and starred Kate Mulgrew (now more famed  for playing Red in Orange is the New Black) as Katherine Janeway – the first ever female captain lead in a Star Trek show.

Kate has frequently lamented that ‘the suits’ spent more time worrying about her hair than they did about her character development. She grew increasingly frustrated at the constant messing with it. For those not familiar with the show, this video sums up pretty well how it was.

Is messing with Black Widow’s hairstyle sexist?

Kate Mulgrew reflects that this is a scenario that a male actor is unlikely to face, but female actors constantly do – especially in films and tv shows that have a large male fanbase.

The tinkering of Black Widow’s hairstyle – compared with her fellow Avengers – appears to be further evidence of this. It implies that – as far as the creatives and ‘suits’ are concerned – appearance is more important factor for a female character than a male one. And by extension, a female actor has to be more concerned about her appearance than a male one does.

I also wonder, like Captain Janeway before her, if Marvel Studio execs spend as much time talking about Natasha’s character development as they do about her hair?

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that “Action is character.” Perhaps, for female characters, we need to amend that to “Hair is character.”

What do you think Black Widow’s changing hairstyles tell us about her?

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