You see a lot of gift guides doing the rounds this time of year, and you will often find gendered ones for boys or girls. For the past few years, I’ve pulled together my own alternative Christmas Gift Guide for girls – and here is this year’s suggested list.
The aim has always been to suggest things that may not be traditionally thought of as presents for girls, e.g. items involving Star Wars or Superheroes. What’s funny this year is that there are some items involving both of these that had been made with girls specifically in mind. It shows how things are changing.
Anyway, here is my 2017 gift guide for girls. It pretty much works for boys too.
1. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Every girls bookshelf should have this one it. And it would be pretty cool if it was on little boys’ shelves too.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls retells the stories of 100 women across history in the style of children’s fairy tales. The only common factors are a) They are women, and b) they are deemed to have achieved something extraordinary in a male dominated environment. Each story is condensed to one page, with an eye-catching illustration.
There are women you will have heard of, and others you should have heard of. There are also women you may wish you had never heard of – I couldn’t hold my tongue when reading the Margaret Thatcher entry to our daughter. The inclusion of Aung San Suu Kyi in an uncritical entry is also problematic to say the least.
But these stories at least are conversation starters, and there are many great examples to inspire daughters and enlighten sons to the place of women in history
2. LEGO DC Super Hero Girls
DC Super Hero Girls is a line of toys, comics, cartoons, etc. that reimagines female DC superheroes in a high school setting. The whole range is a welcome addition to merchandise targeted at girls, but the LEGO version is by far the best.
It is almost subversive in the way it takes the LEGO Friends aesthetic, drops the pink & pastel passive themes, and replaces them with action based sets and characters.
Our daughter loves all her sets, and none of them have been broken up yet as she is getting great replay value out of them. The most played with is the Super Hero High, which also comes with 4 minifigures – Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Poison Ivy, and Lena Luthor. My favourite set is Batgirl’s Batjet.
These toys help to reset the previously held LEGO gender division of Friends for girls, and everything else for boys. And while these sets are a great gift for girls, this should be in male LEGO fans’ stockings as well, to show them that superheroes are – and are for – girls too.
There is also an action packed LEGO DC Super Hero Girls animated movie called Brain Drain.
3. Star Wars: Forces of Destiny
What DC Super Hero Girls is doing for superheroes, Forces of Destiny is achieving with the galaxy far, far away.
It is a line of Star Wars themed merchandise that focuses on the female characters, centred around a cartoon series with a distinctive animated style that is clearly intended to appeal to the girls market.
The existence of such a line would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. In 2014, I wrote this rather flippant blog post, suggesting Hasbro should make & market Star Wars to girls – well, with this line that’s exactly what they’re finally doing.
4. Technology Will Save Us
Technology Will Save Us is a British start-up who make a range of STEM toys and coding kits for kids.
Our daughter has the Mover Kit, which makes a programmable LED device, that can be coded to light up in various ways according to movements. Kids can wear the finished device around their neck or on their wrist with the included snap-band.
It has a simple interface, which is a great way to introduce kids to tech and coding, in a fun and informative way.
5. Her Universe clothing
For older girls, the Her Universe line offers a great range of geek chic clothing.
Started by Ashley Eckstein, who voices Ahsoka in the Star Wars cartoons of Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, she spotted early on the growing female fandom in Star Wars and other traditionally male targeted brands.
6. Smartgames – Little Red Riding Hood
With coding added to the UK schools curriculum, parents are looking for ways to engage their kids in coding from an early age. A game like this uses basic concepts associated with coding and general problem solving.
Recommended for kids aged 4 – 7 years, this game uses the Red Riding Hood theme to present a series of logic problems for the child to solve, each one increasing in complexity and difficulty.
Games such as these have been traditionally been aimed at boys, and a gender neutral theme such as Red Riding Hood will entice girls as much as boys.
7. Wonder Woman
Until this year, Wonder Woman was probably the most high-profile superhero that the general public didn’t really know that much about.
Despite being around since 1941, Wonder Woman has been indelibly associated with second-wave feminism of the 1970’s after Gloria Steinem placed her on the cover of issue one of Ms. Magazine.
While there hadn’t been a live action version of Wonder Woman since the Lynda Carter TV show of the late seventies, the character continued to adorn t-shirts, mugs, and other merchandise owing to her status as a feminist icon.
The character reentered popular consciousness in a big way this year with the release of the Wonder Woman movie, which also had a knock on effect in terms of merchandise made for kids.
So while in previous years, I had been scouring the internet for what scraps of Wonder Woman merchandise for kids there was – now there is a load to choose from, which is brilliant.
DK have some nice books, including a young reader and a sticker book. There is a nice origin tale, with animated style illustrations. There are a series of Barbie style dolls – but with swords, shields, and her Lasso of Truth. There is also a toddler style doll for younger children.
There are of course loads of comics to choose from, but our daughter has been particularly taken with the graphic novel True Amazon, a reimagining of the early years of the Princess Diana on Themyscira – where she went from spoiled brat to arrogant adult. The story arc and art style have made this a favourite of our daughter’s.
Plus of course the movie – while it’s rated 12 (PG-13) I still showed it to our daughter, and we spoke at length about any parts she *may* have found disturbing, to put them in context in a discussion about war and injustice. For alternative versions, check out the seventies Lynda Carter series, or the animated movie from a few years ago. It’s still pretty violent, but again one I personally was happy to show to my daughter.
8. Other LEGO sets and merchandise
Outside of the LEGO DC Superhero Girls highlighted above, there have been some other cool sets we have had this year.
The LEGO Batman Movie (a great gift in itself) led to a bunch of cool sets – personal fave was the Joker’s Lowrider, which also featured Batgirl and Harley Quinn. Batgirl also headlined the LEGO Dimensions set from the same movie.
Another movie tie in set that went down well (that we acquired through a rare bout of pester power, was the Moana Ocean voyage set, which has remained a mainstay of her play ever since purchase earlier this year. The LEGO Ninjago movie also led to some sets featuring the female character Nya.
LEGO Dimensions also released some great female character sets this year, including the Powerpuff Girls, Teen Titans Go! with Starfire and Raven (plus Beast Boy), and a Hermione Granger set.
A special mention also the Captain America Jet Pursuit set – this is notable because it also features Ms. Marvel. The symbolism of Captain America teaming up with her – a muslim superhero – is most welcome in this era of Trump.
But a my favourite set of the year has to be the Women of NASA. If you buy one LEGO set for a child (or adult for that matter) – make it this one.
9. Star Wars
While the Forces of Destiny line highlighted above would make a great addition to any girl’s (or boy’s) Christmas stocking, the galaxy far, far away has offers up many more present ideas for girls.
With Rey front and center as the de facto lead character in the new saga, toys featuring her – whether figures, dress ups, or accessories – are great ways to encourage continued interest in her.
For the older Star Wars fangirl, there are some great books with female characters whether heroes like Leia or villains like Captain Phasma. Our daughter is a big fan of Ahsoka, and I read the whole Ahsoka novel to her as a bedtime story this year, even though it’s a young adult book and she’s only 5 years old.
10. Kano Computer Kits
The Kano is only bringing up the rear because I had placed it first for the past 2 years and I thought some other ideas needed to be given a go before we got to this.
But the Kano remains my top recommendation as a gift for girls, as it encourages an interest in STEM and give children a great insight into the mechanics of coding and computing.
It’s not cheap, but is well worth the investment – especially with coding being given such prominence in education these days. Kano have released some cheaper kits, such as the Motion Sensor and Pixel Kit.
So my recommendation still stands – if you only get one gift for your child (or children) this Christmas – make it this one 🙂
And the rest…
What about some comics? Our daughter loves Batgirl, Avatar, DC Super Hero Girls, Squirrel Girl, and My Little Pony.
Also new on our block is The Phoenix – a UK weekly story comic, that I’m really impressed with and – more importantly – so is our daughter, so have just subscribed to it.
Also deserving of a mention are Lottie dolls, I Am Elemental, and the Colouring Book for Awesome Girls.
And finally, a shout out to Hopster, a kids development app for 2-6 year olds, who are proudly gender neutral (and who employed me after years of being a stay-at-home parent). Get a 2-month free-trial using the code MANVSPINK here.