Choosing gifts for girls should be easy. If you know what they’re into, buy something related to that. If you don’t know, then try and find out.
However, when the buyer (whether relative, classmate, or family friend) doesn’t know them well enough, they often chance it – and this is when gender stereotypes come into play.
Not wanting their gift to be unwanted, people often opt for what they think is the safe option of traditionally ‘girly’ items – whether it’s a Princess sticker book or a pink fairy costume.
Last years Alternative Gift Guide for Girls proved very popular, so I thought I would publish an updated one. What I wanted to offer here again is a collection of alternative gifts you may not have considered for girls.
This fantastic machine is topping the list for the second year in a row, but this year there is a brilliant additional element that has really enhanced our daughter’s experience in using it.
To summarise, the Kano computer is a wonderful device – not only a build-your-own computer kit, but the finished product is a gateway into coding and the creativity of computing. With coding and computing literacy high on the educational agenda, imho this is one of the best presents you could buy for your child.
The additional element in this package is the Kano Screen kit, an HD screen that you make yourself. It is fairly simple to put together, but as with the computer kit doing so helps understand the elements and process of this technology. And there remains a great sense of ownership from your child in the finished product.
While the screen is available separately for those who already have the Kano, both are available as the Kano Computer Kit Bundle.
The screen really is a brilliant extra element that I highly recommend. From a practical point of view, the screen kit casing houses both the computer and the keyboard, making storage easy. It visually matches the Kano, with the transparent housing keeping all the blinking lights visible.
It also make the Kano more portable & versatile. Previously we were using it on the main family TV, but now is can be used anywhere, which has really increased our daughter’s engagement with the device. And engaging our children with computing is really the whole point of this marvellous machine.
It doesn’t come cheap, but I’ll reiterate – if you purchase only one present for your children this Christmas, I urge you to make it the Kano computer.
The Kano computer kit has an RRP of £299.99, and can be purchased directly from Kano.
While LEGO Friends was once the preserve of most female LEGO minifigures, the Danish plastic brick company has made great progress in featuring more female characters in all their lines.
This year, we had some terrific licensed sets that included some cool female minifigures.
In the superheroes there was the Avenjet (with Captain Marvel), DC Sky-high battle (Wonder Woman), Gotham City Cycle Chase (Harley Quinn), Avengers Hazard Heist (Black Widow), and Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum (the Ancient One). For children aged 2-5, we also had a great Duplo set, DC Super Hero Batman Adventure – which featured a Wonder Woman DUPLO figure & bike.
But the top set – and probably the best Marvel LEGO set we have ever built – is the Spider-Man Ultimate Bridge Battle. It features six minifigures, Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider, the Scorpion, Kraven the Hunter – and female minifigures Aunt May, and best of all Spider-Girl.
It’s a fun playset when made – a section of a classic New York bridge, with various moving elements from a web trap to a crashing taxi. It has LEGO studs everywhere so you can place your wall crawling superheroes all over the bridge. But it is also great to build, and a fun engineering project to share with your kids. I certainly enjoyed making it as much as my daughter.
3. LEGO Dimensions
Combining aspects of 1 & 2 on this list, LEGO dimensions has been a big hit in our house this year.
It’s one of the toys-to-life genre made famous by Skylanders, and the soon to be defunct Disney Infinity. But for me this is the premiere fusion of toy and game, combining the best elements of LEGO the toy and the LEGO video game franchise to create something marvellous in its own right.
The basic set is the starter pack, which is console specific. It includes the game, 3 minifgures (Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstye), a minikit (the Batmobile), and the game pad – which is how you transport your minifigures into the game.
Basically, the included minifigures and mini kits have special platform bases, which are encoded to transport them into the game via the game pad.
Here they are playable as part of the included narrative game or in freeplay mode in various worlds unlocked by each character.
From this basic set, you can expand the game with new special LEGO dimensions minifigures and level packs. There are way too many to mention all, and they are releasing figures regularly (currently seven waves of multiple sets), but I wanted to highlight the available range of female characters, which are awesome.
As well as Wlydstyle, we have Wonder Woman, UniKitty, the Wicked Witch, Lumpy Space Princess & Marceline the Vampire Queen (Adventure Time), Harley Quinn, Tina Goldstein (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), and a Ghostbusters (2016) Story Pack, with an Abby Yates minifigure, brand new game pad set, and a playable LEGO version of the entire movie.
LEGO Dimensions is a great way to bridge the divide between LEGO and LEGO video games.
4. The Amazing Colouring Book for Awesome Girls
More of a stocking filler is this great colouring book, featuring simple pictures of women and girls in a variety of different roles and activities.
It’s the perfect antidote to the more usual princess themed books targeted at girls. While I have some issue with labelling it a girls book – most notably because it will prevent many boys from being bought this – I understand why (because of the existing market), and love the finished result.
5. Anime and related
While there has been progress, Disney Princesses continue to dominate the ‘girls’ market, so I have always been keen to source alternatives for my daughter to balance out this ubiquitous brand.
Studio Ghibli continues to be a rich source, and this year we saw a couple of ‘new’ ones. When Marnie Was There is purported to be their last movie, and is an engaging, rewarding, but also melancholy tale. An earlier classic, Only Yesterday, was also re-released, with a brand new english language dub including Daisy Ridley. It sees a woman in her twenties reflecting on her modern life and reminiscing about her life as a little girl. It is a mesmerising tale from Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata.
We were also pleased to discover another anime classic, but this time not from Studio Ghibli. Wolf Children is a wonderful film that centres on Hanna – a young woman who has a passionate relationship with someone who turns out to be the last of his kind, a mythical Japanese wolf. Their kids, the children of the title, struggle to find their way in a world that has different callings for humans and animals. There is also a beautifully illustrated manga based on the movie. Both film and comic have become beloved favourites of our daughter’s – and mine too.
Our final ‘discovery’ was also anime related, the saga of Avatar: The Last Airbender and especially it’s sequel The Legend of Korra. Debuting over a decade ago, this animated TV saga has enthralled both my daughter and I this year. While the protagonist of the first show is a young boy (Aang), strong female characters are prevalent throughout (though it has to be said, my daughter adores Aang).
We started by watching Korra, which is magnificent, and while it was easy to follow we realised some of the references would hold greater relevance if we watched Avatar: The Last Airbender. We then rewatched Korra from the beginning and finished the show. The seven series epic is truly magnificent, and in the UK it is all part of Amazon Video. There are also follow up comics that I can’t wait for us to explore.
Sadly, there is also a movie of The Last Airbender. I say sadly, because frankly it’s pants and a pale shadow of the cartoon it is based on – but my daughter really enjoyed it. Make of that what you will.
6. Star Wars
Star Wars, as ever, has loomed large in our house. Much of it centered around LEGO Star Wars, and as well as the sets mention above, we also really enjoyed the LEGO Star Wars Force Awakens game. It is (unsurprisingly) Rey centric, and features actual dialogue from the movie. Daisy Ridley (as well as much of the cast) also recorded additional dialogue for the game.
Rey has also added another character for little girls everywhere to dress up as, so my daughter’s Rey fancy dress outfit – with essential Rey’s Lightsaber accessory – was welcome.
Our daughter also enjoyed this interactive Stormtrooper toy, and I was a fan of the Star Wars novels Bloodline (a political thriller featuring Princess Leia) and Ahsoka.
7. DC Super Hero Girls
In what seems to be an attempt to combine the popularity of superheroes and Disney Princess, Mattel & Warner Bros. have created the brand DC Super Hero Girls.
As well as toys, there are books, cartoons, stationary and fancy dress outfits.
We only have a couple of toys, Supergirl and Batgirl action figures so these are the only ones we can personally recommend but the range has everything from fancy dress outfits, to accessory toys and homewares – and with LEGO on the way, I hope this brand does well in 2017.
Lottie dolls are an ever popular toy in our house. To be honest, check out their range for the ones that best suit you/your child – but these are the ones my daughter has received this year.
We chose the School Days Lottie and scooter accessory pack because our daughter started school and scooting there is encouraged. The palaeontologist Fossil Hunter was to help support an interest in dinosaurs before any ideas that ‘Dinosaurs are for boys’ crept into her thinking. Same for the Girls United Football clothes set, and the Raspberry Ripple dress clothes outfit was simply one my daughter liked the look of.
But there are lots of different dolls and accessories to choose from, and it should be easy to find the right one for the lucky child.
While you can purchase them via the Amazon links below, if you head to lottie.com, and use the code ‘bloggerambassador’ at check out you can get 20% off your order.
9. Sewing Circus
This label – from Let Clothes Be Clothes founder Francesca Cambridge continues to blaze a trail for unisex clothing, which also promotes active and STEM themes that are perfect to undermine negative girl stereotypes. There’s also plenty of Star Wars and superheroes.
She also does bespoke work – such as the all-time fave Star Wars skirts our daughter often wears!
Head to the Sewing Circus website and browse the selection.
Ok, I ran out of room to mention these fully – but any one would also make a great gift for a girl (or boy).
The Natural History branded pocket microscope is a great affordable STEM toy, that works really well too.
Rory’s Storycubes are a wonderful way to encourage creative storytelling in young children, and we love these Batman ones. They also feature a good selection of female characters.
We’re big fans of the work of writer & illustrator Charles C. Dowd, and his A to Z Guide to Jobs for Girls is a must have for anyone raising an empowered little girl. Our daughter is also particularly taken with his Lilith Dark comic.
A great introduction to the most iconic female comic book character of all can be found in the Wonder Woman: An Origin Story picture book, with nice animated style illustrations.
Also going down treat are a selection of Batgirl comics – Batgirl: Year One, as well as the hipster revamp Batgirl of Burnside and follow up Family Business. With plots involving dating apps, computer algorithms, transgender issues, and same sex marriage, some my not think of these as suitable reading material for a 4-year-old girl – but my daughter and I would disagree 🙂
Also skewing a older is a childhood favourite of mine – Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I read it to my daughter earlier in the year, and she enjoyed it immensely and is now being read it again by my wife. If you know a child who has never read (or been read) this classic, we all highly recommend it.
Want more ideas? Check out more of my gift ideas for girls (or boys).
There you have it, my alternative gift guide for girls. What alternative gifts for girls would you suggest?