Since publishing my annual alternative gift guide for girls, a few more products have come our way that could also make a great gift for a girl (or boy), so here are the top 5, listed in ascending price order.
1. Star Wars: Catalyst – a Rogue One novel
A tie-in novel for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, this is set during Revenge of the Sith and sets the scene for the latest Star Wars movie.
This would make for a good ‘topical’ Star Wars gift, and a great way into the world of Rogue One.
Our first LEGO Friends set, the 4yo made light work of this 6-12 age recommended set.
While I remain a little uneasy about the LEGO Friends concept, the line has evolved and tackled many of the aspects of the brand that critics previously had issues with.
This has a male and female minifigure, is an imaginative set to construct, and the overall amusement park theme it’s part of is an active one that would be just at home in the LEGO City line.
And while the Friends line is ostensibly aimed at girls, there is no reason at all for this fun set not to be a great gift for a boy either.
And you also get a hot dog outfit that fits any of your minifigures. What’s not to like!
3. Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection BluRay
After Star Wars and the Marvel movies, I’m thinking it’s about time to introduce my daughter to the world of Harry Potter.
All 8 films are part of this attractive looking BluRay boxset, and having only seen half of them myself, I’m really looking forward to enjoying this series as a family.
I’m particularly keen for my daughter to engage with the character of Hermione, especially as Emma Watson is now such an outspoken champion for girl empowerment and women’s rights.
4. IAmElemental – Wisdom Warriors
A magnificent gift for a girl, boy, or an adult collector of action figures, this latest IAmElemental set is pretty stunning.
Packaged in a sturdy metal ‘lunchbox’ tin, the Wisdom Warriors set come in a range of bold colours and designs, with added extras such as stands, information cards, and best of all the Wisdom Workbook, a collection of puzzles, exercises, and info related to women, wisdom, and the warriors themselves.
5. Xbox One S Minecraft Bundle 500gb
Encompassing video gaming and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths), the Xbox One S Minecraft Edition would make a very impressive headliner Christmas gift for any lucky child or family.
The Xbox One S is a powerful gaming machine, that is also a great media hub for watching content. Minecraft, with which this version of the console comes bundled with, is the open world gaming phenomenon of the past decade, inspiring a cult of committed fans.
These combine to make this a great gift with girls in mind especially – as the worlds of gaming and STEM remain dominated by boys and men, and girls could do with encouragement to engage with them too.
I received some of the items here free of charge for the purposes of review. This list also uses Amazon affiliate links.
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.
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!
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.
What are the top toys for Christmas? Smyths Toys – who kicked off the Christmas 2016 toy rush in style with this great TV ad that defied traditional gender stereotypes – have revealed their list of top toys for Christmas 2016.
In common with many retailers, and the toy industry in general, they still have some work to do in how they present toys to boys & girls – it’s often still boys playing with superheroes & bikes, and girls with dolls & prams.
But their Christmas ad shows that they’re evolving their offering. For that they should be applauded and I look forward to how this develops in the future.
For now, here are my highlights from their best toys of 2016. The full list features a range of toys – some of which I’m more of a fan of than others!
Smyths top toys for Christmas 2016
1. LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack
We love LEGO Dimensions. It is the perfect marriage of LEGO and LEGO video games and to my mind one of the best toys of 2016.
This starter pack comes with everything you need to get cracking with it (ok, apart from the console. And the TV). There are 3 minifigures (Batman, Wyldstyle, and Gandalf), a mini kit of the Batmobile, plus the game pad with buildable platform, and the game itself.
Each figure & minikit (that you get instructions how to build in-game) has a special base that the game pad can read, and then place a virtual version of that figure/vehicle in the game. The figures also unlock extra worlds to explore in the game, so these three open access to DC world, LEGO movie, and Middle-earth.
There are dozens of expansion packs, featuring LEGO versions of some great pop culture icons, ranging from the Wicked Witch to the all-female Ghostbusters.
Highly recommended, and unlikely to disappoint any child who loves LEGO and video games.
2. Imaginext Remote Control Transforming BatBot
Exclusive to Smyths Toys, this Batman toy is part of the Imaginext DC line. It is basically a huge exoskeleton for the Batman figure, which transforms between a robot and a tank (sounds familiar?) either manually or by using the supplied remote control. It also fires discs and has over 100 sound effects and phrases.
It does look pretty cool, and I like the Imaginext line of DC superheroes – who are much better at including female superhero characters than most Marvel lines.
3. Nerf N-Strike Elite Hyperfire Value Pack
Hasbro’s Nerf has for too long been seen as a boys brand. I know from experience that girls love running around shooting things too – so why not add this to your little girl’s Christmas list?
This Nerf Elite toy – also exclusive to Smyths – is a beast of a toy gun, with its Gatling Gun-like barrel that fires 5 darts a second! Each barrel holds 25 darts, and this also comes with a spare fully loaded drum – so that’s 50 darts, to fire off in 10+ seconds (depending on how fast you reload). Each dart also fires up to 27m, so perfect for long range NERF attacks.
This is the kind of toy I wish existed when I was a kid – we had to make do with cap and potato guns.
4. LEGO City Volcano Crawler
The LEGO City range has made great improvements in their inclusion of female minifigures in recent years, and we’re seeing most sets featuring at least one – and in increasingly non-stereotypical roles.
This Volcano Crawler set features two male and one female minifigure. The finished set has a larger articulated ‘crawler’ as well as a smaller ATV. It has 324 pieces, and while it is recommended for ages 6-12, it would be a fun project with a younger child too.
5. BMW GS Motorcycle 12v Electric Ride On
There’s always one kid at the park, who everyone else stares at with envy because they have the coolest toy.
Your child can be that kid with this BMW ride on bike.
It looks sleek, has accelerator sound effects, and LED headlights. It’s powered by a powerful 12v twin engine, and will turn heads wherever your child goes.
If you have a daughter and want to smash gender expectations early, then this gift will announce to the world that ‘Girls love bikes too’.
To check out the rest of Smyths top toys for Christmas, head to their website.
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Smyths Toys.
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
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:
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)
Custom case, stencils and stickers!
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.
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.)
But our top set is Jokerland. It gets played with the most and also has the most female minifigs.
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
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.
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).
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).
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
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.
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
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.
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.
We 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
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.