By GreatSchools Staff
Are all the girls on your holiday shopping list made of "sugar, spice, and everything nice"? Didn't think so.
The truth is that girls come in all shapes and sizes — some are a breeze to shop for (one stop at Claire's and you're done); others, not so much.
If you're shopping for girls who don't follow the crowd or gravitate toward toys marketed to their gender, check out these gift ideas. We've got books, games, and toys to satisfy even the most idiosyncratic and independent girl.
All ages, $15-$20
This simple toy is a hit with every kid who gets their foot on one, and, though it's marketed to boys, that definitely includes girls. The Stomp Rocket comes in all shapes and sizes. The Super High Performance Stomp Rockets blasts up to 400 feet and is best for kids 16 and up. The Stomp Rocket Ultra flies a satisying 200 feet and is perfect for ages 8 and up. For the littlest stompers, there's the Stomp Rocket Junior, which comes with glow-in-the-dark rockets and flies a more demure 100 feet.
And, of course, you may want to stock up on extra rockets, because no matter if they're flying 100 feet or 400, they're inevitably flying somewhere other than your own backyard.
Bottom line: Girls will get a thrill from sending these rockets into the stratosphere.
Ages 4 and up
How many toys come with a mail-in voucher for larvae? Not enough, in our opinion. The award-winning Live Butterfly Garden kit includes an easily assembled mesh habitat and feeding supplies (bring your own sugar and water). Once the larvae arrive in the mail, your child will have a front-row seat over the next three weeks as they grow, form chrysalides, and finally become beautiful painted lady butterflies — which should then be released. An excellent and memorable intro to biology.
Bottom line: Raising butterflies encourages curiosity and wonder.
Ages: 6 and up
Unleash your child's inner tree-hugger with this highly inventive puzzle. The durable yet biodegradable cardboard kit provides a base for kids to design their own tree, using the leaves provided or attaching their own creations — pictures, drawings, names from a family tree, etc. Essentially, Kids On Roof Totem Tree offers a blank canvas in the shape of a maple. In theory, there's a nature lesson in this half puzzle, half art project, but what impresses us most is its open-endedness. Given the level of prescription that comes with so many toys these days, an invitation to explore freely is particularly welcome — and provides an important lesson in creative problem solving.
Bottom line: A high-quality art project that's also eco-friendly.
A science toy that requires kids to design and build an ecosystem for an ant colony, then trap several dozen live ants and their pupa, isn’t for faint-of-heart, hands-off parents. But if you are willing to invest the time, this is no ordinary toy.
Designed by former entomologist Peter Smith, Ant-o-Sphere from Wild Science offers a flexible kit of multiple pods in transparent red and clear plastic, connected by tubes that mimic ant colonies in nature. This toy encourages real scientific learning. Kids can test, observe, and draw conclusions — important skills typically absent in project-oriented science toys, where the outcome is a foregone conclusion. For instance, the kit encourages kids to create their own pod design and see how it changes ant behavior. By the same token, children can learn about the eating habits of ants by offering them different kinds of food.
Bottom line: Bring science to life with this interactive and engaging kit.
Ages 8-10, $16.99
You might think that a toy with "weird slime" in its name would only appeal to boys who can't get enough of gross 'n' gooey things (or Nickelodeon for that matter). Wrong! Our intrepid girl tester not only listed "gross stuff" as one of her interests but also gave Wild Science's Weird Slime Laboratory a rating of "super cool."
And for good reason: The Weird Slime Lab comes with eight hands-on activities (like how to make green jelly worms), each of which builds on skills learned in the previous one. But what could a kid possibly learn from a DIY slime kit? Why none other than lessons on the properties of matter, hydrated crystals, and how to control different polymers and catalyst reactions. And you thought those were merely green jelly worms.
Bottom line: It's gross, gooey, and a great way to introduce kids to chemistry.
Creationary — a variation on Pictionary — is a fun guessing game that lets kids get competitive while playing with Legos. Players roll a six-sided die to determine one of four possible categories: buildings, nature, things, or vehicles. Potential creations are challenging enough to make the game fun for older kids, as they include everything from a fox to a skateboard to a laptop. The game comes with basic Lego blocks and some specialized pieces to allow for even more experimentation.
Bottom line: Pictionary for the Legos-loving set, this game requires real creative thinking.
by Jacqueline Kelly
Henry Holt and Co. (May 2009)
Ages 9-12, $17
She's a turn-of-the-century Texas girl, but 11-year-old Calpurnia Tate is more interested in becoming a scientist than in knitting or cooking. With the help of her grandfather, an amateur naturalist, and Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, she starts doing fieldwork. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is the critically acclaimed story of an outsider who has to forge her own way in the world as she discovers her unique identity.
Bottom line: A prize-winning book that explores the unconventional life of a brash young naturalist.
by Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books (July 2009)
Ages 9-12, $16
Set in late-1970s New York City, When You Reach Me is the story of Miranda, a sixth grader who’s caught up in reading the classic children’s fantasy A Wrinkle in Time while negotiating the complexities of her friendships and reflecting on her life.
Bottom line: A nuanced book about a girl's life in the city and a surprising mystery.
by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz
William Morrow (2007)
Ages 12 and up, $17.79
It’s a complicated world out there, and girls need to know some important things, like how to whistle with two fingers, master the rules of basketball, and pass a top-secret note to a friend. The Daring Book for Girls is packed with these tips and a lot more. Where else will a kid learn how to pull off a glorious cartwheel, make the perfect snowball, or find tools for a complete tool kit? Girls of all stripes will find something to love — and a lot to learn — in this book.
Bottom line: Everything an adventurous girl needs to know packed into one book.
Ages 13 and up
For teens desperate for gore, this Japanese simulation game lets them wield their own blade — not to mention forceps, syringe, bandages, and antibiotic gel. The task at hand is saving people, not hurting them. The gamer is an OR surgeon, charged with battling disease and sewing up injuries. Yes, there will be blood. But it's not the gratuitous kind. Actually, Trauma Center: Second Opinion overflows with the kind that might lead your kid to med school one day.
Bottom line: Teens can immerse themselves in the grit of medicine.