Million Girls Moonshot Sparks STEM Imaginations

11 Affordable Holiday Gift Ideas for Girls

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Photo credit: kite_rin

Building sets, science kits, computer games, robots. Who receives these gifts for the holidays and birthdays? Boys, mostly. It’s not that we are trying to limit girls’ options, but . Marketing and stereotypes help shape our shopping lists and our imaginations.

Building sets, science kits, computer games, robots. Who receives these gifts for the holidays and birthdays? Boys, mostly. It’s not that we are trying to limit girls’ options, but . Marketing and stereotypes help shape our shopping lists and our imaginations.

We want to change that trend. With  is re-imagining who can engineer, who can build, who can invent. It is inspiring the next generation of innovators by engaging one million more girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) opportunities over the next 5 years. One way we can support this Moonshot is with the toys and games we offer girls. Let’s give the gifts that support girls’ creativity, confidence, and imaginations.

Here are 11 ideas to bring joy and STEM to girls. I encourage you to shop local and support the small shops and science museums in your neighborhood who especially need your business this year. We hope these ideas offer choices that are affordable and that create opportunities for family fun and connection.

1. Unleash talent with tools. Girls like to make things and work with their hands when given the chance. Get a girl her first set of tools so that she can build a birdhouse, repair a bicycle, or take apart an old appliance to see how it works. Working with tools can be especially empowering for girls and build their confidence to help with the next repair project. For inspiration, check out  by Emily Pilloton.

2. Inspire a love of reading and STEMHere are  about girls and women who love science, engineering, and math. Ask your child’s science teacher or the children’s librarian at your public library for their suggestions, sharing your child’s interests. Bring back bedtime stories. Reading aloud brings families closer together and doesn’t have to stop as kids get older. While bedtime reading may work for some, you may find a different time that fits better with your family’s schedule.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock

3. Give the gift of slowing down and noticing the wonders around. A magnifying glass or microscope can bring new light to everyday objects. With a magnifying glass, bugs in the backyard, fallen flowers and leaves, spiderwebs and skin become objects of interest that spark questions and conversations. A microscope can take observations to a new level. The  is an affordable microscope that comes as a single sheet of thick paper with parts that you fold origami-style.

4. Get those spatial skills sizzling. Puzzles, tangrams, origami, and building blocks are fun and build spatial skills. I like open-ended toys like the classic LEGO sets where girls create their own designs instead of one-and-done projects where they simply follow directions. Did you know that ? Let’s allow girls to find their inner engineer.

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Photo credit: Scientific Adventures for Girls

5. Embrace the dirty, slimy, and squishy. A shovel and gardening tools open the way to playing in the dirt, building towers and castles, or growing a garden. A gift box with household items for making slime can spark an interest in chemistry. Girls can get creative with play dough to make sculptures with lights, motors, and buzzers and explore the basics of electricity and electrical circuits. Check out  who developed the concept of Squishy Circuits. These gifts can help girls avoid the “ick factor” and embrace getting dirty as they explore STEM.

6. Go birding in the backyard or out and about in the neighborhood. With a field guide to birds a girl can get to know birds in her area. Check online for local bird walks and guided tours. Binoculars can extend closeup viewing. At  girls can participate in a community science project; their watching and reporting can help scientists and support conservation.

7. Learn a hobby together. Check out options with your child and find one that you both want to explore. If you are more the self-taught type, get a book or find a Do-it-Yourself video online to learn a new hobby. Cooking and baking offer the chance to practice math and science while measuring and transforming ingredients into yummy creations. You can find fun STEM  and  projects at Bedtime Math.

8. Create a space to design, reflect, and dream. Give a journal where girls can write down ideas, ask questions, and draw observations. They can imagine their futures — exploring outer space, fighting for social justice, or designing a new invention. A blank journal or sketchbook, which girls can personalize, will work just fine. Invite your girl to talk about her ideas and dreams. Did you know that it’s your encouragement that matters in engaging girls in STEM?

9. Give the gift of your time. Create a personalized coupon book that can be redeemed for a STEM experience at home or in the community. Hiking, bird watching, or planting a garden can bring you together and explore the wonders of STEM in the outdoors. Plan a virtual trip to your local science museum and check out an exhibit that builds on the interests of your child. The Association of Science and Technology Centers shares 

10. Save the cardboard from all those gifts and deliveries. They can be turned into new creations like a windmill, puppet stage, clubhouse, or rocket ship. Brainstorming, designing, measuring (and probably redesigning and measuring again) are all that are required to bring new life to an old box. Girls’ imaginations, artistic skills, and engineering talents come together. Design Squad Global offers  into furniture. It’s all about making corrugation your superpower.

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Photo credit: Black Girls Code

11. I encourage you to support girls in your community and around the world in STEM. Here are some special programs to consider — , and . With your support, these organizations can help more girls achieve their potential for greatness as inventors and creative STEM forces in their community.

Linda Kekelis, Ph.D., is an advisor for The Family Engagement Project for . She has devoted her lifetime to supporting families and educators in encouraging girls in STEM. She is enjoying her new role as grandmother and eager to share the wonders of STEM with her granddaughter.


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