5 perfect Maker gifts for your girls, and your boys, because Barbie has finally slipped

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

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Rejoice, rejoice, the National Retail Federation recently released its Holiday Top Toys Survey for 2014 and magically, Barbie no longer sits atop the throne. Because a princess does instead. Or rather, a combination of Princesses, Anna (I’m including her name first because she’s the best and I can do what I want on my own stories) and Elsa. And behind these two? More dolls! hooray. There’s generic doll you could buy for your girls, or in fourth place there’s Monster High Dolls. But maybe they don’t like dolls, maybe they like American Girl action figures. Many must because rounding out the top five is American Girl action figures.

Mercifully, LEGO slots in at number six, leading the way on a somewhat less doll-filled back five that also includes iPads, clothes, My Little Pony and Doc McStuffins.

Looking at the boys side of things, LEGO is the only one that matches up (LEGO was number one on the list of gifts with boys). The rest is a littering of superheroes, cars and video game consoles.

Girls like dolls, I get that because I have to of them who like dolls even though we tell them all the time that they can play with whatever they want (dolls, Barbie and princesses included). I do believe boys and girls play differently so these lists will never be identical, nor should they be. But what disturbs me more about the girls list than the fact that all of them outside of the iPad and LEGO (although I bet LEGO Friends is high on the list of specific sets) are pink-washed items is the decided lack of ‘maker’ items.

I’d be a hypocrite and a crazy person to suggest there’s anything wrong with buying your kids the things they decide they like. Our oldest daughter wants a Repunzel birthday party and we’ll be giving that to her. Our youngest daughter wants Santa to bring her a doll set, so if we can convince him to do so, we’ll do so. So we’ll contribute to the ongoing pink, make-believe things as top gifts for girls but we also want to make sure our girls continue to make stuff. The idea of raising a ‘maker’ has been first and foremost in my mind lately because the term is just so accepting. Gets kids making things. Make their dolls, make their princess crowns, make a maze for their Barbie to wind her way through as she tries to escape the Minotaur.

Be a maker.

Recognizing we’re operating from a point of privilege where we can afford to buy our girls not only a Santa gift but also some stuff on our own, we’re looking at gifts that would never make it into the princess-filled world of Barbie. I also bet that come Christmas morning, it won’t take long for the princesses and dolls to be placed gently back under the tree in favour of the kinds of gifts that get girls not only playing make-believe, but also making their own make believe scenes.

Here’s my list of five toys for girls and boys to supplement your doll pile.

GoldieBlox

Goldieblox builder kitMaking a huge push to get more girls involved in STEM activities, GoldieBlox has all kinds of maker projects (like a zipline, a parade float, a dunk tank and more) ranging from $19.99 on up. And they also have plenty of ideas to suggest for crafts your kids can put together themselves.

YOXO

YOXO building set deluxe

YOXO takes the concept that children prefer to play with the box a toy comes in more than the toy itself and magnifies it by 1000. These toys are so simple and can be configured in a number of different ways as your kids think up new ways to build a fort or an airplane out of cardboard. Prices range from $14.99 and up.

Yellow Scope

Yellow-Scope science kitsThis is a little bit of a cheat since this project is currently in Kickstarter mode.

But with a message like this

“At Yellow Scope, we want to build girls’ confidence in science before they fall off the curve. Research shows that girls learn best when they can approach projects in a creative and open-ended way. That’s why we designed our kits to engage both the scientific and creative minds of girls. The experiments are rigorous, and there is plenty of room for girls to draw their observations and doodle their ideas in their very own lab notebook.”

I can’t help but be excited. There are a number of different Kickstarter perks for funding this project with the kit itself being included for $50 or more.

LEGO bricks

LEGO just the bricksYour girls might like LEGO Friends and your boys might like LEGO Ninjago but your children like LEGO bricks. As a child who grew up in the 80s, I could not develop a maker list without including LEGO bricks. There is nothing a child can’t build with 1000 bricks of varying shapes, sizes and colours.  Prices for brick packages on the LEGO site currently range from $34.99 and up.

Tattly Science Set tattoos

Science tattos a reminder of how great science isNot so much a toy as it is just a reminder to kids how cool science is, these Tattly science set tattoos are something I’m even thinking about getting done permanently. The science package comes in at $15 for the set of 8.

And if these still don’t take…

You’ll always have the Barbie box to play with.

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