Gift ideas for young girls
December 11, 2008 6:32 AM   Subscribe

What are some good science/tech/math gifts for younger kids these days?

I have three young cousins - two aged 7, one aged 5, all girls. As the resident geek of the extended family, I've taken it upon myself to indoctrinate them and get them interested in science/math and just generally being more curious about the world. I've been moderately successful with gifts in previous years, but now that they're getting older I'm oddly coming up blank.

So what's the trend in science toys nowadays? I've been told Legos are out, as they already have way too many of them. Software is also probably off limits, since their parents are mostly computer illiterate and I don't want do IT work for them all year. Looking back at my own childhood, I've basically eliminated all the toys I had myself, so now I'm stumped.

Some hazy ideas I had that I could use some help fleshing out - are there any robotics toys for kids that age? What about "The Way Things Work" - I had a copy when I was a kid, is the new version any good? What about "The Daring Book for Girls"? Marble roller coaster sets? Anything else you can think of?
posted by backseatpilot to Shopping (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Take a look at ThinkGeek if you haven't already. They have lots of great sciency toys.
posted by Dorri732 at 6:37 AM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Some nifty links showed up on this recent query as well.
posted by jquinby at 6:44 AM on December 11, 2008

Some hazy ideas I had that I could use some help fleshing out - are there any robotics toys for kids that age?

There's Lego Mindstorms - although that is lego. I can also say from experience that the toy geomag is ideal to entertain phd students in maths and physics. However, it might not work so well for younger children.
posted by Mike1024 at 6:45 AM on December 11, 2008

Get thee to MAKE's holiday gift guide for robot kits. Robots are awesome, educational, and awesome. Yes. 2x awesome.

A roboticist.
posted by olinerd at 7:16 AM on December 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

In my experience, as kids get older, if you want to keep them interested in something that their parents/everyday lives don't expose them to, then the best gifts to give are experiences with you, the fun expert, rather than toys or books that won't get played with if you're not there. So instead of "The Daring Book for Girls," take them on a daytrip to your local hands-on science museum, get The Way Things Work board game to play with them rather than the book (not sure the ages for that game though), see if your local cooperative extension service has programs for kids that young (or 4-H too) that you can do with them. They will benefit more from exposure to your enthusiasm for science than they will by having a reference book.
posted by headnsouth at 7:35 AM on December 11, 2008

Rush Hour is an amazing math game, which as a bonus isn't obviously a math game.
posted by escabeche at 7:37 AM on December 11, 2008

Well, there's always the good old-fashioned Rubik's Cube.
posted by number9dream at 8:18 AM on December 11, 2008

Have you considered Set?
posted by valadil at 8:42 AM on December 11, 2008

getting into environmental science, there are lots of wildlife/nature appreciation for kids books and gear out there. high quality field guides are a great gift, like a Sibley bird guide (sibley is the one to get, or the classic roger tory peterson) or there are lots of them out there on everything: insects, plants, mammals, whales, butterflies and moths (do they like "girly" stuff? might be a good choice), wildflowers, animal tracks, animal skat. and using a field guide is something kids can definitely learn to do with a little help, its a great real science skill. you could get them a nice actual high-quality field guide, maybe one copy to share?, and maybe supplement it with more kid oriented picture or activity books. check out wilderness awareness school, they have a good online store with these kinds of materials: (they also have pretty posters) Or go in person to your local nature center/national park/audubon sanctuary with a gift shop/bookstore, they probably have stuff. Or the science or children's museum gift shops.

you could also get them a telescope to share, that's pretty cool i would say! and stars to stick on the ceiling of their rooms

do they still make those "wacky science experiments/magic tricks you can do with stuff at home to amaze your family!" type books? i always really enjoyed those. I also had "my first science book" and "my first cookbook" when I was little and loved to look through them and try things out.
posted by dahliachewswell at 9:13 AM on December 11, 2008

Believe it or not, Target has a great selection of science toys in all kinds of price ranges and ages. Here is a link to their science toys for ages 6-7. You can, of course, also go to a store and browse.
posted by oddman at 9:54 AM on December 11, 2008

how about an eyeclops--a high powered (up to 400x) microscope that plugs into your tv? Amazon has them for about 40 bucks.
posted by midwestguy at 1:49 PM on December 11, 2008



It's fun, has vast potential for exploratory play, isn't overtly abstraction based (it just is, you just do, it's fun, and weird) but if they're interest is piqued down the road it's not hard to get an idea of how it works. Might I also recommend this fine book, which they'll need to grown in to ever so slightly.

Pocket Spectroscope. Not a gift that I think you should give alone, as it's not SUPER AWE INSPIRING but a very cool and thought provoking item that shows that science isn't all on paper - the stuff you see around you every day has a hidden order. Oliver Sacks writes about his formative experiences with a pocket spectroscope in Uncle Tungsten.
posted by phrontist at 3:10 PM on December 11, 2008

I came across Edmund Scientific while browsing for gifts online and it looks to have lots of cool ideas including bestsellers, gift ideas and clearance items.
posted by Jaybo at 8:52 PM on December 11, 2008

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