Want to raise a strong, confident girl? Add these 10 toys to your holiday gift list

Consider skipping the overwhelmingly pink toy aisle and check out these options instead.
By Rosie Colosi

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Global toy sales reached $90.4 billion in 2018, and sales of Barbie hit a five-year high. To keep those sales going and to honor the changing attitudes about women in the workforce, Mattel recently created a line of Barbie Careers Dolls, including astrophysicist, photojournalist and even presidential candidate for Barbie’s 60th anniversary.

While these additions demonstrate a stronger side of Barbie, are they enough to encourage girls to be strong and think for themselves? Can they counteract the messaging about what girls "should" like from the rest of the overwhelmingly pink “girl” toy aisle?

Know Your Value wanted to dive into the qualities of strong, confident kids and learn how we can use the holiday season as an opportunity to give girls the tools they need to be strong, confident women.

Dr. Tovah P. Klein, author of "How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success" and director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, said that you want two sorts of qualities in confident kids: “First, they should have a strong sense of self. They should say, ‘I’m okay as a person. I have my own voice. I have desires and needs and can carry them out.’ Second, you want them to exhibit care and compassion.” Klein continued, “Expose kids to all sorts of toys and don’t gender it. Think, create, build and do whatever is of interest to them.”

“There used to be a ton of basic dolls for girls,” said Jackie Cucco, senior editor of The Toy Insider. “But now there’s everything from activities to arts and crafts to building not specifically designed for boys or girls.” Adrienne Appell, a Toy Trend Specialist for The Toy Association agreed: “Let kids play with what they want to play with, whether you think they should or not.”

These three experts gave Know Your Value their picks for the best toys for strong, confident kids this holiday season.

1. Ms. Monopoly Board Game

Ages: 8 and up

What’s new about this updated version of the classic board game? Women get a higher payout at the start of the game and they get more money when passing GO. And instead of buying properties, you can buy things like stem-cell isolation and bulletproof vests—inventions that were created by women.

“This game definitely makes a statement," Appell said. "It’s empowering the next generation of female entrepreneurs…and it’s also just fun.”

2. Creatable World Deluxe Character Kit Customizable Doll

Ages: 6 and up

These dolls are perfect alternatives to Barbie. Each doll has short hair and comes wearing a gender-neutral tank top and shorts. Then kids can create all sorts of different looks with multiple pieces of clothing and accessories, including a long-haired wig.

Appell said that these dolls are “awesome because kids can make characters they relate to. It doesn’t need to be all about pink or blue. It’s not telling kids how they’re supposed to play.”

3. Coding Critters

Ages: 4 and up

All three of our experts recommended coding toys. Cucco said, “Coding is a daunting word to many adults, but at its core, it’s inputting directions and telling a machine how to do things.” Appell added, “This teaches sequential learning. Kids will understand how mapping out instructions can make things happen.” Klein also stressed that it’s “great to expose kids to coding at a young age. It doesn’t dawn on them that they can’t do it because they’re already doing it.”

4. LittleBits Electronic Music Inventor Kit

Ages: 8 and up

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) toys and kits are getting a lot of attention this holiday season. Appell likes this one because “kids want coding projects but you really need to make them fun.” Kids can start by using electronic building blocks to build and customize a synth keytar and then they can transform it into new instruments of their own design.

5. Luciana Vega doll

Ages: 8 and up

Luciana is immersed in STEM learning, and she has big dreams of being an astronaut and traveling to Mars. Since NASA astronauts completed the first all-woman spacewalk this past October, now may be the perfect time to introduce girls to Luciana. “How fabulous that we can tell kids about the spacewalk,” Klein said. “They can learn about role models through play or books or figurines. Exposure is empowering.”

6. Crayola Color Chemistry

Ages: 7 and up

This kit includes materials to conduct 16 science experiments, plus instructions for completing 34 more. Cucco targeted this kit as her science-themed pick. She liked the way it brings science home in a playful way.

7. Gumball Machine Maker Lab

Ages: 6 and up

Appell preferred this customizable kit that teaches kids about physics, momentum, gravity and more. She said that the candy may be the initial draw for kids, but they’ll learn valuable lessons as they build.

8. Little Live Scruff-A-Luvs Real Rescue Electronic Pet

Ages: 4 and up

As Klein noted, strong girls should be caring and compassionate. This interactive toy fits that bill…and it also has the bells and whistles that excited our toy experts, as well.

“At first glance, it looks like a stuffed animal, but it’s more than that,” said Cucco. It starts as a matted-looking ball of fur, but as kids wash, dry and care for the pet, it starts responding with happy sounds. “It shows the positive effects of nurturing,” said Appell. “It shows that caring for something can make a difference.”

9. Artie 3000

Ages: 7 and up

Kids can link this robot up to a tablet and use simple commands to move it from place to place. There is a marker attached to the underside of the robot so Artie creates a picture as it moves. Cucco liked this toy because it combines coding with art.

10. Guidecraft Unit Blocks

Ages: For all ages

Though you won’t see them on many lists of “hot, new toys,” Klein said, “Basic blocks are the best toy you can have for any child—and they’re not pink or blue.” Blocks, building sets and art supplies are examples of open-ended toys: items that can be used in a variety of different ways depending on a child’s interests and imagination on any given day.

“These evergreen toys are all about the child’s ideas. There’s no right or wrong—you can do whatever you want,” Klein continued. “Everybody should be buying blocks for the holiday.”

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