Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2014 Holiday Gift Guide

With the holidays fast approaching, a common question that I see many of my colleagues struggling with is what to purchase our next generation of budding scientists for the holidays.  A recent study featured in CBE-Life Sciences Education showed that family plays a vital role in initially attracting young people to the science, technology, engineeringand math (STEM) fields.  As we look towards toy aisles, we are distracted by the massive aisle of pink for girls and robots, action figures, and toy weapons for boys, which have lead to many calling out the normalization of gender roles at very early ages that may also impact the career paths young girls take later in life.  All of this leads to a dilemma for many of us with young girls in our lives to look outside of the standard pink aisle for gifts for those that have a genuine interest in the sciences.  Legos, one of the greatest toys of all time, has stepped up several times and recently posted this great commercial for girls, which even focuses on the difference between how young children play (boys typically follow the design on the box, while girls tend to build from their imagination).  Here are some shopping and blogging sites focused on science and empowering girls for my version of a 2014 Holiday gift guide (aside from Legos, found nationwide, and etsy, or as I call it, the online land for everything homemade).

1. A Mighty Girl: A Mighty Girl, a site dedicated to empowering girls into less traditional gender roles, has two sites worth noting.  The first is their Top 20 Gifts site and the second is their 2014 Girl Empowerment Holiday Gift Guide.

2. Wired Magazine’s 2014 Physics Gift Guide: Wired Magazine's guide is gender neutral and has some amazing ideas for teens and young women interested in physics.  And who wouldn’t want a 3D printer for a holiday gift this year?

3. Space Books:  The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla recently published a blog post featuring space-themed books for children.

4. Thinkgeek:  Pretty much everyone I know that has some role in science, or fandom to popular shows like Dr. Who, knows about Thinkgeek.  Thinkgeek is a site, in it’s own words, ‘obsessed with creating and sharing unique product experiences that simulate our fans’ imaginations and fuel their geek core.’  The site is filled with apparel, toys, electronics, and it even has a site for ‘Geek Kids’.  My personal favorite spot of the site is the Mad Scientists Section.

5. GoldieBlox: According to the GoldieBlox website, “At GoldieBlox, our goal is to get girls building… In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math, girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8.  Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they've been considered 'boys' toys.' GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. We aim to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.”  Their sets of building toys are award winning, and the perfect starter kit for the budding engineer in your home.  And their commercials are pretty amazing.

6. I love Science: The I love Science store is filled with apparel, jewelry, and totebags to let the world know just how awesome your budding scientist is.  I personally have recently purchased from them the interchangeable solar system necklace.  For myself, I admit, but it’s a great store for gifts as well!

7. Agent RibbitAgent Ribbit is a service offering monthly shipments of science kits for kids, taking them away from their iPads and introducing kids to the world around them.  They have customizable plans from just one toolkit, to a yearly subscription.

8. Her Universe: Her Universe is an apparel site dedicated to female fandom of the big shows, comics, and movies (like Dr. Who, Star Wars, and the Marvel Comics).  Because being a fan isn’t just for boys.

9. CelestialBuddies: For the future planetary scientist or heliophysicist or just lover of our Solar System, there’s Celestial Buddies.  Each plush toy is designed, according to the website, “to stay true to these (the Solar System bodies) unique variations through careful selection of fabrics and decisions regarding size, shape and features to create an artistic interpretation of each celestial body. Each character comes with a tag showing the actual object it personifies and some fun facts to give the toy educational value.” And on a cloudy day, it sure is nice to have your own Sun to snuggle up to.

10. Giant Microbes: So your budding scientist is more into diseases than the Solar System?  That’s okay; they’ve got plush toys of those as well.  Giant Microbes is a site where you can pick your microscopic organism, even if it’s an Amoeba, Egg Cell, or E. Coli.

11. I Heart Guts: For kids who prefer their plush toys to be more like themselves, there’s also the anatomically correct version of plush toys at I Heart Guts. 

What others sites or blogs have you turned to when shopping for budding scientists? Feel free to comment and leave suggestions!

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