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When shopping for my kids this year, I was amazed at the kids' aisles of toys. It's the same thing. Boys' toys are all about building, creating, battling, teaching assertiveness and using intelligence. The girls' toys are all about teaching them nurturing and homemaking, beauty and vanity. And I am just appalled by these toys and the meanings behind them.
A lot of people have been writing back to me and telling me that mothers have a greater influence over their kids than toys and media images; I disagree. Your one voice is drowned out by the multitude of voices that define them in terms of toys and images that portray their gender in the public spaces in which they spend most of their time. These voices are louder, bolder, and are followed by children's boisterous, squealing laughter, regaling in youth and fun.
When my son was born, I spent all my time buying him gifts geared towards his intelligence and preparing him for life and success. I spent a lot of my time at Discovery Channel stores, and now that my daughter is here, I am shopping with the same mindset. I want her to have all the opportunities that her brother has, the same kind of toys, the same kind of training, because when we have kids, that is in essence what we are doing -- we are training them to do well in the society that will be theirs. I want my daughter to be just as prepared as and on equal footing with the boys that surround her. Buying presents for her is very time-consuming because the girls' pink aisles at toy stores do not offer many choices for girls -- at least, they don't offer the same choices that boys get in their solid blue, green and red aisles.
This year, I found myself in a daze, overwhelmed with pink babies that talk and poop and vanity tables that will teach her to revel in her beauty, but nothing that will guide her towards utilizing her natural potential as a thinker, a shaker, a creator of buildings and worlds of her imagination. I left the stores and returned to my computer, logged on to DiscoveryChannel.com and discovered a world of toys that engendered creativity and favored brains over beauty, especially in the sciences.
Here is a list of toys that will foster personal growth, curiosity, intelligence, and creativity you can share with your favorite girls this Christmas. These toys are mostly gender-neutral and appropriate for all kids, no matter their age group. Although the site separates toys based on gender and age, I found that the same list of toys were intended for both boys and girls. The toys are for everyone -- as they should be since they all function to foster creativity and ingenuity in children. Even if you like giving your girls the girly fru-fru stuff, throw in one of these and challenge her. These are the kinds of gifts that all kids will benefit from and have fun with. Every item on this list is suitable for kids ages 4-12, so let's teach our daughters to explore, discover, think, and challenge themselves early on.
Spark Talking Telescope -- Your little girl will be a microbiologist and study real life specimens under the 5x microscope that talks to her and identifies various objects. There is also a "parent's guide" with which to help her use this learning toy to its maximum potential.
Discovery Send Away Storybook Publisher -- Encourage your little girl towards assuming the role of a published author. This includes a publishing kit with which your child can write a series of short stories, or drawings for the little ones, and publish them. Share her accomplishment as a creator with friends and family, fostering pride and increasing her self-esteem.
Interactive Globe -- Give her an interactive globe that will enable her to virtually travel the expanse of the world and absorb facts about countries that will be useful for her in school and in the future. Give her the gift of being ahead of the game.
Science Optics Set -- A set that includes 49 pieces, including a telescope, a magnifying glass, and binoculars. This will teach her how to use tools with which to explore the world in which she lives. It will awaken her curiosity for her surroundings, which will result in intellectual explorations and discoveries.
Electronic Gadget Lab -- The winner of the Creative Child Toy of the Year, this lab will teach your daughter to experiment with electronic things like door bells and police sirens. She will explore a venue most women do not delve into -- and wouldn't it be nice to know how things work?
Primary Science Set -- This science set includes 12 piece lab equipment and experiment cards that will lead your girls into the world of creating and testing scientific experiments -- a learning adventure that ends with a strong sense of accomplishment. Maybe this year she will win the science experiment at school, or she will join the science club.
Discovery Chem Science Lab -- For ages 7 and up, show her the fun and wonder that comes with exploring the world of chemistry as she discovers how everyday items work. It will start a hunger for wanting to know how everything works, and then a scientist is born.
Ultimate Star Planetarium -- Featured on the Today Show, this motorized and interactive indoor planetarium projects 88 constellations, planets, and facts and myths about the planet that surrounds us. Let her be a part of the discovery, the curiosity, the experience of knowing the universe of which she is a part.
NASA Space Set -- With her own space ship and launch pad, let her use her imagination as she ventures into space, discovering the universe and all its wonder. Drive her curiosity in knowing what is up there, leading her to desiring more information.
Volcano Island Lab -- Who doesn't want to erupt their own volcano? This item is reduced to $9.99 right now. Prepare your daughters for an experience that will excite them as it erupts lava up to 6 feet high. They will feel the shaking and quaking and want more that comes with the discovery and fun of science.
BONUS PRESENT IDEA:
Chess Set -- Chess is not just for boys and thinking men. My husband and I have spent hours playing chess. Teach your children -- both boys and girls -- how to play chess. It's a skill that they will take with them into adulthood; thinking critically, competing, and challenging themselves to look for different strategies towards winning.
What about you? Have you discovered any exploratory toys out there which will empower our girls by fostering creativity, discovery and critical thinking skills that go beyond the superficial and domestic? Did you ever have any of these toys when you were growing up?
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