Gift Guide: Snap Circuits for the Inquisitive Pre-Teen

SCRoverWe were delighted to receive this request from a reader yesterday —

Greatlakesborn: I’m looking for birthday ideas for a 9-year-old girl.  She is pretty active and inquisitive. Thanks!

We know we’ve been a little thin on the recommendations for that age, so we’re absolutely thrilled to respond to this request. Today we’re going to talk about Snap Circuits, a physics toy that comes in kits at a range of price points to build everything from radios to rovers.

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Kid Crafts: Rainbow Loom

RainbowLoomBoxWe apologize for the long hiatus since our last post — we’ve been running our dissertation experiment! It’s still ongoing, but so far we’ve learned all kinds of cool stuff about gender, spatial and mechanical learning, and child development. We’ll post an update about preliminary findings when we have something more official to say. In the meantime, today’s post is about one preliminary finding unrelated to the focus of the experiment: young children LOVE Rainbow Loom.

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Gift Guide: Roominate (Birthday ideas for an 8 y/o girl)


Today we’re excited to bring you a recent Gift Guide letter from a Facebook fan!

Fair Play I need a recommendation for an 8-year-old girl birthday present.

We have just the thing! We’ve actually mentioned this toy in the past, but deemed it somewhat out of the average Gift Guide price range. Now it is available for much less, and ships via Amazon Prime. Roominate is the fully customizable doll house you wish you had.

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Themed Gift Guide: STEM-oriented Gifts

Grow_A_FrogThe last shopping weekend before Christmas is upon us! To round out the last-minute mad dash to Christmas, we’re posting a few thematic summaries of our favorite gifts. Today we’re reviewing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) oriented gifts. Look for games, books, music, and make-believe thematic posts in the remaining shopping days! All of these posts include links to lengthier articles we’ve written previously about a topic, so if you need more information or ideas, check those out as well (linked throughout).

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re-Gift Guide: The Princess Problem (Gifts for 2 & 5 y/o Girls – doll, art supplies, scooter)

We’ve been negligent in getting up Gift Guides this holiday season, owing to an unfortunate surgery and lengthy hospital stay. But, we’re back in action! To provide you with maximum content and inspiration, we’re going to do some “re-Gift Guides,” re-posting/revising some of our favorites from the past, in addition to brand new Gift Guides. As always, if you have a specific question, send it our way! Today we kick off with the re-Gift Guide to purchasing for the princess-loving little girls in your life. How to avoid stereotypes? We have some answers!

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Construction Toys for Tiny Hands (Duplos, Tinker Toys, and Lincoln Logs)

LincolnLogHouseWe talk often on Fair Play about just how important spatial play is for early development. Spatial skills built in early play are associated with math and science achievement in school as well as later in life. We’ve also talked about how most of the toys that are meant to teach those skills are marketed to boys — and we’ve talked about important it is that boys and girls play with spatial toys including LEGOs, K’NEX, puzzles, and so on. We’ve even reviewed some of the spatial toys marketed explicitly to girls, like LEGO Friends and Goldie Blox. But, one of the issues that comes up over and over in our own research with children and early play has a lot to do with what children can or cannot successfully manipulate with their tiny hands. If they cannot put the pieces together, they cannot play with it, it won’t be fun, and they might not learn anything. Today’s post is about the best toys for the tiny-handed builders in your life.

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Gift Guide: Birthday Bugs and Butterflies for a 5-Year-Old


Growing butterflies from larvae is a fun, summery experiment for younger and older children, boys and girls alike!

We received a Gift Guide request for a birthday idea for a child turning five –

Can you recommend a gift for my nephew who is turning 5 this month? Thanks!!

Yes! This post is inspired by the lightning bugs we’ve been watching in the evenings as of late – and memories of childhood summers catching them in mason jars. Five years old is a great time for early science exposure (one of our favorite topics, as you know). Catching and studying summer bugs can be a delightful field experiment for boys and girls alike. Let’s talk about all the different ways this can be turned into a fun birthday gift.

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The World Didn’t End, Time to Finish Your Shopping

From, “First Photo Out of Australia After the Mayan Apocalypse: It’s Not Good” — Just kidding. Christmas is still on!

To no one’s surprise at all, the world did not end, although I find the above photoshopped creation quite hilarious. Today we’re just rounding up all our recommendations in one single post. For most web shopping, today is your last day to get in orders for guaranteed Christmas Eve delivery (depending, of course, how much you are willing to bleed for overnight shipping – you may be able to push this back to tomorrow). This weekend look for our Last Minute Gifts – the Hail Mary of gift-giving, also known as the homemade gift certificate. Actually I delight in homemade certificates, but we’ll get to that on Sunday.

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Gift Guide: Christmas Ideas for 6-Year-Old Twins (K’NEX, UNO, Jenga)

K’NEX Ferris Wheel set on, a possible gift for a 6 year old girl this Christmas

Gift Guide is the series in which we respond to reader requests for recommendations – generally but not always for gifts. Today we are responding to this letter from Facebook fan Nicole:
Hello Fair Play! This Christmas I am giving toys to a pair of six year old twins (a girl and a boy). I prefer to give toys that have educational value and my budget is approx $40 per child. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

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Goldie Blox Rocks

Photo Credit: Susan Burdick Photography

By the beginning of last week, my inbox was full of emails from friends, classmates, and readers about this Kickstarter link I just had to check out. A wonderful new engineering toy for girls? Nah. The Lego Friends have really dampened my enthusiasm for girl-geared spatial toys. But, killing time before a lab meeting, I opened up the webpage and watched the video and…it was awesome. I was wrong. Debbie Sterling, the Goldie Blox developer, understands both the dearth of toys marketed to girls as well as the fundamental problems girls face beginning at a young age in play and continuing through adulthood which prevent them from ending up as engineers (or physicists, or chemists, or…). It is a lifelong process of shaping both interests and skills that excludes girls and women and maintains a gender imbalance in engineering to the tune of 89 men for 11 women in the case of engineering.

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