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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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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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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Our Dissertation (and Goldie Blox) is Getting Some Press!

Debbie Sterling, the creator of Goldie Blox. Credit Laura A. Oda / Contra Costa Times

Fair Play fans, you probably remember that when we’re not blogging, we’re working on a PhD in developmental psychology. You might also remember previous posts (also here) about Goldie Blox, a new engineering toy for girls. Looking at how Goldie Blox affects girls’ interest in and attitudes about science is actually my dissertation. Anyway, I got a little press (as a nameless graduate student) in this recent article, just reprinted in my hometown paper as well (!). Exciting news, and the reason we haven’t been blogging quite as dutifully lately. Don’t worry, there are all sorts of great things coming!

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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Little Scientists

Little Labs Stepping into Science Kit on Amazon

It was the famous developmental psychologist Jean Piaget who called children “little scientists” to describe their active role in discovering how the world works. Little Scientists also describes what happens when you bring home the classic child’s chemistry set. What better way to pique early interest in science than with some hands-on….science! Science kits are a great way to spark a love for science, and to teach about the scientific method and its role in discovery. Unfortunately, chemistry sets are often deeply gender stereotyped in packaging and marketing. Let’s take a look at some better and worse options for all ages.

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