Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Tech (STEM) Gifts for Maker Girls from Preschoolers to Teens

Are you looking for a gift to encourage a girl to develop her interest in technology and her STEM skills? We've got some great ideas. Of course you can choose any educational tech toy or gadget for a girl. The problem isn't really that girls need different products, just that so many of the products in this space seem to be designed and marketed specifically for boys!

We'd rather look at the topic based on interests. We've picked out some fab gift ideas that will appeal to girls and lots of boys too. Note that some girls will prefer toys that are marketed to boys or are neutral in their design. We've included products that will appeal to a variety of ages from preschoolers through to teenagers.

We should also say that these aren't just fantastic products 'for girls', they're fantastic products full stop. You'll find lots of them on our age and interest based lists. You might notice that quite a few of them have been designed by women. Interesting.

  1. littleBits

    littleBits are modular electronics that can be used to make all kinds of fantastic gadgets and projects. littleBits were invented by Ayah Bdeir and designed to be gender neutral. We think Bdeir succeeded really well with this goal. littleBits work well with craft materials for crafty projects and can be used with LEGO too.

    The newer kits come with lots of project ideas to get kids started and then they can work on their own ideas. littleBits is for children from 8+ and there are different kits that will suit ages and abilities right up to teenagers and adult beginners.
  2. Pink mBot

    Makeblock's mBot is one of our favourite programmable robots for kids. Now there's a pink version. Not all girls like pink, but it's great to have an alternative to blue. (The blue mBot is a very nice blue so some girls will prefer that one.)

    mBot can be programmed with a Scratch-based language, lots of children learn Scratch in primary and middle school so this is a great feature. Scratch itself has done a fantastic job of creating a coding environment that has broad appeal. More experienced coders can use mBot to learn the Arduino programming which is a very useful skill.

    You can also get some fab add-ons for mBot including an LED faceplate that allows you to create faces to give mBot a personality.
  3. BoseBuild Speaker Cube

    The BoseBuild Speaker Cube is a build-it-yourself bluetooth speaker kit. It comes with a set of projects for kids to work through to assemble the speaker and learn about the science and technology that makes speakers work.

    The end result is a useful gadget that can be used to play music or listen to audio books. We love the idea of a practical gadget that kids can build and use. It makes technology very tangible and directly relates to every day life.
  4. Tech Will Save Us Mover Kit

  5. Tech Will Save Us is another company that makes awesome tech that is gender neutral. Founder Bethany Koby has won awards for innovation in design and creativity. It's worth checking out all of their products to find the right fit but we're going to highlight their new Mover Kit here. The Mover Kit is a wearable gadget that kids assemble and then program. It has movement sensors and coloured LEDs so kids can turn it into a wearable that is fun and useful for them. 
  6. Goldie Blox Movie Machine

  7. Goldie Blox is a range of toys designed by engineer Debbie Sterling to encourage girls into engineering. She looked at how girls play and found that they enjoy story based activities with characters. The Goldie Blox range combines story booklets that introduce a problem that needs to be solved build building a solution with the included parts. There are also dolls and animal characters in the range. There are lots of different sets to choose from including larger ones with lots of parts and they are all compatible with each other. We really like Goldie Blox and the Movie Machine, it's a kit to build a zoetrope (the first animated movie machine.) We took one along to a movie special effects festival and it was a big hit. There's also an accompanying app that allows kids to design and print their own animations to go in the movie machine. 
  8. Kids First Robot Engineer Kit and Storybook

  9. The Kids First range of construction kits from Thames & Kosmos use storytelling to develop STEM skills in preschoolers and little kids aged 3 and up. Each kit comes with a storybook that introduces science and engineering concepts. The parts are chunky and brightly coloured in a palette that will appeal to girls and boys. In the Amusement Park Engineer kit kids build models of the amusement park rides that two children, a girl and a boy, encounter on a family day out.
  10. Bloxels: Build Your Own Video Game

    Bloxels is a physical pixel board that you use to design characters and game levels. You bring your characters into an app where you can design and play your own video game. Bloxels deserve a shout out here for their great choice of colours and neutral packaging. They've included pink and purple in a STEM toy which will appeal to girls and boys. Their featured character is a cute cat with a pink and purple striped top. Bloxels is great for developing design thinking as kids focus on designing a video game that could be played by others.
  11. Teknikio Kits

    Teknikio kits are girl-friendly without being overly girly. Creator Deren Guler has done a great job of bringing together kits that help kids get started with electronics in a semi-structured way which gives them a starting point but encourages creativity.

    The Teknikio Fabtronic Sewing Kit is a mini course in wearable electronics for kids from age 8+. Kids can use the reusable parts to add tech to their clothing or make a soft toy by adding some felt or fabric.

    Also see our review of the Teknikio Origami Kit.
  12. K'Nex Mighty Makers Director's Cut

    K'Nex Mighty Makers is a range of construction toys designed for girls. It uses K'Nex parts but in a bright colour palette and the sets are themed towards invention and creative play.

    The Mighty Makers Director's Cut Building set allows kids to build a movie set. They can also build a phone stand so that they can record real movies using the included characters (Lily and her dog Zoom) and props. 
  13. Adafruit Circuit Playground

  14. The Adafruit Circuit Playground is a microprocessor board designed to help beginners to learn how to program hardware. It's packed with sensors and has a gorgeous ring of coloured LED lights. Its fab for removing the barriers to getting started with developing electronics projects. The Circuit Playground was developed by the fabulous Limor Fried (Lady Ada) and she's managed to design a product with broad appeal. You can start off making projects that just use the board itself and then move on to integrating additional electronics. At the moment the Adafruit Circuit Playground is just available in a developer edition, it can be programmed with the Arduino environment or the Python programming language. At the moment we'd only recommend it for more advanced teen makers. (But we're looking forward to tools that make it more accessible to a younger audience in the future.)
  15. Scientific Explorer Project Mc2 Circuit Board Room Light

  16. Project Mc2 is a TV series that features girls solving problems with their STEM skills. There's also an accompanying range of science and technology kits. Some of them feature doll versions of characters in the series. The Scientific Explorer Project Mc2 Circuit Board Room Light that allows kids to create electronic circuits on a board and then add a photo and frame to create an illuminated picture frame.

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