I was raised with a healthy dose of, “Girls can do anything boys can do,” but it wasn’t until I had daughters of my own that I really started paying attention to all the indirect messages that society sends to girls and women. From, “Sugar and spice and everything nice,” to pink aisles full of toys and books that ever-so-subtly reinforce 1950s gender roles, to Halloween costume choices, to unpaid maternity leave, to discriminatory attitudes against pregnant women in higher education, to the wage gap, to…well, you get my point.
Even if you don’t consider yourself the type of person that lets her feminist flag fly, we all want a world of possibility to be available to our daughters, and we all want them to grow up to be happy, healthy, and successful (whatever that means to you/them).
It swings both ways, though – our boys also need to know that it’s okay to have feelings and to express them. It’s okay to empathize with people and be kind and sensitive to their needs. It’s great to be a teacher, or a nurse, or a stay-at-home dad.
Over the past three years, I have kept my eyes open for any and every toy, book, website, or company that might assist me toward the goal of raising my children into strong, independent, kind, successful women. Here, I have organized some of my favorite resources for raising strong girls (although parents of boys will also find these useful). And because we all know how strong moms are, I’ve included a few resources for you, too. This list is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to let us know about any additional resources!
A Mighty Girl: If there were just one resource that I could recommend, this would be it! A Mighty Girl has everything you could ever need in one place. In their own words, “A Mighty Girl is the world’s largest collection of books, toys, movies, and music for parents, teachers, and others dedicated to raising smart, confident, and courageous girls and, of course, for girls themselves!” Don’t miss the Holiday Gift Guides, Best Of , and Parenting sections.
Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls: Co-founded by Amy Poehler, Smart Girls is a great place for girls (and women!) to hang out online. Their content is funny, information, and encourages girls to be themselves. (Did you catch their Smart Girls Ask campaign during this year’s Emmy’s? Readers submitted questions to ask on the red carpet, beyond, “Who are you wearing?” You can watch all of the responses here.)
Made with Code: Although Computer Science is growing rapidly, and careers in Computer Science generally pay well, girls are severely underrepresented in this area. Google’s Made With Code website highlights the many things that girls enjoy that use code (for example: film, fashion, music, art, helping people, apps), showing girls that they can pursue their interests through Computer Science jobs. (Did you SEE that Zac Posen LED dress from New York Fashion Week? That was done in conjunction with Made With Code.) It’s a beautiful and user-friendly website, full of projects that girls can get started on right away (no experience necessary!). The best part: You can download kits to throw a coding party at your daughter’s next sleepover!
(For even more coding opportunities, visit Code.org. You can even code with Anna and Elsa!)
Girls Inc.: Girls Inc offers programming to inspire “all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.” While the only program in Iowa is currently in Sioux City, maybe you could be the person to start one here in the Corridor! In the meantime, there are also plenty of resources, news items, and advocacy opportunities to peruse, and a Girls Inc. Online website full of positive content for girls.
Lammily – Lammily is a body-realistic doll that is currently available in two varieties – Traveler and Photographer. She can also come with plenty of optional accessories, including a Period Party accessory pack, which bills itself as the “fun way to explain the menstrual cycle to kids.”
Goldie Blox: Engineering is another field in which women are grossly underrepresented. Goldie Blox combines
storytelling with engineering, to encourage spatial skills, introduce engineering principles (like torque, lever, momentum, etc.) and help develop interest in construction toys. Each set comes with a story, and girls can help Goldie and her friends build a parade float, go on a zipline adventure, make a movie, and more. Kids can also play, explore Goldie’s world, and find inspiration on the BloxTown portion of the website.
Roominate: Roominate is another building toy for girls, this time focusing on electrical engineering and invention. Kids can build everything from a dollhouse, to a school bus, to an amusement park, and then bring them to life by wiring functional lighting, ceiling fans, motors, and more.
Magformers: Magformers are simply magnetic shapes that come in fun color varieties, including rainbow and an “Inspire” version that reminds us of Frozen colors. These can be combined to form houses, animals, balls, stars, and anything else your daughter can imagine.
Toys for Mighty Girls: A Mighty Girl’s comprehensive list of toys that are great for empowering girls and developing their character, personality, and skills. A must-see!
Gender neutral apps for kids: Because there’s no reason why girls have to be the hair stylists and boys have to be the firefighters.
Be sure to check out A Mighty Girl’s Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess. Some favorites at our house are Rosie Revere, Engineer and The Paper Bag Princess. We also love the Bedtime Math series!
One of my favorite new companies is Princess Awesome, which makes durable and adorable dresses with themes that are typically hard to find for girls, like dinosaurs, trains, chemistry, pirates, ninjas, and math. Other great options included these STEM Tees for kids, Minecraft shirts for girls, and the “More than Just a Princess” hoodie and t-shirt from GoldieBlox.
In addition to things you can buy, there are also some great ways you or your kids can get involved through local and national organizations!
The Belin-Blank Center on the University of Iowa campus offers programs all year long for students interested in fun academic challenges. There are programs focused on the Arts & Humanities, as well as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). There is also a local chapter of Women in Science and Engineering on campus, and the Iowa State chapter holds career exploration conferences. A research group from the university also sponsors an after-school book club for 4th-6th grade girls called “Strong Girls Read Strong Books” that features books with strong female protagonists. Girls on the Run is a great local option for 3rd-8th grade girls, and be sure to check out Girls Who Code, the Girls Scouts, and Girls Empowering Girls for more ways to get involved and make a difference.
Empowering, educating, and supporting women of all walks of life is so important. These are some great resources for learning new things, building new skills, finding community, and seeking the ever elusive work-life balance.
It Was Never a Dress
Ms. Career Girl
Working Moms Break