First off, what is STEM? It is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. They have been grouped because they overlap in terms of education and future jobs.
Research shows that we are losing girls in STEM fields by age 10. Not grade 10, age 10. Why? No one knows for sure, but my (totally biased) opinion is that the toy market is largely to blame.
We have aisles that are physically labeled BOY and GIRL. Often, the toys that involve problem solving, analysis, and building can be found in the "boys" section and the ones that involve creative play are in the "girls." Now just to be clear, I am an engineer that grew up on Barbies and Cabbage Patch dolls. So I have nothing against dolls, BUT we are limiting each of the genders by segregating the toys. My eldest daughter couldn't care less which aisle her toys come from, but my youngest daughter is acutely aware of who the toy is marketed to.
To solve this problem there is now a large push for companies like Lego and Goldieblox to provide building-toys targeted specifically at girls. From an engineering front, these are great. But what about the other fields of STEM? Here are 10 unconventional STEM gifts for all the amazing smart girls (or boys) on your list.
For all those times you were aching to cuddle E Coli, Giant Microbes are stuffed versions of all your favourite germs and human microbiology. Bonus: Next time you are invited to something you don't want to go to, you can say "Sorry, we have the flu," and you wouldn't be lying. For all ages.
Create your own wonderful spa by making your own lip balms, bath bombs, and perfumes! If you are a DIYer, there are tons of recipes and instructions on Pinterest. But if you want to send it as a gift, Kiss Naturals makes lovely kits which have no additives or artificial colours. I bought the bath bombs for my girls. Secretly, I am just hoping they make me a few. Ages 5+
Though most people think of math as numbers, it is also patterns. Enter Rainbow Loom. Though it has descended from its peak of popularity, it is amazing for teaching kids who to think ahead for pattern making, architecture, and logic. Seriously, there is some crazy things people make with those tiny elastics. Check YouTube for ideas and guidance. Ages 5+
There are lots of ways to teach kids the basics of coding, but if they are intimidated by computers, or you are limiting screen time, Robot Turtles is the game for you. It is actually a board game that teaches computer programming. Plus, it has adorable turtles. Ages 4+
Want the ultimate in feel good gifting? The WWF Frontline hero dolls (come in male and female) are various scientists and the animals they protect. You get two stuffies (hero and animal) or just hero. It comes with educational information AND you contribute to saving animals. I actually used these as end-of-year teacher gifts once, and they were a hit. All ages.
If you haven't read it yet, The Martian is a fantastic book about an astronaut stranded on Mars (also a recent movie with Matt Damon). The book reads like a giant math and engineering puzzle. Super fun for people who love numbers or building crap out of other crap. For tweens/teens+
Admittedly, I am all geeked out on this Science Jewelry. From solar system bracelets to DNA pendants, they've got you covered. For ages 8+
The Atlantic-based Gills Club is a foundation that aims to connect young girls with female marine biologists. The Gills Club shop has all sorts of cool shark conservancy items. Despite what Steven Spielberg wants you to believe, sharks are cool. Not a shark lover? Google search other animal conservancies. Another win-win on getting a cool gift and contributing to saving animals. All ages.
Since logic is the basis of all things STEM, one of my favourite logic games is Camelot Jr. It is a puzzle game with various shaped blocks. You are given a set up and a selection of blocks to use to solve the puzzle. Sometimes the knight has to rescue the princess, and sometime the princess rescues the knight. The real beauty is no reading. I actually once saw my daughter play this game with a little boy who spoke no English, and it was awesome. Ages 4+
In the vein of "you can't be what you can't see," girls need more role models in science. Fortunately, there is no shortage of them. You can get books and posters on many famous scientists. I own this wonderful poster of Female Scientists from artist Megan Lee. Fun Fact: beautiful and talented actress Hedy Lamar invented the technology on which today's WiFi is based. All ages.
Have a great STEM idea you don't see here? Let us know!