Whole Parenting Family

8 Gifts for My Daughter that Aren’t Too Girly

girl gifts

I struggle with this. With a daughter + girly-ness. I struggle with wanting her to feel empowered and not be victim to the trashy marketing of “you’re just a girl” and “pink is the only color” and “math & science are hard for girls.” She’s a few months shy of four, but these thoughts really pound on me as she continues to grow into her own (carefully shaped by me to the extent I can) interests.

Despite coming from a family with four girls and then one boy, we weren’t girly girls. I didn’t shave my legs til I was 20, around the same time I got my ears pierced. I never learned to apply makeup or shop for my body type. I still struggle with “doing” my hair. And I’m the fourth girl! My older sisters weren’t complete tomboys but were more interested in academics & athletics than shaping their eyebrows.

So when I look at my little girl, I think oh gosh, I need to teach her how to be feminine and powerful in her femininity. I need to teach her how to dress for her shape, perform basic female upkeep, and all the while battle away the influence of early sexualization and imposed roles on her.

It’s on my heart a lot. I think I have a lot to figure out as she ages.

But one thing I can/do deal with right now is gifts. Christmas & birthdays–we love gifts in my family! Here’s my list of gifts for the 3-4 year old girl that’s empowering.

1) Terra, YOXO robot. Building with your imagination, my friend Jeff has created an incredible company! Because she’s into purple right now, this will be on her birthday list!

2) Barn. We got a similar one for Christmas and it’s been amazing to see all her enactments of what she thinks farm living is. Clearly she needs an education from Haley & her crew who are actually doing it, but it’s wonderful imaginative play, nonetheless.

3) Tri-Ominos. She plays this nonstop with my sister, Tia KK, and really gets into it.

4) Doll that looks differently than her. Promoting a little natural diversity beyond that provided by our baseball players. Yes, my son told me sister reminded me of Torii Hunter, so perhaps we’re still working on understanding ethnic backgrounds?

5) Tape dispenser. I am eyeing this for her birthday in April. I really fail in the arts & crafts department and think her love of tape could be satiated (and contained?) by this one.

6) Sewing machine. She fusses with hers all the time when we have “girl time” and sew “together.”

7) Puzzles in a box. She loves trucks & construction stuff, and not just because she has two brothers. It’s okay for girls to be interested in big machines, too!

8) Mercy Watson. We love this series so much and trust me, you will too.

What are your thoughts about gifts for little girls?


  1. Tara on January 14, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Along the same lines as the barn, have you seen Janod story box sets? The box doesn’t hold up all that well, but we have the farm set and my 2 year old adores it. I love the quality of all the little wooden figurines! I’ve got my eye on the Safari and the Firehouse sets next!

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 16, 2016 at 8:22 am

      Yes!! We have about three sets!! I have taped the boxes many times, too! We have the firehouse one! You’ll love how the ladder slides off the box. All. The. Time. Hahah and the kids want you to fix it! But I do love it!

  2. nora on January 14, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    I too struggle with this- and it sounds like our daughters are the same age 🙂 my daughter is growing up sandwiched between 4 brothers, and it has been a struggle between my enjoyment of all things feminine, pretty (and yes, pink) and wanting her to feel empowered and smart and strong and not at all defined by her looks. I am happy she is (just now) starting to like dolls- I want her to see mothering and nurturing as a wonderful thing that she can do differently from her brothers. yet she asked for manga tiles, Legos and trains for Christmas and we were happy to purchase those for her as well as a fun pair of glittery boots that she adores and some beautiful butterfly wings for dress up. good food for thought in this post ( and in your writing in general- I very much enjoy your blog!)

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 16, 2016 at 8:10 am

      I love that my daughter nurtures her dolls! Because I want her to see motherhood as an incredibly beautiful role! What I fear is that over sexualization you can’t be a doctor thing! Totally on the same page as you. Recognizing her feminine genius and embracing what her vocation // career is going to be based on a firm foundation of self worth based on the right things. Not her looks 🙂

  3. Bernadette on January 15, 2016 at 7:16 am

    So interesting to see this, as I just started reading “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” this week! Here’s something that really bothers me, though — the sewing machine. Why is it pink? Is your machine pink? My Singer is black. My mom has a white Bernina, a black Singer, and a brown Singer. I have never seen a pink sewing machine, so WHY in the world are little girls’ machines pink? This is not *at you*, I know you didn’t make the machine 🙂 Just a frustration with the fact that marketers seem to think that every. single. thing. a little girl touches for some reason *NEEDS* to be pink. I don’t feel like, back in the 80s/90s my toothbrushes, barrettes, silverware, bike helmet, etc., etc., ad nauseum, were PINK! But today there seems to be some idea that a little girl can’t wipe her nose unless she can do it with a pink tissue. So, I apologize for the rant, but I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this. It seems strange to me that in this day, when society seems to be telling us that there is no difference between boys and girls (and that you can be whichever you want, neither, or both!), a quick glance at any mainstream playroom would certainly seem to say otherwise!

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 16, 2016 at 8:21 am

      I totally get you. And I firmly believe there are inherent differences btn the little kiddos based on their levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone (on a sliding scale as with all our hormones!). What I really loathe about the pink everything movement is that it designates gender to a non gendered item. My sons and my male second cousins love to sew as much as my daughter. But my son complains it’s pink?! I tell him the colors are for everyone and he can be a tailor if he wants to! But when he asks if he can get pregnant and be a mom, the biologically statistical answer is still no. So I try to make gender distinctions where they count, instead of according to you interests (girls only want pink and boys only want to hit and kill things). My daughter is sandwiched between two boys so she appears at this point naturally more influenced or interested in whacking things than my two nieces around her age who don’t have brothers. So there’s that, too. Testosterone plays a big role in how boys play, but it’s not the exclusion of influencing their sisters 🙂 sorry! Long answer!

  4. Colleen Martin on January 15, 2016 at 9:36 am

    I say don’t overthink it. Girls and boys are just wired differently, when you have both in the house, you will have toys for everyone. My older sons never once played with a doll or anything “girly” but then I had a daughter, and dolls came into the house, and now my two younger sons love Dora, and pushing baby dolls around in our pink stroller. I think the harder you try to steer kids a certain way, the more you set yourself up for disappointment. I don’t think buying a girl a pink lunchbox or doll that looks like her will mess her up. Just give your child what she likes 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 16, 2016 at 8:15 am

      Having a boy first means we are swimming in what’s viewed (at least in the target aisle) as more just normal kid toys–blocks and trains and cars along with my son’s baby doll he adores and sleeps with 🙂 you bring great wisdom to this! My struggle is for things like trying to buy my kids a cash register for xmas, I couldn’t find in a store just a normal blue and red one. Everything was commercially jacked up with Minnie Mouse and pink or else and frozen paraphernalia. I simply wanted a normal one! Ha!

  5. Annabelle on January 15, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    ^^What Colleen said.
    In boy terms this reminds me of guns. I was forever “no guns,” “stop with the guns,” and “can’t your little soldiers drop humanitarian aid instead of bombs?” to no avail. We don’t (and won’t) buy and won’t accept gifts of “play” guns, but inevitably every stick or kitchen spatula or cardboard tube is still turned into one…. and sure enough when I watch a friend’s girls my son is right there with them combing the hair on their my little ponies.

    Also, I would add that I was a Division 1 scholarship athlete who graduated cum laude….which I hope shows I was plenty interested in sports and academics, but (gasp?) I like makeup and doing hair, etc. There seems to be a powerful stereotype that if you do happen do like “girly things” (pink, fashion, mascara, waxing your eyebrows, styling your hair, etc.) that somehow you aren’t very intelligent, or are wasting your time, or are somehow not satisfied with yourself.

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 16, 2016 at 9:09 am

      I know–my boys make everything into a weapon!

      I’m so sorry I wasn’t more clear!!! I wish my sisters or mom had taught me hair and makeup! Proper grooming is such a beautiful part of being a woman and I sorely lacked that. My best friend in high school and college was a high achieving gorgeous makeup guru (somehow even she couldn’t resuscitate me!). Please forgive any offense I mistakenly gave on that front!

  6. Kirby on January 15, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Tri-Ominos! We LOVED those as kids!

    It’s all about matching the gift to the kid. As one of five girls, I would be so excited about anything that wasn’t just five of the same thing as my sisters in different colors/scents.

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 16, 2016 at 9:10 am

      Ha! Yes. All about matching. You’re totally right!

  7. Laura @ Mothering Spirit on January 15, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Love this round-up! I have always struggled with this when buying for my nieces (hopefully someday for our own girls). For example, my mom consciously did not buy Barbies for my older sister or me, and I have to say that it made a huge impact on us both. Of course we both had dolls, etc., but I think my mom’s wise choice set a good example for us to have toys that looked real, modeled realistic view of women, etc. While we can’t determine every influence on our kids’ lives, I think it’s important to be thoughtful about the kinds of toys we choose to offer our kids because it does make an impact. (And I think it goes for boys, too – we don’t have toy guns at our house because I feel very strongly about gun violence, but we do have swords for knight play, etc.)

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 16, 2016 at 8:12 am

      We had barbies growing up for a time and then my mom must have had some epiphany because she changed course and they were called “bad news barbies”–I distinctly remembered wondering why she was on her tip toes and not getting it until I wore a pair of heels and nearly snapped my ankle off!!

  8. Becky on January 15, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Love it! I have an almost 2 year old girl and one on the way so this kind of advice is always helpful. I was never a super girly girl either and am still figuring out all the hair/makeup stuff! 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 16, 2016 at 8:13 am

      I really wish I had learned how to do it properly and appropriately (I.e., not a ton of foundation and mega eye makeup haha) as a teen so I could have better accessed my feminine side!

  9. Kristen on January 15, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    I tend to give gifts based on interests of the child. With that being said our oldest LOVES books and she would read all day if we let her. So she mainly gets books from us however they are by no means all “girly girl” books but we do have our fair share, especially Fancy Nancy. Our second loves baby dolls & playing kitchen, both our kitchen set & baby doll area are pink. Mainly because one was second hand & the other was the best price. Now, like Laura’s mom, I do not plan on letting our girls play with Barbie as long as I can help it. My research paper in high school was on Barbie & her influence on young girls.

    I did have a slight issue when I went to buy our first Legos (duplos?). I did not want to buy a kit, I just wanted a big box of them; and all I could find were gender specific but I did not look too hard since I was on a time crunch.

    Another toy that our girls love are Picasso Tiles & play doctor kit/scrubs.

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 16, 2016 at 8:25 am

      Play doctor! Who doesn’t want to stick things into and onto other people when you’re a kid! (I had the same annoyance w duplos–just want toys, please!) and yes to dolls abs kitchen stuff though my oldest has been into those from the beginning too and the second hand set we got is primarily pink–because boys don’t like to cook/eat? Haha Picasso tiles! Will have to check them out. Are they like magnatiles?

  10. Anonymous on January 16, 2016 at 1:50 am

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with “girly” toys and pink colors and being “just a girl”, except in a mind infected with modern egalitarian Feminism.

    You just lost a reader.

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 16, 2016 at 9:14 am

      I’m so sorry I lost you, anonymous! I love being a girl. I also love the real feminism that says girls are wonderful in their femininity and special talents endowed to them by their Creator, not that toys should designate who gets to pursue which profession, or that girls should be consumed with “sexy” dolls and “pink made up” little airhead barbies. I want my daughter to know she can pursue what interests her in life and what she feels called to (stay at home mom like me) (engineer) (Doctor) (teacher) (plumber) or (musician). The color coding of kids’ toys seems to want to limit those universes. Why?

  11. Elizabeth on January 21, 2016 at 1:17 am

    Love everything about this post! Just yesterday my 4 year old niece was beside herself after receiving a “boy toy” in her kid’s meal. When I attempted to explain to her that toys don’t have genders and a stop watch (the toy) could be really fun to see how quickly we can build castles with magnatiles, she was horrified I thought she could like “boy things.” Needless to say, we have some work to do. I’m surprised how quickly she has picked up gender norms in toys!

    • Natural Mama Nell on January 23, 2016 at 8:40 am

      I know! It’s insidious! And just so annoying. Toys are toys.

  12. Elizabeth @ Coppertop Kitchen on March 3, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    MERCY WATSON!!! Also, I’m going to fill my girl’s Easter basket with little animal figurines. Great ideas!!