9 gifts to empower your daughter

Every little girl is a princess. Or is she?

What if she’s a master scientist or a brilliant businesswoman? What if she likes robots and aliens and sports and math? What if, just maybe, she doesn’t like wearing tiaras, and sequins make her scrunch her nose and shake her head? What if she hates wearing dresses?

Here are a few gifts to empower her to be whatever she wants to be. And whatever she wants to be the next day and the day after that.


Fuel your daughter’s confidence to be whoever she wants to be with items you won’t just find in the cutesy aisle.

When she looked at the so-called pink aisle of toys for young girls, Debbie Sterling, a Stanford engineering grad, was upset to find none geared toward building their interest in math and science.

Most girls lose interest in math and science around 8. And Lindsey Shepard, representative for GoldieBlox, says why wouldn’t they, when all the imagery they see about how to be a cool girl is related to makeup, baby dolls and princesses?

We want girls to know that it’s OK to play princess, but we also want girls to be able to build their own castles, too, she says.

Find the books and construction sets at most major toy stores and goldieblox.com; $16.99-$205.

Lottie dolls

Lucie Follett kept hearing her parent friends complain about the dolls available in stores they reeked of negative body image.

Lottie dolls don’t wear make-up, high heels or fashion jewelry; they have age-appropriate clothing, accessories, hobbies and back stories, she says. The dolls range from superheroes to astronomers to ballerinas.

Find them at lottie.com and many Chicago stores such as Giving Tree Toys (1708 W. Touhy Ave.), Building Blocks Toy Store (2130 W. Division) and Timeless Toys (4749 N. Lincoln Ave.); $9.95-$19.95.

I Am Elemental action figures

In the realm of I Am Elemental, girls are the superheroes and their powers include bravery, honesty and persistence.

If we change the way girls play, we can change the way they feel about themselves, says Julie Kerwin, representative of I Am Elemental. We want all kids to know that all the powers they need to be successful are already inside of them.

Find the action figures at iamelemental.com; $8.99-$205.99 for box sets.

Princess Awesome

Chicago native Rebecca Melsky’s daughter only wears dresses, but she also loves robots and space.

The last thing Melsky wanted to do was tell her daughter that she could only wear puppies, cupcakes and ruffles. I wanted her and all little girls to be able to wear what they are and what they want, not just what is perceived as girly,’ she says.

So, Melsky and her partner Eva St. Clair created Princess Awesome. Trucks, ninjas, aliens and all things awesome are featured in whimsical, colorful prints on Melsky and St. Clair’s adorable little girl dresses.

People are always telling girls what a pretty dress they’re wearing or asking little boys about the really cool dinosaur on their shirts. It’s one of the biggest ways we communicate with kids and the world, so why not have something that really reflects who they are? St. Clair says.

Find them at princess-awesome.com; $25-$50.

Go! Go! Sports Girls

When Chicagoan and former Girls on the Run coach Jodi Norgaard went shopping for a doll for her daughter, she could not believe what she saw. Every single one of them were perpetuating negative body images; they were dressed like hookers, and there is not one parent out there that wants that type of message given to their daughter to play with, she says.

But when she first launched the dolls, she was astounded by how many manufacturers discredited her idea.

My ultimate goal is to make girls healthy and happy through activity and play, Norgaard says.

Find them at Walmart and gogosportsgirls.com; $4.99-$24.99.

K’Nex Mighty Makers

After realizing that most of its building sets were targeted toward boys, K’NEX decided it was time to make a toy to increase girls’ curiosity about math science, technology and more.

Out of this research, Mighty Makers, building sets with STEM education and female interests in mind, became a company sensation.

I have seen firsthand that girls are very interested in building, as long as they have a set that sparks their interest, says Kristen Krikorian, director of marketing.

Find them at Toys R Us and knex.com; $19.99-$59.99.

Girls Will Be clothing

Former Chicagoan Sharon Choksi’s daughter Maya is living proof that there is more than one way to be a girl.

She didn’t like frilly clothing, so when Choksi shopped for her, she discovered very limited options.

It’s not boy-like to want different options, she says. There are so many ways to be a girl. … It’s about time we had clothes options to reflect that.

Find the clothing at girlswillbehq.com; $22-$30.

Pigtail Pals

When Melissa Wardy had her first baby, Amelia, she wanted to dress her in images that were positive and uplifting, so she created a way to do that.

Her company offers options for girls and boys that ignore gender restrictions.

It’s been fun to give kids more respectful options that are more in line with who they are and then also to see parents embracing childhood for what it should be, which is discovering a healthy sense of self-worth and self-acceptance, she says.

Find clothing, accessories, books and more at pigtailpals.com; $2-$39.95.

4 Sporty Girls

The two moms, Laura Futty and Jean Momorella, who started 4 Sporty Girls love to shop for their very active daughters but found every bit of sports clothing was either comparing girls to boys or revealing negatively competitive messages such as, I’m better than you.

They thought, why can’t sports gear have messages promoting confidence and strength without having to tear anyone else down? The result is the sports clothes targeted to girls K-12.

Find the clothes at 4sportygirls.com; $14-$32.

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