Rock-it fuel for girls: Gifts to inspire strength and independence

Tara Chando of Kenco pulls back the string. (Photo: Phyllis McCabe)

Tara Chando of Kenco pulls back the string. (Photo: Phyllis McCabe)

This is a gift-giving suggestion column designed to empower girls. Not to say that gender-neutral gifts aren’t awesome. Huffington Post has been running a column boasting that you can tell whether a toy is for a boy or a girl by the preference of the boy or girl holding it; in other words, if they like it, it’s for them.

Not that gifts of a domestic nature, like kitchen sets or pot-holder looms, aren’t awesome for boys — there’s nothing more attractive than a man who has been cooking and weaving since he was a kid. A little bit more for girls does not mean less for boys.

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But this is about empowering girls to grow into the next generation of female warriors, so they can succeed in predominantly male-centric fields like science, medicine, law enforcement, engineering, sports. If my daughter should twerk on national TV, let it be moments after they’ve hung the gold medal from the New York Marathon around her neck.

When a group of local women were asked what gifts would empower girls, many of them responded immediately with, “A tool set!” When I first became a single mom, I was trying to hang something, but lacked the tools. A fellow single mom said to me, “You need your own tool set. You’re the mom and the dad now.” She was right.

“I was 28 before I learned how to build anything,” said Kat Fisher, local director of Citizen Action of New York. Fisher said it was after her divorce when the importance of autonomy and self-sufficiency hit home. “When I realized in the division of assets my ex-husband got all the tools, I realized I was hammerless once again, and couldn’t hang a picture without re-enacting the damsel in distress. Since then I’ve equipped myself with cool pocket knives, hammers, screwdrivers, you name it, I have it!”

Herzog’s True Value in the Kingston Plaza has a basic seven-piece tool set $19.97 which includes all wrenches and pliers. Ten-in-one screwdrivers, which have 10 changeable bits to fit nearly anything, cost $5.99. A 13-ounce hammer will cost $8.99. A three-piece set with a drill, palm sander and a little jigsaw utility saw for $49.97. There is also a cordless 18-volt drill for $49.99. They also sell a 100-piece drill bit set with all the fasteners, drivers, wood and metal, for $14.99. Herzog’s Fran Caprotti  said they also have a 37-LED task flashlight for $6.99. They also sell children’s gardening tools in the springtime as well — rakes, shovels, garden hoses and work gloves. “We sell tons of work gloves for kids and adults for Christmas,” said Caprotti.

Herzog’s also has sleds and snow tubes ranging from $8 to $15. A multiuse tire inflator that plugs into the car’s electric port and which works on car tires, balls and bicycle tires only costs $7.99. Jumper cables, so your teen driving daughter will never be stuck, range from $7.99 to $15.99.

Children’s book author and mother Jen Place-Thomas suggests the following: “Microscopes. Chemistry sets. Tinkertoys. Legos. Blocks. Books on historic figures like Amelia Earhart or Helen Keller. Heroes for My Daughter by Brad Meltze.”

The American Association of University Women, an organization with the mission is to advance “equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research”, put out a gift guide — “Holiday Gift Guide for Girls 2013 edition” — which can be found on their website at aauw.org. One of its suggestions is a sweet-faced, fabric doll, Ten Thousand Villages Twin Doll, for $28. These dolls are handmade by the women of Zimbabwe’s Batsiranai Craft Project, which works to support mothers with disabled children. For every doll sold, a girl in Zimbabwe will receive an identical doll — hence, a twin doll. Among other suggested items is Computer Engineer Barbie, Wikki Stix moldable wax sticks activity set and a star map.

Get out and play

Tara Chando of Kingston said her father acquainted her with nature and fostered a lifetime relationship in the great outdoors by taking her fishing, camping and hiking all the time. “I was just talking with a friend about how much Girl Scouts sucked for us,” said Chando. “We both quit because all our Girl Scout leaders wanted us to do was make crafts, bake and sew. We wanted to hike and camp. Girls need to get dirty and enjoy the woods.”

To that end, Chando suggested outdoor gear for girls. “Skis, Snowboard, snowshoes, sleds, backpacks, tents, compass, knife, Leatherman.”

Chando, whose lifetime love of the outdoors and sports works well for her job at Kenco Sports and Outdoor gear store in Hurley, said a kayak makes a great lifetime gift. A basic kayak is about $299 and up. “It’s pretty universal,” said Chando. “We can put kids in boats for kids and adults. We live in a region where there is a lot of flat water, which is ideal kayaking for kids. Kids love to paddle their own boats.” Kenco’s paddle: $50. Life jacket: $20.

Fishing poles, said Chando, are another awesome gift. Fly fishing, she said, is even easy for kids to pick up. “Fly fishing was basically born in the Catskills,” said Chando. “We have the Esopus, the Ashokan Reservoir. It’s cool for kids to see the kind of fish that come out of the reservoir.”

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