For National Women’s Small Business Month in October, I decided to dress head-to-toe in women-founded brands, and posted my ensembles on Instagram daily. That monthly practice led to me developing a mantra of supporting more women-led brands, and I've applied it to other areas of my life where I have purchasing power — like finding
gifts for my kids from women-owned businesses. When it comes to women helping women, every little bit counts, and as someone who’s worked with women-founded brands for years in the advertising world, I know I literally need to put my money where my mouth is.
With the holidays here, it makes even more sense to find kid gifts created by women. Look, mothers know what their kids want. We tend to be the primary caregivers, so a lot of women-founded toy companies were started when mothers felt like they had to invent the perfect thing that didn't exist yet. I find that, because of this, the toys and clothing items on this list are more thoughtful and better-designed because they really have kids in mind.
It's already late into the holiday season, but this list is also great for birthdays and other special occasions. There's a range of items, including stuffed animals and the perfect twirly dresses, so you'll absolutely find something that both you and your child will love.
Why aren’t there toolboxes for girls? That’s the question answered by the toy company
GoldieBlox, founded by engineer Debbie Sterling, who’s also an advocate for women pursuing careers in engineering and tech. The company’s Maker’s Essentials Toolbox includes scissors, pliers, tweezers, and much more for industrious young girls who can learn through making. GoldieBlox is also a children’s media company challenging gender stereotypes with the world’s first girl engineer character.
These organic, ethically made stuffed animals from
Hazel Village have a Wes Anderson-esque aesthetic, and are so sweet. You can even buy clothes, like a cranberry jacket or hand-knit ivory sweater for them. The company was started by a Brooklyn mom, Jane Van Cleef (who also brought her college roommate on-board), and works closely with social enterprises around the world that empower artisans with good work and fair wages. That makes all of the products even sweeter.
Started in 2002 by Chrissy Kaskey — who wanted to recreate the action figures her brothers played with as kids for her own sports-loving sons —
sells figures for just about any sport (soccer, baseball, hockey). I’m going to get my sons a box of the Basketball Guys because they’ll play hours worth of imaginary games (so this mom can have a glass of wine, already). Kaskey Kids
There are a lot of wooden food sets on the market, but
Keiki Kaukau is made of Hawaiian specialties (poke bowl, musubi, papaya, and more), which is just what the founder, teacher April Hail, wanted — to give her children the chance to see their culture reflected in their toys. The kits are all beautifully designed using non-toxic paint and bonus: the company donates five meals to the Hawai’i Food Bank for every kit purchased.
My guys like to help me in the kitchen, so this one is definitely on my holiday list this year.
Kidstir is a subscription service founded by Aparna Padme, a mom to identical twin boys and former Disney, Meredith and Mattel exec. The cooking kits come with a binder, cooking tools, fun accessories, and delicious step-by-step recipes to try out so your kids can create their own cookbook.
These hands-on science and art projects from
KiwiCo are meant to inspire kids to tinker and create all the way up to the age of 16. Choose from different “crates” based on your child’s interests (Science & Engineering, Geography & Culture, etc.), then you’ll get monthly deliveries of new materials and projects, so it never gets old. The brand was created by Sandra Oh Lin, a mother of three and former GM of Fashion at eBay, and I imagine her need for something to keep her kids engaged and interested is what sparked this brand. (Bonus: this one still has free rush ship available to receive a crate by Christmas Eve.)
Maisonette, an online children's boutique, was started by Vogue vets Sylvia Ward Durett and Luisana Mendoza Roccia, you’d better believe the selections are going to be impossibly stylish. Come here for a curated selection that ranges from Janod wooden toys to TWEE sidewalk chalk sets to Moulin Roty kaleidoscopes (a great stocking stuffer). Everything is full of whimsy and just lovely.
Mimish Designs launched with a beanbag chair, and has grown exponentially. Created by a child therapist, Andrea Soto-Camacho, she later grew it into a lifestyle brand with the help of fashion executive Jennifer Laforest. And now? There's literally something for every kid. I’m personally obsessed with the Sleep-N-Pack, a two-in-one sleeping bag that rolls into a backpack (which can also fit other overnight essentials). It’s great for kids who love camping and adventuring.
A California-based company founded by Lorena Siminovich,
Petit Collage combines sustainability with a modern aesthetic. Given that the company was started with a hand-crafted collage made from recycled materials, I especially love her activity and craft toys, which include pop-out-and-play sets, drawing kits, doll chains, and more.
Using only environmentally responsible materials,
Poppie Toys makes simple but beautifully designed toys that stimulate the imagination. Carlijn Joosten, a former teacher and account director at a design agency, started the company with the goal of creating beautifully crafted toys. I especially love her toddler-sized grocery cart and rocking horse made from bamboo.
really into this online boutique Rose & Rex founded by play-based tutor Allison Klein, as it stocks toys that encourage imaginative play. Klein studied the importance of imaginative play in early childhood development in graduate school, which eventually led her to start the boutique. I especially like the Rose & Rex Calm Mind Kit, which teaches little ones about mindfulness and how to self-regulate through activity cards, eco play dough, and maple wood stacking blocks.
These two-sided rugs at
Ruggish Play Rugs are genius. On the top, it's a super-durable, waterproof rug designed to withstand messes from little hands and stay in place without slipping or sliding. Then on the bottom, it's a play mat, complete with a map that’s perfect for toy cars, trains, and other toys. Plus the rugs are non-toxic. It makes sense that they’re so great, because they were created by interior designer Liza Savary who couldn’t find a play that actually protected her baby and still maintained a sense of style. (And now we can all thank her.)
The clothing line
Freshly Picked was started by Susan Peterson right in her own kitchen, and has something for the little ones (like adorable handmade, soft-soled leather, suede, and nylon moccasins, some even lined in shearling) and mom (durable but stylish carry-all and diaper bags). There’s even a membership programs with benefits like free shipping and 20% off purchases.
If your kid already insists on wearing mismatched socks, these might be your dream come true:
Pals Socks designs socks with the idea that we don’t all have to be the same, pairing clever animals like ladybugs and caterpillars, pigs and cows, and unicorns and dragons on pairs of colorful, whimsical socks. Founder Hannah Lavon wanted to create a fun, colorful kids’ company with a positive impact, and man, she totally succeeded.
Founded by two moms, Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell, who are also Diapers.com alums,
Primary's line of kids’ basics is vibrant, colorful, affordable, and reliable (meaning you can find your favorite styles easily). I love that you can shop by color, and the family PJ sets are really cute gift ideas. Rockets of Awesome is one of my all-time favorite kids’ clothing lines, known for its bright colors and catchy, tongue-in-cheek designs. Founder Rachel Blumenthal is the former CEO of the editorial parenting site Cricket’s Circle, so I feel like she really gets what kids and parents want. One of my little guys is obsessed with pizza, so I recently got him the Apres Pizza beanie and Pizza Ninja hoodie. I also love that they have a subscription box that they customize based on a quick Q&A — and you can send back whatever your kids don’t like.
Toddlers love to play dress-up and these costumes from
Snickerdoos combine high-quality natural materials (none of that synthetic stuff) and a simple, comfortable aesthetic that will encourage your kids’ imaginations. Natalie Parker Smith started the brand to make dress-up affordable and accessible, and it does just that.
You can customize these super-cool
State Bags backpacks to create a bag that’s as unique as your kid. First you pick a color/fabric (with choices that range from canvas to metallic to color-blocked), then you can add fun details like initials, symbols, and patches. Jacqueline Tatelman and her husband Scot started the brand with a mission: donating to children in need with every bag purchased. Jennifer DaSilva, President at Berlin Cameron, is a seasoned integrated marketer with nearly 20 years of experience working on Fortune 500 brands. She championed a new division of Berlin Cameron — Girl Brands Do It Better — empowering female founders through creativity and connection, and has spoken at many industry events on female leadership and entrepreneurship. When not at work, Jennifer advises female run start-ups, is on the board of UN Foundation Girl Up, and most importantly is a wife, and mother of two boys. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.