A Mighty Girl's top picks of space-themed toys and books for all ages!
With this week's 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, many Mighty Girls are dreaming about the stars! From mapping the skies as pioneers of astronomical science to walking in space on shuttle missions, women have made countless contributions to humanity's exploration of space. To encourage kids' interest in space, and introduce them to these trailblazers, in the first part of this blog post, we've featured a variety of books for children, teens, and adults about ground-breaking women of space exploration. In the second part, we've showcased our favorite space-oriented science kits so kids can learn more about space and pretend play toys so they can imagine themselves flying into outer space. After all, the sky is no limit to the dreams of Mighty Girls!
Books about space-loving girls and women
Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this colorful book about a science-loving little girl explores the basics of flight – from birds, to planes and rockets – and ties it all to a baby’s world. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby’s sense of wonder. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two, as well! For more volumes from this fun and inspiring series, including ones focused on quantum physics, thermodynamics, and coding, visit our Baby Loves Science Collection.
This pigtailed Baby Astronaut is ready for liftoff! She and her crew put on space suits and helmets before they blast off. Once she's in orbit, she'll explain why astronauts float (and even how they sleep.) Then, she'll conduct experiments: Can ants live in space? Yes! Can plants grow in space? Yes! This adorable board book from the Baby Scientist series, which also includes the book Baby Botanist, is perfect for curious babies and toddlers.
When Henrietta Swan Leavitt was hired by the Harvard College Observatory, it wasn't to observe the skies herself: instead, she was hired as a human "computer," and set to studying photographic plates that male colleagues had taken at the telescope. She spent years measuring star positions and sizes and, over time, discovered that certain stars had a fixed pattern to their changes — a discovery that allowed astronomers to understand the true size of the universe and brought Leavitt recognition as a pioneer of astronomical science. Award-winning artist Raul Colon's illustrations particularly shine in this appealing picture book biography.
Mae Jemison famously became the first black woman in space on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992 but years before that historic journey, she was a little girl who dreamed of dancing in space. Her mother told her, "If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible." Little Mae's curiosity, intelligence, and determination, matched with her parents' encouraging words, paved the way for her incredible success at NASA. This inspirational introduction to a trailblazing astronaut will encourage children to reach for the stars and never give up on their dreams.
Margaret Hamilton loved numbers; as a child, she loved studying algebra and calculus and she even knew exactly how many miles to the moon and back. But the best part of math was when it could solve a problem in the real world! Her love of math took her to studies at MIT and then to a job at NASA, where they were planning a mission to the moon...and computers were going to be a part of it. Hamilton hand-wrote the code for the Apollo missions — and when a last-minute problem cropped up as Apollo 11 prepared for a lunar landing, it was Hamilton's forward-thinking code that saved the day! This lively look at a pioneering of mathematics and computing is a great way to show young readers that math really can take you to the stars.
11-year-old Venetia Burney becomes fascinated by the planets after her school's "planet walk," where they place objects to represent the known planets. Then she learns something exciting: a new planet has been discovered, and they're still choosing a name! Venetia draws on her knowledge of Roman mythology and suggests the name Pluto for this planet that spends its time in the dark... and her grandfather loves the idea so much that he writes to the scientists who discover it. And they conclude that Pluto is the perfect name! This charming picture book reminds kids that the spark of curiosity can strike any time — and that anyone can make a contribution to science.
When Kathy Sullivan was growing up, she hated the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" — because no matter what she said, people told her the job wasn't for girls. As far as she was concerned, men had all the exciting jobs... and she was going to have an exciting job too. So when she was a teenager, she learned to fly a plane and in 1978 she became one of the first women to be selected by NASA. And when she finally got to space in 1984, she made her mark as the first American woman to perform extravehicular activity — a spacewalk. This fun and inspiring story ends with detailed background info, including a note from Sullivan and capsule biographies of other American women space pioneers. It's perfect for budding astronauts — or for anyone who refuses to believe something "isn't for girls."
Katherine Johnson loved to count, and despite the prejudices against both women and African Americans, she was determined to find a way to make her love of math into a career. As one of NASA's "human computers," Johnson hand calculated elaborate equations... including the trajectories that helped launch the Apollo 13 mission to the moon. When disaster befell the Apollo 13 mission, it was Johnson's flight-path calculations that brought the astronauts safely home. This inspiring biography of the mathematician catapulted to fame by Hidden Figures celebrates a love of math and encourages kids to follow their passions. For another picture book about Johnson and her colleagues, check out Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race.
When Annie Jump Cannon first began working at the Harvard Observatory, it wasn't to look though the telescope — women weren't allowed to use it. Instead, she was hired as a "computer," analyzing and studying the data that men found when using the telescope. Cannon was assigned a challenging task: figuring out how to classify the many stars that newer telescopes and better cameras were able to spot. Cannon's classification is still use today — and she set a record for the number of stars identified and classified that stands to this day! This picture book celebrates Cannon's love of the stars and decades of hard work.
Ellen Ochoa dreamed of playing her flute professionally — until she discovered engineering in college and was immediately hooked. People doubted whether she could succeed: a girl from an immigrant family wasn't the right sort of person to become a scientist, they thought. She refused to believe them, and not only did she achieve her career in science, but she even became a NASA astronaut. And when she flew into outer space, her flute came with her, so she could play a song for the stars! This appealing biography from the Amazing Scientists series is a colorful tribute to this daring scientist and musician.
Caroline Herschel was the youngest child in a family where nobody expected girls to amount to much — especially once she ended up scarred by smallpox and stunted by typhus. Her family used her as a scullery maid, but her brother William saw something different in her, so when he left for England, he took her with him. Together, the astronomy-loving brother and sister built the greatest telescope of their age, which Caroline used to discover fourteen nebulae and two galaxies. She even became the first woman to discover a comet — and the first woman officially employed as a scientist. This picture book biography of the groundbreaking astronomer will inspire kids with her spirit of curiosity and resilience.
She's been called one of the greatest American minds of all time, and when NASA first started using computers to calculate launch trajectories, they only trusted them after she double checked the math! Katherine Johnson broke both gender and racial boundaries when she started working for NASA in the 1950s as a human computer, performing the complex calculations necessary to launch rockets, satellites, and eventually, the Apollo 11 moon mission. Fans of the hit movie Hidden Figures will be excited to read their very own book about Johnson from Ready to Read's You Should Meet series. Older readers can check out Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition for ages 8 to 13.
Mae Jemison dreamed of becoming an astronaut from childhood. She went to medical school and joined the Peace Corps, but she never forgot that dream — so in 1985, she applied to NASA, and in 1992, Jemison became the first African-American woman to go into space! In this Level 3 Ready-To-Read book from the You Should Meet non-fiction series, newly independent readers can learn all about Jemison's fascinating life and career. Additional material at the end includes information about math and history, and even a timeline with fun facts about space!
This gorgeously illustrated collected biography honors inspirational women who helped fuel some of the greatest achievements in space exploration from the nineteenth century to today! Galaxy Girls pays tribute to fifty pioneering women past and present, from mathematicians to engineers to test pilots to astronauts. Each capsule biography is paired with striking full-page original artwork from the students of the London College of Communication. Perfect for inspiring the space leaders of tomorrow, this stunning book gives this band of heroic sisters and their remarkable and often little known scientific achievements long overdue recognition.
Imagine blasting off into outer space with this book that profiles famous female astronauts — and encourages you to try hands-on STEM activities related to space exploration! The stories of Bonnie Dunbar, Sally Ride, Mae Jemison, Sunita Williams, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor soar in this volume, while the included projects like designing and building space rovers and creating a model of the International Space Station develop critical thinking skills. This full-color book from the Gutsy Girls Go For Science series is sure to make her look at the night sky in a whole new way.
Sally Ride is famous as the first American woman in space, but she was also so much more: a brilliant physicist who loved English literature, a nationally ranked tennis player, an advocate for girls and women in science careers, and a role model for both girls and to the LGBTQ community. In this comprehensive biography, Sue Macy gives equal treatment both to her groundbreaking role as an astronaut, to her work with NASA after her time in space (including her role in the Challenger investigation), and to her education and advocacy work after she left NASA. It's a fitting tribute to the woman who changed how girls saw the future. For more resources about this inspiring scientist, visit our Sally Ride Collection.
When Sally Ride responded to a newspaper ad looking for women to join the US astronaut program, she had no idea she would be the one to make history as the first American woman in space! This book from the appealing and accessible Who Was...? biography series follows Ride through her amazing life, from her tennis career to her work in astrophysics to her trailblazing shuttle flight...and then beyond, to her years of advocacy for girls and women in science. For another biography of ride for ages 8 to 12, check out Sally Ride: The First American Woman in Space. For more resources about this inspiring scientist, visit our Sally Ride Collection.
Before people could orbit the Earth or fly to the moon, there was a group of "human computers": dedicated female mathematician who used pencil and slide rule to calculate how to launch rockets. Four African-American women, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, were critical to the story of space flight -- and yet their story was largely untold. In this young readers edition of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, tweens will learn how these women, so little appreciated in their time, changed both NASA and America for the better.
As a child in a Mexican-American community, everyone expected that Sylvia Acevedo would grow up to marry and stay at home with her children — but Sylvia yearned for adventure. Then she joined the Brownies and her life was transformed. Through the Girl Scouts, she found peers who shared her love of science and role models that fostered her confidence and independence. Acevedo would become a rocket scientist for NASA — and today, she's the CEO of the Girl Scouts, helping other girls follow their dreams. This inspiring memoir is a celebration of resilience that will encourage girls to imagine their own sky-high futures.
This photobiography of the first American woman in space gives a unique peek at the life of Sally Ride! Ride was a competitive tennis player, a book lover, and — believe it or not — an underachiever (at least according to her high school classmates.) After she made history as an astronaut, she also served as an advocate for space exploration and girls and women in science. This book written by Ride's partner Tam O'Shaughnessy, which is full of both personal and media photographs and illuminating and intimate anecdotes, provides a revealing look at this pioneer of space travel.
A gorgeously written novel in verse about three girls in three different time periods who grew up to become groundbreaking scientists, including Maria Mitchell, America's first female professional astronomer. Maria Merian was sure that caterpillars were not born from mud, as people believed. More than a century later, Mary Anning helped her father collect stone sea creatures from the cliffs in southwest England, eventually discovering fossils that would change people’s vision of the past. Across the ocean, Maria Mitchell longed to discover a new comet. She spent years of studying the night sky until she finally did. Told in vibrant, evocative poems, this stunning novel celebrates the joy of discovery and finding wonder in the world around us.
This charmingly illustrated and educational book highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, including important astronomers from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection includes profiles of Hypatia, Wang Zhenyi, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, and Vera Rubin. Additional infographics provide scientific timelines and lots of other interesting information for budding scientists! This book celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation — including, perhaps, your own Mighty Girl.
In the mid-1800s, a young woman with a passion for the stars became America's first female professional astronomer. Despite many obstacles to her education and practice, Maria Mitchell would become famous for discovering a comet by telescope in 1847, for which she became the first woman and American to receive one of King Frederick VI of Denmark's gold medals. Author Beatrice Gormley sets the stage by talking about 19th century Nantucket, Mitchell's home, and her life and career as an adult, so that pre-teen readers can more easily understand just how unusual Mitchell's life really was. Complete with multiple pages of photographs, this is a unique biography of a unique woman.
For the first time, Katherine Johnson, the now-famous mathematician featured in Hidden Figures, is telling her story in her own words! She begins her autobiography with her decision, at age 4, to begin attending school with her older brother so she could help him with his math assignments. Before long, the gifted girl leapfrogged through grades, eventually graduating college at age 18. Her years at NASA, including fascinating stories from her work on the Apollo 11 moon mission, are recounted in vivid detail. Warm and conversational in tone, Johnson doesn't shy away from the difficulties of being both female and black while growing up and during her time at NASA. For any young reader who has dreamed of sitting down to chat with this remarkable role model, this lively book is the next best thing — and it's sure to inspire them to reach for their own promising futures!
In 1958 America, as the quest for space was just beginning, NASA had a rule that an astronaut had to have military pilot experience — and of course, the military only accepted men in those roles. But some people wondered if some of the equally daring women pilots of the day belonged on the first space missions. This book tells the little-known story of the Mercury 13 women, who underwent astronaut testing and training decades before the first American woman would go to space. For kids who have grown up with both male and female astronauts, reading about the Mercury 13 and their quest for the stars will shed new light on how far we've come — and how far we have to go.
There are few figures as inspiring as an astronaut: not only are they daring adventurers, they're also intelligent, dedicated scientists! In this book from the Women of Action series, kids will read about trailblazing women from ten different countries who dreamed of traveling to space. Including important figures like the Mercury 13, Valentina Tereshkova, Sally Ride, Mae Jemison, Chiaki Mukai, Kalpana Chawla, and many more, this book shares the obstacles they faced, the wonders they saw, and the influence they've made on the world. For any science-lover or would-be space traveler, this book is full of inspiration.
Too often, women's contributions in science are neglected or downplayed. Rachel Swaby was inspired to write this book after reading an obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill that spent the first paragraph focusing on her beef stroganoff recipe and her family life. Within it, she provide capsule biographies of 52 women scientists, including female astronomers like Maria Mitchell and Annie Jump Cannon, with useful context about how their discoveries changed the scientific world. This fascinating book for both teens and adults is sure to get your Mighty Girl looking at the sky and wondering what she might discover!
As photography began transforming astronomy, the women who worked as "human computers" would revolutionize our understanding of the universe. "The glass universe" included over half a million photographic plates, pictures of different fields of stars, and the women who studied them — including Williamina Fleming, Annie Jump Cannon, and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne — would discover novae, design stellar classification systems, and determine what stars were made of. This fascinating story of the hidden history of astronomy celebrates the women whose contributions made our current understanding of the stars and the space they inhabit possible.
When the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, founded in the 1940s, needed clever mathematicians for calculations, they recruited a group of young women whose penciled equations about velocities and plot trajectories would propel the science of space exploration. Over two decades, these dedicated women would transform rocket design, allow the creation of the first American satellites, and eventually, make it possible to explore our solar system — and yet few people know their story. Nathalia Holt tells the story of these groundbreaking "human computers" who broke new ground for both women and science in a compelling and exciting way. Inspiring and thought-provoking, this book will change the way you look at the history of space travel — as well as its future.
She broke through 25 years of white male fighter pilot astronauts to become America’s first woman in space on the seventh shuttle flight. But in addition to her inspiring firsts, Ride contributed decades of her life to striving for the stars — both in her continued work with NASA and in her promotion of science education for children, especially girls. This insightful biography also explores Ride's personal life, including that, despite her prominence, it wasn’t until after her death that the world learned of Ride’s love for her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy. Sherr, a news commentator and one of Ride’s close friends, paints a remarkable portrait of a woman who changed the way we thought of science, space, and women.
Toys for Space-Loving Mighty Girls
Blast off into outer space with this fun rocket ship with two astronauts from Green Toys! This rocket has a detachable top capsule and astronauts with molded-on spacesuits, helmets, and dual-tank backpacks. The rocket's door opens into stairs to the main compartment, and the capsule includes clever details like knobs and gauges. Environmentally conscious parents will also love that, like all Green Toys products, it's made from 100% BPA-free post-consumer recycled plastic and packaged in recyclable packaging.
Celebrate the planets of our solar system with heirloom-quality wooden blocks — made in the USA from environmentally friendly materials! This set of nine blocks from Uncle Goose features the eight planets, plus bonus dwarf planet Pluto; each block features four debossed sides with the planet's symbol, name, and number of moons, and four printed sides with a planet illustration, diameter, location, and distance from the sun. Made from renewable basswood with non-toxic inks, these are blocks you can feel good about buying.
Learn the constellations of the night sky with these heirloom-quality building blocks from Uncle Goose! Sixteen blocks, all made with renewable, FSC-certified Michigan basswood, come imprinted with the constellation (with and without lines), as well as the constellation's name, symbol, hemisphere, and order of magnitude. It's a unique way to bring stargazing into building block play — or to create an elegant display on the desk or shelf of a budding astronomer.
Set your sights on space with this astronaut doll from the Barbie Careers line! In honor of Barbie's 60th anniversary, they're reproducing some of the over 200 careers Barbie has filled. This astronaut doll comes in a spacesuit printed with all the zippers, pockets, and hoses that a real astronaut has, as well as white gloves, boots, and helmet. She's sure to inspire your Mighty Girl to reach for the stars!
If she's ever dreamed of discoveries deep in outer space, this doll from the Barbie Careers line — made in a partnership with National Geographic — is the perfect choice! This astrophysicist doll is ready to untangle the mysteries of the universe with her swiveling telescope. Her miniature star chart depicts a real-life star map, complete with tiny images of astronomical phenomena! She's sure to inspire your Mighty Girl to try out some stargazing of her own.
The weather may be cold, but that's not going to stop Lottie from doing some stargazing! Lottie Dolls are based on the real body proportions of a 9-year-old girl and come with accessories that support a wide range of interests. Stargazer Lottie comes with a space-themed outfit, books about space, and even her own telescope! This 7.5" doll is just the right size to join kids on all their adventures.
Blast off into outer space with this incredible detailed tent and tunnel combo from Pacific Play Tents! The four foot square space station tent easily accommodates 3 to 4 kids at a time, while the four "docking tunnels" provide a fun way to get in and out. Best of all, all of the pieces collapse easily for storage or transportation in the included carry bag. If you'd prefer the tent alone, check out the Space Module Tent which is suitable for ages 3 to 10. You can also get this awesome Rocket Ship Tent for ages 3 to 8 which comes with a space projector with 24 images of moon and space scenes.
With the Space Toob from Safari, you get a great selection of detailed miniatures for dioramas, pretend play, and more! This set includes multiple astronaut figures, the Moon Rover, the ISS, the Saturn rocket, the Hubble Telescope, and more. All of the figures pack into the included storage tube for play on the go or easy clean-up at home.
Turn her ceiling or walls into a glowing galaxy of stars with this set that includes over 700 shapes, including large and small stars, spiral galaxies, and more! The pieces attach with an adhesive putty that is safe and non-damaging for most surfaces. Expose them to light to charge, then turn off the lights and watch them glow! An included star map even allows you to duplicate a section of the real life sky — or let your imagination run wild and create a galaxy of your own.
Explore the fun of rockets — with the help of a little kid power! These rockets blast off thanks to air pressure produced by a blast pad, so kids can burn off a little extra energy leaping on and seeing how high they can make the rockets fly; they can get as high as 100 feet. Plus, the foam rockets in this set glow, so you can keep up the fun long into the night. For a kit that lets you fly your rockets even higher, check out the Stomp Rocket Ultra for ages 8 and up, which can reach and incredible 200 feet.
With this fun kit from Alex Discover, you can learn about space with twelve fun craft activities! Kids will try cool projects like making a solar system mobile, a moon phase spinner, and a sundial. They'll even create sun, moon and earth models to make an orbit game. All of the pieces you need are in the box, so you can open it up and start your space adventure right away!
Give your fridge or magnet board a little outer space flair with this set of magnets from Learning Resources! Full-color, realistically detailed magnets depict the Sun, eight planets (plus dwarf planet Pluto), Earth's moon, and the asteroid belt. An included activity guide provides suggestions for how to use these magnets to further learning. Kids will love getting to build their own solar system!
Get ready to head up, up, and away with this amazing set from Lego's Education line. With this 1,176 piece set, you can build space shuttles, jet places, satellites, and helicopters — and, equally importantly, the support buildings that they need for their flights. An equal mix of male and female heads provides terrific representation of women in all the careers depicted here, from astronaut to air traffic controller. And for easy storage, the set comes in a container with a transparent lid.
As Curiosity and other rovers and satellites have shown, the future of space exploration is sure to involve plenty of robots! With this engineering set, kids will get an idea what it's like to build a machine designed to explore hostile terrain on new planets. Build a model rover, a space shuttle with working bay doors, a crosswing flyer, and more. Kids will particularly enjoy directing their rover over local terrain while imagining directing a robot a planet away in the future. For would-be astronauts or budding space explorers, it's sure to provide hours of engineering fun.
This easy-to-use star wheel will help you figure out what stars you can see at any time of night or year! At 8" in diameter, this planisphere makes it easy for stargazers to identify which constellations and major stars are above the horizon. This version is for 30 to 40 degrees of latitude, covering the southern half of the US, North Africa, and the Middle East; stargazers in the northern US and Europe can check out the 40 to 50 degree latitude star wheel, while other versions cover other latitudes.
With this kit from 4M, you'll build a solar system with planets that can really orbit around the sun! The planet models include textured details, making them easy to paint, and the base's moveable planet stands will allow kids to see how planets circle the sun and how their orbits come together in conjunctions before separating again. It even comes with a teeny set of rings for Saturn! It's a fun hands-on way to learn more about the planets. For another project to get kids learning about the solar system, check out the 3D Solar System, which uses 3D planet models and flat star stickers to transform a ceiling into an expanse of the universe.
This new fan-designed LEGO set features four pioneering women who made major contributions to the U.S. space program: Margaret Hamilton, the computer scientist who designed the on-board flight software for the Apollo moon missions; Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Nancy Grace Roman, the astronomer who played a lead role in designing the Hubble telescope; and Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. The 231-piece set, created by LEGO fan and science writer Maia Weinstock, includes minifigures of all four women and buildable models of the Hubble space telescope and a space shuttle.
Launch not one, but two different rockets with this set from Estes! You'll build two popular rocket models: the Amazon, which is almost three feet tall and can reach heights of 600 feet, and the Crossfire, which is small but powerful and can soar as high as 1,150 feet. Both rockets are outfitted with parachutes to float them safely to Earth — so they can take part in future launches! Any would-be rocket scientist will get hours of fun out of this kit.
Get your budding astronomer started with this entry-level kit from Thames and Kosmos. This high-quality 140X refractor telescope features coated glass optics and includes plenty of accessories to get your observations started, including a stand and a variety of eyepieces for different purposes. The included guide teaches you how to properly care for and view through your telescope. For another telescope for young beginner astronomers, check out the Celestron PowerSeeker telescope for ages 5 and up.
Assemble this breathtaking image of V838 Monocerotis with this 1,000 piece puzzle from Eurographics! The stunning detail in the photo allows you to identify bok globules, giant gaseous pillars, a blue super giant, and more. Insets in the bottom corners provide additional information (and an extra puzzle challenge.) Made with high quality blueboard that's FSC-certified and 100% recyclable, this puzzle is one you'll treasure. For another way to include beautiful star graphics in your play, check out this set of Night Sky Playing Cards for ages 8 and up.