|Growing up... but not too fast|
You know her. She could be your daughter, your granddaughter, your niece or your little cousin. She's a girly-girl, and she's— like—9. What do you give her that is age appropriate and will not reinforce the fantasy that life will be all cherry-flavored lipgloss and sequins?
Most important you will not want to dumb down your gift, i.e. no "child versions". It should not be mini me or imitation grown up. It should be as real as if you were buying it for yourself.
A good grooming kit. This is the age when a little girl actually has TIME to take bubble baths and fuss over little things. Why not put together a basket containing some lovely soap, a nail brush, bath sponge, bubble bath or bath bombs and a light (but real) scent (Yardley's English Lavender or the ever-popular Jean Nate)? Line it with a pretty hand towel and add whatever extras come your way.
A manicure set remains to this day my favorite holiday gift ever. I didn't ask for it, and my mother questioned its suitability. I loved all the little compartments that held tools and polish and felt the giver acknowledged the grown up I would soon become. You could pair that with a professional manicure date with you at a salon so she can see how its done. Please advise the technician not to cut her cuticles, as that's something you don't want her practicing at home! I feel girls this age are a bit too young for the whole salon mani-pedi thing. Pedicures can wait.
Likewise I disdain young girls wearing makeup, so you won't find that suggestion here. Some things are worth waiting for.
A piece of real jewelry will steer her towards the finer things in life. It will be small, befitting her age and your pocketbook unless you are Auntie Warbucks, but it could be a real gold or sterling silver locket or a necklace with a cultured pearl or tiny initial or a delicate bracelet. This is a way of letting her know that real jewelry is special and needs to be taken care of. You could present it in a small jewelry box too.
A scarf, a real silk one, from a real store and in the store's gift box. Make it small and pattern/color appropriate— polka dots, stripe, checks or plaids. Paisleys are too old. Animal prints are ageless.
A wallet with places for cards and change and moolah (don't forget to add a little jingle for good luck). This helps teach organizational skills and recognizes that she has important things to carry.
A sewing kit and a lesson in sewing buttons and doing minor repairs will come in handy forever. You can find small sewing baskets and add needles, pins, pincushion, thread assortment, small scissors, seam ripper, tape measure and #1 crochet hook (for fixing snags). Don't forget a needle threader!
A fashion craft kit to create her own accessories may interest a girl totally immersed in fashion. Choose a kit that allows her to make the most choices. Something ready to construct and matching a sample is not going to encourage originality.
A fashion history book. She's never too young to realize that fashion and history go together. Most books follow fashion timelines with lots of pictures. Any knowledge will lead a curious mind to learning more.
I observed the truth of "don't dumb it down" as an adult. Some years ago my department head (male) gave our son a Miles Davis cd for Christmas. It took a while to get up the nerve, but I finally asked Ben where he bought the album so I could exchange it for something a 13-year-old would like (preferably by Nirvana). Ben politely declined, saying "one day he will really appreciate it". When that day did come along, not only was Miles Davis deemed "cool", so was Ben.
Between a manicure set and Miles Davis, there's a lesson in gifting for you.