Tiffany Ard

By junior high, Tiffany Ard was a self-identified nerd. "I was too afraid of being hit by a ball to do sports, too shy to be a theater kid, too unpopular to be one of the popular kids," says the illustrator and science enthusiast. "The kids I spent time with liked writing stories and inventing languages and pretending to be time travelers." When she had a child of her own, Tiffany realized there were plenty of toys designed to make tots smart and successful—but dorky for the sheer fun of it? Not so much. Her Nerdy Baby line fills the (cosmic) void. "The best gifts invite open-ended play and make kids feel empowered to experiment fearlessly," she notes. "If they happen to learn some fun science facts, all the better."