Toys/gifts to consider
Zome: There is something hypnotic about building with Zome. I’ve watched many kids pick up a Zome stick, figure out how to connect it to sphere connector piece in seconds and minutes later have a structure they’re proud to display. Zome, mathematically-designed, uses geometry and provides a hands-on connection to surface area and volume of basic 3D solids. But for kids, teens and adults alike, it’s just a great building fun.
Hobby items: One hobby item we enjoyed was a rock tumbler. It involved a time investment, in research and in actually tumbling the rocks, but it kept our family busy one winter. It’s not a cheap gift, prices start at $50 for a hobby model and over $100 for a more professional model but it can bring hours of non-TV-based fun. Is there some hobby you’ve been thinking about starting with your family? Christmas is a great time to indulge in it.
Books: I loved buying books for my children when they were young. As they’ve gotten older, it’s been hard to keep track of what they’ve read, what they want or like to read and, moreover, what they’d like to have a good copy of. Buying books for others is hard. You can always try to surprise them but for older kids, teens and others, a gift card to Barnes & Noble might be a better idea. One resource I’ve found is Paperback Swap, where you can swap books you don’t want for other books. It’s too late to do this for Christmas, probably, but still worth a mention because it’s free (except for the postage).
Word games: Scrabble, Banagrams, Apples to Apples and Boggle are some favorites that come to mind. Apples to Apples is unique in that it requires some vocabulary and background knowledge. It can be adapted for younger children, if you’re creative and the older children don’t mind.
Creative play: inexpensive musical instruments like a recorder make great stocking stuffers. If the giftee already plays an instrument, branch out into some other instrument for fun. Or for more colorful, creative fun, remember Spirograph? They still sell them. Delving into your toy history can provide some great ideas for gifts. What did you enjoy as a child?
Board/stratgy games: Newer games like Blokus (for builder-types), Settlers of Catan (strategy) and Imaginiff (creative thinking) are great but there are also old classics like Stratego and Risk, great for problem-solving and planning ahead.
Card games: Beyond Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh cards, there a number of other card games that kids (generally 10 and older) enjoy, including Dominion and Magic the Gathering.
ThinkGeek offers a wide variety of gift possibilities but my favorite things are the t-shirts. They have classic shirts like a big Pi symbol filled with the actual digits but also some unique items like the Electronic Rock Guitar Shirt, which really does play guitar chords, and the Batman raincoat for children, sizes 6 and under.
American Science and Surplus: Science geeks galore love this place. It’s in Milwaukee but has an online store that’s pretty good too. Here you’ll find gifts for every kind of gifted person, not just the science-minded. Think of it as Grandpa’s basement, with all kinds of weird, interesting and unusual thinks.
Some favorite items include the see-through people kits for learning anatomy, which includes a 15-inch tall model of the human body, including skeleton, internal organs and a clear plastic skin, gross but fascinating.
Or if you’re looking for a gyroscope, like one kid I know, they’ve got those here, too.
Last bit of advice, from a teen: ask your giftee what they want. Just because they’re a drummer doesn’t mean they want light-up drumsticks, apparently (especially if they’re a picky teen).
If worse comes to worse, there’s always coal, which can spark all kinds of interesting discussions.
Do you have a great gift idea for the gifted during the holidays? Let us know in the comments.