Is it just me, or is there no way it’s almost Thanksgiving, which means it’s almost Black Friday, which means I am so behind on holiday gifts? For those of you who have perfectly wrapped gifts already stashed away, you can stop reading now. For everyone else (my people!), I’ve got you covered.
First, you need to feed your kids so you can have a few minutes to yourself. This is the year we discovered NUGGS, plant-based chicken nuggets that our kids literally beg for, so popping those in the oven is step one (add ketchup).
Then you need to pour yourself a drink. It’s been a long year(s). You deserve it.
Now, the shopping begins. Our friends at INSPIRE at Purdue University have taken a lot of the guesswork out of choosing amazing gifts. Each one listed here promises to make children-size eyes pop and might get them into college. #you’rewelcome
For little kids, they have a hands-down favorite: the Mochi Robotics Kit. It’s an adorable bear in a code-able little car that your kids can bedazzle and reinvent with LEGOs. Kids learn computational thinking and direct the bear around a playmat that reminded me of a twister board, based on challenges in an included storybook. Oh, and did I mention: It’s screen-free. Because we are all detoxxing.
Speaking of screenless, there are some great new books for the littles in your life this year. Future Engineers, a board book by Lori Alexander, and Abby Invents, by Dr. Arlene Simons, were two that the Purdue engineering students and team loved the most.
For your tween set (I have two of these at home), I have some strong recommends: Our 11-year old is constantly cutting, gluing, and tinkering, and right now, I will do anything to keep her from making slime that will need to be picked out of the rug or creating homemade Orbeez balloon fidgets that will eventually explode in her bed. The perfect solution: Yellow Scope’s science kits. A few years back, we bought her a chemistry kit that neither fizzled nor risked explosion. Untouched for years, it eventually made its sad way to a landfill. The Yellow Scope science kits have the actual chemical reagents and directions to make cool stuff, from unpoppable bubbles to elephant toothpaste. I can’t promise you won’t be picking the detritus out of your rug, but at least this mess will be for the sake of science. Really, though, it’s hours of self-directed edutainment that can transform into an unnamed wizard’s Potions class when little siblings come along and want to join the fun.
If your kid tends toward wearables, Imagicharms are an amazing little toy that makes coding fun, accessible, and tres chic. It’s a little cube that can be coded with all kinds of images, colors, and patterns and then worn on a backpack for some holiday light as the nights get darker.
And for your older crew, I have two really great options. Paper airplanes never get old, but the emped up PowerUp 4.0 Smartphone-Controlled Paper Airplanes take the age-old pastime to 11. They’re simple to design and easy to use and make for playful holiday morning family competitions.
And finally, for the die-hard scientist or engineer, whether 8, 18, or 88, the Mand Labs KIT-1 is the pinnacle of gift-giving magic. Its elegant box (one of my kids audibly oohed when she discovered the hidden
drawers) is packed with 160 electronic components and tools. With step-by-step guides and learning videos, kids can make dozens of hands-on projects as they intuit and internalize physics, math, and engineering concepts.
And whether your house comes with a fireplace or a fire escape, once all the gifts are opened and the hot chocolate drunk, go analog. There is nothing like building a fort festooned with wrapping paper or a Rube Goldberg machine made out of Amazon boxes, packing tubes and ribbon to really bring home the holiday cheer. Happy almost 2022 — hope it’s better than 2021!