It’s that time of year. If you’re wondering what to get the kids – little kids, big kids, grown kids, aging kids, cats and dogs – here are 20 surprising ideas.
For little kids with devoted parents
Made by an educational-toy company called Technology Will Save Us (!!), this kit teaches young kids the basics of circuit building by letting them create their own squishy conductible forms. Electrodough comes with cables, LEDs, buzzers, switches and more and uses moldable dough – the result: monsters with light-up eyes, connected alphabet letters, puffy clouds… whatever the imagination conjures. The kit is for ages 4 and up – kids on the younger end will need help. $24.94 at The Saturday Market Project
For kids who are way too old to play with blocks
This is a fun and open-ended and megapopular game in which kids 8 and up build 3D worlds and go on adventures, during which they encounter a range of characters – animals, villagers and hostile creatures. Kids can play Minecraft alone or in a multiplayer version; either way, they get to choose their building materials and pick from among various creative activities, from constructing tunnels and designing castles, to planning an entire community or simply watching the sun rise over a “blocky” ocean. Minecraft has become all the rage with tweens and teens; if your giftee already has it, you can find gifts to complement it: books, action figures, calendars, stuffed animals, and LEGO Minecraft sets. No matter what, these are good gifts to keep in mine . . . er . . . mind. (Available for PC, Mac, Xbox, PlayStation, iPad, iPhone, and Android.) —Linda Abbit
Click here for links to all versions: $26.95 for PC/Mac version,$6.99 for iOS App (Pocket Edition) and Android; $19.99 for PlayStation 4 or Xbox.
For the tween who really wants a tablet
Nextbook 7″ Tablet 16GB Quad Core
This 7-inch Nextbook has the same specs as some much more expensive models, but costs much less. It’s got a quad core processor (very fast) the latest version of Android (4.4 KitKat) and access to the Google Play store for apps. You can upgrade the memory from 16gb to 64gb. Even though Nextbook is an unknown brand, it’s pretty sturdy. I got one each for my daughter and grandson last Christmas and they’re still running just fine.—Erica Manfred. $69 at Walmart.
For families who play together
Ever since R2D2 starred in “Star Wars,” kids have been in love with robots. Mostly they want remote-controlled ones that drive or fly around and crash into things, but this little guy is actually educational. Ozobot uses either an Android or iOS app and requires you to code it so it will follow a pathway that you draw for it. It follows thousands of commands, and memorizes and plays back up to 500 choice moves. Kids and adults can play interactive games with their Ozobots – but the best recommendation is from an Amazon reviewer who says: “Ozobot actually made our kids interact with us around the dining room table rather than being glued to their tablets. Awesome product!” Supposedly it’s for ages 14 and up, but one Amazon reviewer said his 5-year-old loved it.—Erica Manfred $49.99 at Amazon
For the raver in your life
Light Up Glow Visible Current Flow Data Sync Charging Cable
It glows, it lights up, it shows the actual current coursing through it, it syncs, it charges…. This is a perfect stocking stuffer for someone (a teen?) who likes light sticks and longs to go to Burning Man and Coachella. There are light-up charging cables for iPad, iPhone and Android in glowing blue, green, red, pink and purple. Fun! $8.99 on Etsy
For creative early adopters
3D printing is the Next Big Thing and this pen serves as an introduction for creative people aged 14 to, as they say, 114. The 3Doodler comes with a starter set of plastic filaments; the plastic comes out hot and cools fast, letting you draw solid shapes on the fly. On the Doodler site, users can watch how-to videos, download stencils, share their designs and chat with a community of “doodlers.” (Learn more about the pen here and see what Rainbow Girl made with her pen in this video.) $99 on the3doodler. Also available on Amazon.
For the proud senior
Born Before the Internet Unisex T-Shirt
Need we say more? $16.99 in a range of colors on Etsy
For the nostalgic phonographer
LG Popo Pocket Photo Printer
This is for anyone who grew up taking pictures on film and stashing the photos in a
shoebox album, and who now shares digital pictures on Facebook instead while mourning the loss of actual, hold-in-your-hand photos. The pocket-sized photo printer is fully mobile, uses no ink and needs no wires; it connects wirelessly to a mobile device and spits out good quality prints. $131.48 on Amazon
For cutesypies with smartphonitis
The Stance compact tripod
This teeny and infinitely adaptable tripod is smaller than a pack of gum, tilts and rotates, and mounts directly on a phone’s charging port, making it quick to set up and use. It doubles as a tripod for all those selfies, and a stand for watching Vines and Hyperlapses or Facetiming with friends. It even has a built in bottle opener, so your giftee can be ready with a PBR. $29.95 at Kenu
For future grandparents (way future)
I am older than the Internet shirt
Put it in perspective with this statement shirt. It’s available for men and women, and in all sizes and styles: hoodie, T, ringer, tank, etc. From $17.90 (depending on style) at Spreadshirt.
For parents who really need a laugh
This new collection of 300 tweets from funny people on Twitter who also happen to be parents is hilarious! Laughter is a terrific way to reduce holiday stress, and this book is packed with parenting wit – “You could make dinner for a toddler, or you could just cut out the middle man & throw away a plate of food & squirt ketchup on the dog” – not to mention wisdom – “Put a blender on your baby registry. It drowns out the crying and makes margaritas. You’re welcome.” And what exhausted mom or dad can’t relate to, “My signature move is spending 4 hours getting my kids to sleep and then tripping over a basket of cymbals on my way out of the room.” Get a copy for every parent on your list. Then sit back, pour yourself a margarita and enjoy. You’re welcome. —Roz Warren. $10.18 on Amazon.
For people who still have their old record collections
ION Audio Max LP Conversion Turntable
LPs are making a comeback with young folks, but it’s not getting much easier to play them. Because most people are streaming music wirelessly (so much easier!), newer amps often don’t include phono inputs. Enter the ION conversion turntable. If you know a senior who’s held onto their record collection and wants to start spinning again (or someone who’s just gotten hip to the wonders of vinyl), this compact, standalone unit is just the thing. It’s a turntable with a built-in phono pre-amp and stereo speakers, and will also convert records into digital files that can be stored in the cloud or a computer’s music library. It’s compatible with 33 1/3, 45 and really old-school 78 RPM discs; it comes with an adaptor for 45s and, thankfully, it even looks good. Reviews have been favorable. $99.99 at B&H Photo
“Vonnegut by the Dozen: Twelve Pieces by Kurt Vonnegut” on Kindle
For about 20 years, from 1978 to 1998, Kurt Vonnegut contributed plainly stated political pieces to The Nation – essays that frequently lambast America’s warmongering, and which can be as funny and profound as the novelist was in the best of his fiction. This Kindle edition of the essay collection was published by The Nation; it works for anyone who owns a Kindle e-reader, or a smartphone or tablet with a Kindle app. $9.99 on Amazon
For the curious of all ages
23andMe DNA kit
Whether you’re 15 or 75 (or 95), chances are you’re at least a little curious about your ancestry. 23andMe claims to have the world’s largest DNA database; it provides detailed information on complex and mixed ancestry, including populations around the world and specific European regions and if they chose this option, connects people with their DNA relatives near and far. $99 at 23andMe
For your favorite narcissist
Imagine yourself at the edge of the Grand Canyon, or standing on the Eiffel Tower looking out over Paris, and you want to send a selfie to your friends to make them weep with envy. This little gadget makes the process fast and relatively painless… once you’ve figured out what the process is. The manual is not as helpful as you might like, but if you want good instructions, check the first review on Amazon (by top reviewer Tracy Rowan). —Erica Manfred. $24.99 on Amazon
For the quintessential New Yorker (or wanna-be)
Brandon Stanton’s Tumblr blog Humans of New York has become a hugely popular web destination and spawned “Humans of” sites in other cities, as well as this offline coffee-table book, an immediate bestseller. Stanton’s genius lies in his ability to capture the stories of the people he photographs and pick just the right quotes, making the blog – and the book – a mine of engaging portraits. Older New Yorkers feature prominently (see our Top 12 Older Humans of New York); in Stanton’s view, “The best perspectives, and quotes, come from people at the beginning and end of their lives.” $17.99 on Amazon.
For true altruists
$25 toward a microloan donation
Kiva.org crowdsources microloans that help entrepreneurs in more than 70 developing countries start or grow a business. If you give someone $25 or $50 to use on Kiva, they can go online to Kiva’s user-friendly site and pick whom to loan the money to – it might even be a senior. Entrepreneurs have a certain amount of time to repay, and once the original loan has been repaid, your giftee can loan it again to someone new. All around, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. The website will mail or email your recipient a Kiva gift card that explains the mission and process. $25 and up on Kiva.org
For the extremist in your life
You don’t have to be an extreme sports fanatic or have a drone to enjoy the GoPro; these small, extra-rugged cameras are the best-selling in the world because they let users shoot professional looking video and photos from all kinds of unusual viewpoints. The HERO is perfect for a new user. It’s super small, waterproof (to 130 ft.), wearable, rugged and ultra-portable, and user-friendly. The HERO has an ultra-wide angle lens, built-in mic and comes with free GoPro software. Just don’t be surprised if your giftee overshares in 2015; you could be looking at the world from a hula hoop’s perspective – or even from inside a dishwasher! —Linda Abbit. $129.99 at GoPro
For the dog that has everything
Fetch, the Go Pro Harness
Know someone who has a GoPro (see above!) and a dog that likes to run, jump, sniff, dig….? With this new mount strapped around the canine’s belly and the GoPro (a small, rugged video camera typically attached to a drone) held in the harness mount, your giftee will get endless hours of great footage to share on YouTube. Watch a video review on Amazon (the Fetch is out of stock there but you can still find it on the GoPro site). $59.99 at GoPro
For the cat that has everything
Ice Cream Truck for Cats
OK, this gift doesn’t exactly fit the tech description, but since it’s only available online you could call it digital – and we just couldn’t resist. If you know someone who loves their kitty and has enough real estate to accommodate a special kitty hangout, this could be just the thing. The Famous Oto is a small company in Brooklyn that makes illustrated cardboard “houses”; also available are a very exciting taco truck and ice-cream truck for small children. $29 at Famous Oto
For the compulsive texter
Designer touchscreen gloves
We’ve heard that these gloves are exceptionally soft – unusual for gloves that are made to be touchscreen-compatible – as well as warm. In fact, one reviewer compared them to “a second skin.” How do they work? The tips of the fingers are woven with a special fabric. The Eglov also comes in shades of gray. $28 from Moma Store
For the totally tech-weary
“In a bright buzzing room, in the glow of the moon – and iPhones and Androids and Blackberries too – it is time to say goodnight…” This humorous parody of the classic bedtime book is not for kids; it’s for the person who is spending way too much time plugged in to computers, tablets, smartphones, smart watches, activity trackers and all the other wired devices that some of us are trying to catch up with – and others are yearning to turn off. Does that sound like your grown kid? $11.11 on Amazon
Want to share your gift ideas? Help a senior out with some inspiration in the comments section below!