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The holiday season is a great time of year, especially for kids! This year I came up with a list of products that will inspire your children, and let you in on the fun too! Many of these recommendations were inspired by my own childhood. I certainly made a lot of kits growing up, and I’ve included a few of my favorites in this list! Remember, the holiday season is a great time to start a new project with your kids. Teach them something new, get involved….and don’t forget to have some fun!

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Haba architectural blocks (OOMPA, $16.49 – $89.99)
I was lucky enough as a kid to have a really cool set of blocks that were made by my grandfather. We made houses, mazes for our little rodent friends, racetracks, and just about anything else you could imagine. Most blocks today are standard squares and rectangles, maybe an arch or two. Haba blocks are the exception. They make an incredible variety of blocks, including Baroque Building Blocks, the Coliseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Castle parts, and a lot more. Be sure to click through all the pages to see the complete line of Haba architectural building blocks.

Drawdio Kit (Maker Shed, $19.50)
Drawdio is a really fun DIY electronics kit and musical instrument. It’s easy to assemble, and fun to hack! Drawdio has been kid-tested at my house for many hours, and is a hit with everyone who tries it! The kit requires some soldering, but you could make that into a great learning experience for your little engineer in training.

Drawdio is an electronic pencil that lets you make music while you draw! It’s a great project for beginners: An easy kit with instant gratification! Essentially, its a very simple musical synthesizer that uses the conductive properties of pencil graphite to create different sounds. The result is a fun toy that lets you draw musical instruments on any piece of paper.

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Telescope (Orion, $49.95 – $300+)
I have to admit, I never owned a telescope, but that may change soon. Recently, I’ve been researching telescopes, both DIY and commercial versions. I plan on getting a truss tube Dobsonian scope one day, but they’re fairly expensive, so I might have to wait a while longer, or try to make a DIY version. Orion seems to have a nice selection of beginner scopes, at reasonable prices. However, do your research before making any large investment.

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Erector Sets (Maker Shed, $34.99 – $99.95)
I bet a lot of our readers had Erector Sets when they were younger. Who am I kidding? I bet a lot of our readers have Erector Sets today! The great thing about this build system is that it allows you to make more than just what’s pictured on the box. It’s filled with open-ended play and experimentation. Did you know it was invented by A.C. Gilbert in 1913? Want to learn more about the history of the Erector Set, check out this site, it’s really interesting.

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4D-Shark Anatomy Puzzle (Discovery $24.95)
This one is for the budding biologist in the family. Puzzles are fun, but 4D puzzles are really fun! This kit features detachable organs and body parts, along with a book that describes all the organ functions of the shark, and more. Not a big fan of sharks? Then check out the 4D-Tyrannosaurus Rex.

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Welcome to MAKE Bundle (Maker Shed, $48.00)

What better way to inspire your kid than picking up a subscription to MAKE! Each volume is packed with DIY goodness, especially Make, Volume 20, which features tons of projects for kids (of all ages)!

Volume 20: Make Vol. 20 features a season’s worth of how-to projects that kids and their parents can build together, including a model rocket powered by hydrogen and oxygen extracted from water, a sleek wooden model sailboat, a laser light show built in a metal lunchbox, and a microscope based on the very first one ever built by Antony van Leeuwenhoek in the 17th century. If you’re looking for a prize-winning science fair project, or just want to have fun, this special For Kids of All Ages issue of Make has something for you!

If you’re new to MAKE, the Welcome to MAKE Bundle might be a good choice. Along with a year subscription to the magazine, you can catch up with The Best of MAKE collection, which features DIY projects from the magazine’s first ten volumes. Also included in the bundle is our popular Maker’s Notebook. It’s a great way to start planning and sketching out your ideas.

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Balsa Airplane kits (Guillow, Fokker DR-1 Triplane $45.99)
I remember making this kit, and a lot of other balsa planes, as a kid. It was a lot of fun spending a few days gluing up the wings, assembling the fuselage, and finally covering the entire plane in tissue paper. It’s an incredible feeling to wind the rubber band for the first time, launch the plane, and pray that it doesn’t fly into a tree or come crashing to the ground. Most of the time it soared beautifully, other times it spiraled into a death roll. It didn’t really matter if it broke, since you built it from scratch and knew every little detail of the way it was made. Usually, it was a simple fix, and you were back in business.

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Microscope Set (Maker Shed, $154.95)
This microscope set is geared towards young scientists (age 7 – 14) who want to learn more about science and the microscopic world around them. This is not one of those toy microscope sets at the local mall. Your kids can do real science with this set, everything from their first close-up examinations of leaf structures, insects, pond life, and fibers to preparing whole mount slides, section slides, and more.

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OLLO kits (Maker Shed, $29.95 – $99.95)
Think of the OLLO kits as a cross between Lego and Erector. They use a unique building system of plates and rivets to make several different models. My kids and I really enjoyed building both of the OLLO kits. I think our favorite was the robotic bugs, but the little puppy in the Action Kit is fun too!

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1:8 Ford Plastic Model Kit (Revell, $8+)

Another great childhood memory of mine was building model cars. Although I never had a super-sized one like the model shown here (which sells for around $80). However, I did have a lot of other, less expensive kits. You can pick up a model car kit for less than $20. Check out Revell’s website to find your local dealer or buy online at Amazon.

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LEGO (LEGO, $5 – $100+)
After 70 years, Lego is still really popular among kids and grownups alike. We love Legos here at MAKE, just look how many entries we have about these amazing little plastic bricks! My personal favorites are the Technic and Mindstorms series.

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Howtoons (Maker Shed, $15.99)
Howtoons are cartoons that teach 8 – 15 year old readers how to build, create, and explore things. Combining a fun, full-color, cartoon format with real-life science and engineering principles, Howtoons encourage kids to become active participants in the world around them. Howtoons also appears as a regular feature in MAKE magazine.

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Totem Nature (Kidsonroof, $31.99)
These kits feature over 120 building cards printed with flowers, butterflies, wild animals, and more. Like other building sets, this one allows for open-ended play and exploration, which will keep you child’s imagination going for hours. The cards are made from recycled laminated cardboard, and are manufactured in Holland. They are available from several online retailers, including uncommon goods and OOMPA.

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Robotic arm kit (Maker Shed, $49.95)
With this award-winning Robotic Arm Kit, you can control the gripper, wrist, elbow, base rotation, and motion, all from the tethered remote. The robotic arm has a vertical reach of 15′, horizontal reach of 12.6″, and lifting capacity of 100g. Features include a searchlight on the gripper and an audible indicator on all five gearboxes to prevent any potential injury or gear breakage during operation. Who’s going to be the first to hack this with an Arduino?

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TV-B-Gone keychain (Maker Shed, $20)
Help your kids, in a sneaky way, to get off the couch and make something! Maybe after you turn the TV off with the TV-B-Gone keychain, you could teach them to solder and make an even more powerful Super TV-B-Gone kit? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a little TV on occasion, especially Make: television!

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Family Vacation at Maker Faire (Roadtrip $Varies depending on travel expenses)
This is by far my favorite holiday gift. How about promising a family trip to Maker Faire? I know it’s a hard thing to wrap up for the holiday gift-giving season, but it will be something they’ll never forget. The best present you can give any child is quality time spent together as a family. The best part about Maker Faire is the variety of things to see and do. There is something for everyone at Maker Faire.

LEARN TO MAKE, CRAFT, DESIGN OR DEVELOP:
• Robots • Rockets • Bicycles • Alternative Energy Devices • Electronics • Crafts
• Circuit Boards • Sustainable Food • Musical Instruments • Wood Working
• Knitting • Eco Modding Cars • Kites • Special Effects • Sewing • and more…

Maker Faire is a two-day, family-friendly event that celebrates the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset. It’s for creative, resourceful people of all ages and backgrounds who like to tinker and make things. So much to see, you will need two days to see it all!

You could always purchase some Maker Faire “stuff” and wrap it with an IOU!

In the Maker Shed:
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Want more? Stop by the Maker Shed. We’ve got all sorts of great holiday gift ideas, Arduino & Arduino accessories, electronic kits, science kits, smart stuff for kids, back issues of MAKE & CRAFT, box sets, books, robots, kits from Japan and more.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines in December:

04 (Fri) – Deadline for microscope shipping
11 (Fri) – postal shipping deadline
14 (Mon) – ground shipping deadline
18 (Fri) – FedEx 3-day shipping deadline
21 (Mon) – FedEx 2-day shipping deadline
22 (Tue) – FedEx overnight shipping deadline

*Customers experiences on orders with these ship methods placed after these dates may vary, the dates listed are what we call “safe dates”

USPS (Any Method):
Due to the high volume of mail that the postal service deals with around the holidays, order by Dec. 10th, however, many packages are lost or delayed in transit and we do not replace or refund any orders lost using this ship method, we strongly encourage you to not use this method in December.

Marc de Vinck

I’m currently working full time as the Dexter F. Baker Professor of Practice in Creativity in the Masters of Engineering in Technical Entrepreneurship Program at Lehigh University. I’m also an avid product designer, kit maker, author, father, tinkerer, and member of the MAKE Technical Advisory board.


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