There’s a funny thing about dads’ toys. Very often, kids borrow dad’s supposedly grown-up toys and dad plays with toys designed for a much younger demographic. With that in mind, we present the Gifts for Dads list, filled with stuff that may appeal to more than one generation in your household. And you may also want to check out the holiday gift guides over on the GeekDad blog.
Larson Scanner Kit (Maker Shed, $13)
Don’t supersize me, cylonize me. This elegantly simple kit — great for noobs learning to solder — assembles into a row of LEDs that scan back and forth. And for the more accomplished hardware hackers out there, the kit is open source and hackable, with schematics and other info available for download.
Extech EM330 Multimeter (Amazon, $55)
Excellent multimeter on the high-end of the hobbyist spectrum. Comes with features you’d expect: voltage, amperage, resistance and capacitance measurement. But has some fun features too, like a frequency meter and a temperature probe. Also good for homeowners — the non-contact voltage sensor tells you whether a wire is live or not.
Nerf Swords (Amazon, $15-23)
Buy ‘em for the kids, and then fence with them across the yard with your superior upper body strength and manual dexterity. There are two sizes of Nerf sword: a littler one, good for ages five and up, and a big honkin’ model — the Marauder Long Sword — which is definitely for bigger kids and adults. But don’t get just one, unless you really want a fight on your hands. I’d suggest one per kid, including yourself.
Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Set (Lego Store, $280)
The ultimate building set for both kids and dads. The basic set comes with a microcontroller brick, three servos, and a variety of sensors, as well as all the axles, gears, and beams you could ever need. This year’s set is updated with a new color sensor and an even better computer interface.
Lego Mindstorms NXT Robots Alive!: Endangered Species (Amazon, $23)
An educator and mentor for kids interested in NXT, Fay Rhodes, has made a name for herself by designing animal-themed robots. This book shows off five robots with attendant step-by-steps, programming instructions, and even lesson plans. These are awesome projects for dad to do with — or without — the kids.
Leatherman Micra (Amazon, $19)
Sub-$20 Leatherman tool that fits on your keychain. I use it nearly every day, mainly for cutting jobs (with the scissors). When I traveled by plane recently, I took the Micra off my keychain to save the TSA some stress — though predictably, I found myself needing it on the trip. Absolutely essential for those on the go. (Also, be sure to check out the selection of Leatherman tools in the Maker Shed!)
Extech Energy Logger (Global Test Supply, $70)
Just how much juice does that entertainment system use up? How much electricity does your sleeping laptop slurp? Dads need to be on top of energy usage, and it’s not gonna happen through guesswork. You need an energy logger, and the Extech EM100 is a good one. It displays voltage, current, frequency, and power. Its internal memory stores four months of data, updated minutely, or you can transfer the logs to your computer via SD card for some serious number crunching. (And if you’d rather build your own, check out the Tweet-a-Watt kit at Adafruit Industries. The project also appears in MAKE, Volume 18.)
GeekDad T-Shirt (ThinkGeek, $16)
Fans of the Wired nerdblog GeekDad will want to show their colors with this awesome shirt, featuring the charming robot logo on the front, and the blog’s tagcloud on the back. Don’t leave ‘em with any doubt!
Estes Tandem-X Model Rocket Kit (Amazon, $18)
The wonderful hobby of model rocketry teaches kids about aerodynamics, chemistry, physics, even art. Not only can dads join in, adult supervision is essential! But the best thing about rockets is that there’s virtually no way to max out one’s involvement — think of grown men and women launching 20′ rockets in the desert or companies participating in the X Prize. This kit consists of a pair of rockets, engines, and a launch pad.
MAKE Hoodie (Maker Shed, $28)
“If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.” This amazing, wonderful manifesto has liberated countless proto-nerds and would-be makers. Grab that screwdriver and void your warranty! And if you don’t have the right bit for that screw, you totally need more screwdrivers. You definitely need this hoodie.
Victorinox Cybertool 41 (ThinkGeek, $75)
Victorinox was making multitools when the Leatherman folks’ great-grandparents were in diapers. Their recent Cybertool packs all the usual Swiss Army blades like knives, saw, scissors, file, and so on, but it also adds ‘puter-centric tools: DIP switch setter, mini-hex driver with four double-ended bits, and a wrench.
Getting Started with Arduino (Maker Shed, $13)
The Arduino may be the most awesome tool available to amateur electronics buffs. It’s not the only noob-friendly microcontroller, but its popularity means there are countless projects and articles discussing it, easing the learning curve. This book, written by one of the project’s founders, lowers that curve even more — it has everything you need to get started, knowledge-wise anyway!
So what are you asking for? Add your suggestions and wistful yearnings in the comments.
In the Maker Shed:
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.