Holiday Gift Guide: Toys for Grown-Ups

Holiday Gift Guide: Toys for Grown-Ups


When I was a kid, I never got the “cool toy.” No Space 1999 Eagle Playset for me. So as an adult, I’ve indulged in a fascination with toys that really hasn’t quit. In the spirit of being a grownup and being able to buy the “cool toy” just because you can (and you want to play with it), here are some suggestions for toy-loving grown-ups.


BrickArms Lego-compatible weaponry, $20 for the pictured set
Lego sells plenty of sets with conflict represented in them, including Indiana Jones and Star Wars — but it is a fictional, cinematic sort of combat. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Gulf War-themed Lego set, or even a World War II model. The good news is that you don’t need to: independent company BrickArms molds their own Lego-compatible elements including sets themed for modern, WWII, sci-fi, spy, as well as “zombie apocalypse.”


Compressed Air Rocket Kit, $50 in the Maker Shed
Pulled from the pages of MAKE Volume 15 (included in the kit), these rockets will go 200-300 feet in the air with just 18 or so bicycle pumps of air.


Atari Punk Console Kit, $25 in the Maker Shed.
An easy and fun soldering project that makes a simple sound generator. BYO enclosure; it fits in a mint tin.


2600: The Hacker Quarterly, $24
The longest-lasting hacker magazine out there, and showing no signs of slowing down. Still packed with juicy stories about alleged security vulnerabilities, awesome letters to the editor, and essays by such DIY luminaries as Bre Pettis and Phil Torrone.


Thames & Kosmos C3000
While in many respects the classic chemistry sets we grew up with are dead, there are still a couple of good ones. This Thames & Kosmos monster set will definitely please the hobbyist-chemist.


Open Design RPG design patronage, $ varies

The Open Design folks hit on a clever idea — roleplaying game design via patronage, where a group of patrons hire writers, artists, and cartographers to create their very own D&D adventures. Depending on how much dough you throw down, you can influence the design — maybe suggest a monster, or name a NPC?


Beginners lockpicking set, $40, Maker Shed
Just what you need to engage in the gentlemaker’s pastime of locksport. There’s a reason why every hacker convention has a lockpicking booth and every hackerspace keeps a couple of locks around.


Abraham Nedderman’s Unconventional Dice, $5-100, his eBay store
Artisan gaming dice maker(!), Neddermann’s dice are taking on an increasing sophistication as he experiments with different ways to decorate dice. He even built a homebrew laser-etcher, how cool is that?


The Lego Technic Idea Books, $49, No Starch
I love Yoshihito Isogawa’s three Idea Books. They’re packed with cool model after amazingly cool model, with step-by-step instructions showing how to make them yourself. There is no text whatsoever, and I love how simple and quiet each page is; the author uses a rainbow of different-colored elements to help you tell them apart.


Magic: Archenemy, $15,
Magic: The Gathering has been around forever, with the same basic shtick the whole time — play a wizard with a collection of spells at his or her disposal, and duel your friends ’til only one remains. With Archenemy, one player takes the role of the bad guy, and packs a regular deck plus a stack of oversized “scheme” cards that give the player some extra powers. The schemes are hilariously named, evoking the diabolical monologues of egomaniacal baddies.

, $225
Bit Blob 2, Bleep Labs
A beautiful and creative electronic musical instrument, you create noise by connecting the various pins together. Want!


K’nex Loopin’ Lightning Coaster, $40,
Girder-like building set that you can use to make cool structures like skyscrapers and roller coasters.

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
, 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:

15 (Wed) – Postal shipping deadline
14 (Mon) – Ground shipping deadline
18 (Sat) – 3-day shipping deadline
20 (Mon) – 2-day shipping deadline
21 (Tue) – Overnight shipping deadline

*Orders placed after these dates using these shipping methods may
arrive on time; however, the dates listed are what we consider likely
“safe dates.”

United States Postal Service (USPS):
Due to the high volume of mail that the postal service deals with
around the holidays, please order by Dec 15 if you intend to select
this method. However, we have had increased reports of packages sent
via USPS lost or delayed in transit during this high-volume period.
Since we do not replace or refund any order placed using this shipping
method, we strongly encourage you not to use this method in

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

View more articles by John Baichtal


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