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Geeky Christmas presents for kids?

  I’m busy figuring out cool things to get children for Christmas. (Alas, David, I should have written this post two weeks ago!) Feel free to share  your own ideas and recommendations. tollbooth

  • Book of Totally Irresponsible Science: 64 Daring Experiments for Young Scientists : fun book with lots of attitude. Burning ice! How to make a backyard volcano! I’ve thumbed through the book. It looks great!
  • Phantom Tollbooth, a childhood favorite of mine, with nutty illustrations.
  • Sita Sings the Blues, feature-length creative commons cartoon based on Hindi mythology. Free download.  It wouldn’t hurt to toss in some Charlie Chaplin, Popeye and Gulliver’s Travels.
  • Cheapass Games. Lots of unusual and original board games with minimal packaging.
  • DVD of  Gods Must be Crazy & Gods Must be Crazy 2.  Kids love DVDs, and parents are always buying them the usual Disney/Baby Einstein crap. Gods is not only screamingly funny, but good clean fun and tangentially educational. By the way, this edition includes a poignant documentary about the Bushman actor who appeared in the original film. They visit his village and try to portray village life of the Bush people as realistically as possible. The highlight came when the film crew donated laptops to the village school, and the kids watched the original movie on the laptop. They loved it! 
  • This is not really a gift, but the BigIQ Games has some exercises and games on English vocabulary, math facts, geography.  Basically free, but there is premium membership.
  • Muse Magazine, a really excellent science magazine for kids. Ideal for kids between the ages of 9 and 12.
  • Howtoons, a comic book with science-related adventures.
  • Binoculars (but not a telescope!) for gazing at the stars.

Also, the most recent Make magazine is the kids’ issue . It contains lots of cool projects you can do with kids, but when I thumbed through an issue at a bookstore, it seemed geared primarily to  adult readers. 

Don’t forget content for your kids’ mp3 players (and maybe some speakers for mp3 players and decent headphones).  Has anyone noticed that Sandisk mp3 players are incredibly cheap — 39$ for 4 gigs . May I suggest some additional things:

Obviously, if your child has access to ebook reading software or device, putting some children’s ebooks would be a good thing. See this Mobileread listing of kids books.

Related: My 2007 list of Xmas Novelty Books (for adults).

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Steven Marzuola 12/24/2009, 9:28 am

    Great list. I haven’t seen most of what you are suggesting, but the ones I know about are fantastic. Except: don’t get “Gods Must be Crazy 2”. A pale imitation of the original. Maybe the kids will like it, but thinking adults don’t, IMO.

    P.S. Happy Holidays, if you have any.

  • Robert Nagle 12/24/2009, 12:31 pm

    I agree. Gods 2 was nowhere near as good as Gods 1 (although it was written by and directed by the same person). But I the DVD distributors sensed this too; that’s why they bundled them together. But Gods 2 wasn’t abominable and it did feature two child actors and a family-friendly plot. I would feel much more comfortable with elementary students watching Gods 2 than any of the Transformers. By the way, the Bushman finally got paid a real salary this time.

    You may not realize this, but there were in fact 4 Sequels , 3 of which were produced in Asia. Written and directed by different people. Compared to 3-5, Gods 2 was like Casablanca. But Xi the Bushman made a good profit off them. He died a few years ago btw).

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