The fifth in our series of 2011 Holiday Gift Guides covers toys and activities for the older kids and grown-ups on your holiday gift list. Some of these are aimed toward the under-18 crowd, but many of them are just as much for grown-ups as they are for kids. What catches your eye? Share your ideas in the comments.
Lego Volkswagen T1 Camper Van
New this year from Lego is the Lego Volkswagen T1 Camper Van. Relive the days of your youth, or experience a different time while you build and play with this incredibly fun model. With 1,332 pieces, the Camper Van will give you and your loved ones hours of enjoyment during assembly, and even more fun playing with it afterward. With functional wheels, doors, trunk, and pop top, any Lego lover on your list will enjoy this gift.
Lego Architecture Robie House (and other Lego Architecture kits)
This year’s incredibly detailed and ambitious Lego Architecture kit is the Robie House, complete with 2,276 pieces. Easier to build than the Lego Volkswagen T1 Camper Van because of its many identical pieces, this is a great activity to do with your kids, with a friend, or alone. You’ll end up with a fantastic model of a large, iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house that will look great on your bookshelf. Also check out the new Lego Architecture Farnsworth House and the Lego Architecture Brandenburg Gate. There are plenty of other Lego Architecture kits in a variety of sizes and prices as well.
Love building with Lego but can’t afford the intricate kits? Or have you run out of room on your bookshelf for all of your finished models? Nanoblocks offers a similar building experience, but on a much smaller scale. A bit like training a bonsai compared to trimming a regular tree, building Nanoblocks kits lets you create architectural or animal models with an itty bitty footprint.
Get the arcade experience, on a slightly smaller scale, with your iPad and the iCade made by ThinkGeek. With a free Atari app, or one of a number of other iCade compatible apps, play games on your iPad with a joystick and buttons instead of finger gestures! Just like we used to.
Doctor Who Character Building The Time of Angels Mini Set
$18.99 from Amazon.com
For ages 5 years and over
The Doctor and Amy, along with River Song, went hunting for a solitary Angel but found an army of angels instead! From the fifth season of “Doctor Who,” little Whovians can play along with this construction set that includes a fully articulated Weeping Angel mini-figure. It is also compatible with other popular building systems, like Lego. Comes with one weeping angel figure, other figures pictured not included.
Doctor Who Character Building Eleventh Doctors Micro Figure Collector Pack
$42.99 fom Amazon.com
For ages 5 years and over
For the hardcore little Whovian, it’s the ultimate Doctor Who mini-figure set! All eleven incarnations of the Doctor as detailed micro-figures come in an awesome TARDIS display box. Each micro-figure includes a Doctor Who display base.
Doctor Who Character Building Tardis Mini Set with Figures
$25.00 from Amazon.com
For ages 5 years and over
The Tardis Mini Building Set comes with two mini-figures, the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond. Put this with other Character Building play sets, and kids can create their own adventures through time with the Doctor and his companions! It is compatible with other popular building systems, like Lego.
Star Wars Alarm Clocks
Less than $25
If you have a kid who isn’t generally friends with his/her alarm clock (and who doesn’t?) maybe you just need a change of pace. Maybe it’s time to switch out that blaring, round, boring clock for a menacing Darth Vader Mini Figure Alarm Clock. Who’s going to argue with the Master of Evil when it’s time to get up? And imagine how fun it would be to see this on the dorm or office desk of a grown up Star Wars fan that you know. He can be posed to run, stand or sit and conveniently does contain a snooze button. For less than $25, it also comes in Storm Trooper or Yoda versions, in case Darth is too intimidating for you.
Light Saber Room Light
Less than $20
If you’ve got a Star Wars loving kid, you can’t go wrong with this Light Saber Room Light. It’s a cool addition to any bedroom and does double duty as a nifty night light too. You can pick one up for less than 20 bucks at Amazon.com.
$6 to $8
Any Lego loving family will appreciate the newest product for Lego bricks, called Brick Stix. Designed by a nine year old named Greyson, who wanted to expand his play options, these clever, repositionable clings can turn your plain bricks into rescue vehicles, puppy dogs, or a detailed retail store. My favorite packs are the Zombie stickers, complete with boarded up doors and blood spattered shirts, and the WWII themed pack, which contains authentic military uniforms for your favorite mini figures. All of these stickers are temporary and can be peeled off and used over and over. They range in price from $6 to $8, which is a steal, since they open up a whole new world for your current Lego collection.
Lego Minifigures Fairy Tale/Historic Collection
Just over $40
There’s no denying that Lego mini figures open up a lot of pretend play opportunities and it’s fun to have options like this huge set of figures, called the Lego Fairy Tale/Historic Collection. The price tag, at just over $40, may seem steep, but considering how much individual figures cost, and the fact that this set contains tons of accessories, it’s really a great deal. There’s a nice mix of girl and boy figures too, with mermaid, witches, and queens mixed in with skeletons and pirates. Introducing this set into your child’s Lego collection will almost guarantee hours of ‘new’ play with their old sets.
Playmobil Toys and Sets
$8 to $40
It’s a sad day, when you have tubs of Playmobil that line the toy room and suddenly your children see them as “little kid” toys. Fortunately the company has stepped up and introduced some products that successfully link their great, detailed sets with older kid products. The Click and Go Jet is one example. It’s a fun flying toy, but it folds up and clicks onto a belt, for portability. This is one entertaining toy that could keep little hands distracted in waiting rooms and grocery store lines. For the slightly older child, there’s the new Secret Agent line. These include jets, race cars and trucks, equipped with special features, like a real spy camera and ultraviolet flashlights that reveal hidden stickers. The sets range in price from $8 to $40 and are all interchangeable with your current Playmobil sets.
Mighty World Toys
$12 to $80
The term educational toys doesn’t just apply to video games that teach addition and science kits that threaten to blow up your living room. Sometimes just introducing new careers to your little one can be educational. The “Mighty World’ series is a great place to start. First, there’s the Mighty World Marine Research Unit, which comes with a girl and boy scientist and all their gear. Or what about the Special Operations Unit, complete with a robotic defense system? And if you’ve got a mini firefighter in your midst, you might want to try the Mighty World Fire Chief set. Any one of the Mighty World sets, that range in price from $12.00 to $80.00, can open up great discussions about fun careers that are possible for every geek kid.
Beyblade Metal Masters Triple Battle Set
The official product description states, “Customize the BEYSTADIUM with three battle cores: the Zip Core forces straightline movement, the Chaos Core brings chaos to the tops’ movement, and the Deflector Core brings craziness because it affects rightspin and leftspin tops differently! With the tournament grids and official rule book, you’re ready to do battle with all comers!” According to my youngest son (age 6 1/2), “All of the three interchangeable core really affect all of the Beyblades differently. The yellow panel [Chaos Core] seems to cause the most damage to your enemy Beyblade, the performance tip will get caught in a groove and lose spin power. The green one [Deflector Core] does the second most damage, because the attack tops that usually move all over the stadium will get stuck in one of the grooves and lose power. The red one [Zip Core] does the least damage, with this one the tops will spend the most time battling each other instead of getting caught in the grooves.” (Read GeekMom’s review of this product.)
Transformers KRE-O Building Sets
$7.99 to $49.99
Hasbro’s new Transformers KRE-O building sets bring Lego-brick-like construction capability to America’s favorite transforming robots. Hasbro doesn’t pretend that their product is superior to Legos, and even advertises on the packaging that their bricks are compatible with many other brick sets. We’ve received feedback on our review post that the bricks interchange really well with Legos, but the minifigures don’t quite stand up to their Danish counterparts. This didn’t stop GeekMom Patricia’s sons from really enjoying assembling their Bumblebee set. Each set allows users to use the same set of bricks to make either the robot or their vehicle. Geek Parents are challenged to come up with a way to help turn the set into a truly transformable robot/vehicle! (Read GeekMom’s review of this product.)
LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0
Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 is a robotics kit from Lego that lets kids (and eager parents) ages 9 and up design and program real, working robots. The kit comes with parts for bilding and a “Lego brick” that allows programming either from the device or using desktop software, which is also included. This is a toy that isn’t easily outgrown, and geeks around the world are constantly finding new uses for their NXT robots.
APPfinity AppBlaster for iPhone/iPod Touch
Do you have a favorite shooting game iPhone App? This iPhone/iPod Touch Accessory turns your phone iDevice into a life-like shooting arcade. The apps downloaded from the iTunes App store use augmented reality to create a completely safe shooting arcade out of your own living room.
Lego Shuttle Set
This Lego building set is a great way to remember the final flight of the space shuttle program in 2011. This replica stands 17.5 inches tall with a 10 inch wing span. The detail on this set is impressive featuring a satellite filled payload bay, cockpit big enough to fit two astronaut minifigs, removable external tanks and a service vehicle. 1,204 pieces.
This little gadget is a must for tablet gamers. It gives you more control over the touch screen motion controls in most games and brings your gaming to the next level. Simply attach the joy stick to your screen with it attached suction cup, no wires or batteries required. The JOYSTICK-IT works with any device which features a capacitive touchscreen, including the iPad and Android tablets.
SparkFun Inventor’s Kit for Arduino
The SparkFun Inventor’s kit has everything you could need to outfit the very beginner with everything they could need to explore programmable electronics. This kit includes all of the electronic bits to build 12 basic circuits, no soldering required.
Uncle Milton Ant Farm Revolution
Your run-of-the-mill ant farm is already a pretty cool gift, but the Ant Farm Revolution from Uncle Milton takes ant farms to a whole new level. Not only is there a 360-degree view of the ants as they tunnel through the space-age green gel, but there’s also an LED light and projecting lens to project the creepy crawlers on your ceiling.
Lazer Stunt Chaser
The Lazer Stunt Chaser is not your ordinary RC car. This car comes with a laser gun, and the car will speed after any spot where you point your laser. If there’s something in the car’s way, no problem – it’ll probably flip right over the obstacle with its two-sided design. The Lazer Stunt Chaser inspires building as you devise new ramps and obstacles for it to conquer.
I Heart Guts Plush Intestines
Ever want to cuddle up with your organs? Now you can with I Heart Guts plush organs. Your stuffed intestines have never looked so adorable, and nothing says I heart you quite like a humongous heart plush.
LEGO Minifigures Collection
Remember the thrill and mystery of grab bags? Lego offers that same element of surprise with their new Minifigures Collections. Each collection includes 16 different minifigures, sold individually in an secret package. What’s inside is a mystery. We’ve written in the past about these collections, but new this holiday season? Series four and five. Series 4 features a hockey player, a punk rocker, and an artist. In Series 5 you might get a dwarf, a zookeeper, or a gladiator. Of course, there are no duds with these grab bags. At just $4.99 each, surely Santa’s snatching these up for stocking stuffers.
Whether your kids play with Matchbox cars, wooden trains, or create their own cityscapes out of blocks, these familiar signs are a great addition to their roadways. The set includes 14 signs and signals. Imagination not included.