2021 Holiday Gift Guide – Toys and Gadgets

Crosspost Featured GeekDad GeekMom Gift Guide

Nothing tells your favorite geek that you love them quite like the gift of a toy or gadget! We’re continuing our 2021 Holiday Gift Guide with some of our favorite toys and gadgets to help you find some fun gifts for everyone on your shopping list.

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. This means that the contributor (or GeekDad) may make a small amount of commission if you click through and purchase the item at no extra cost to you. We may have also received the item for review from the manufacturer, and this in no way influences our opinions. If we don’t like something you will not see it here.

Gadgets

Cubii Pro
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: Cubii
Price: $349
Purchase: Cubii Pro
In 2016, the Cubii under-desk elliptical literally changed my approach to fitness. In 2021, the newly retooled Cubii Pro reignited my passion for in-office cardio. This sit-down exercise gadget is my worktime go-to, allowing me to get my steps in even in the face of yet another Zoom meeting. Its low profile and whisper-quiet pedals make it perfectly discreet, and its eight levels of resistance make it an ideal match for you no matter your health goals. Connect easily via Bluetooth to the companion app to see real-time views of your calories burned, steps and strides, distance traveled, and your cumulative time spent exercising. Built-in progress charts and community features help keep even the most irresolute motivated, plus the new Cubii Studio+ wellness platform offers a subscription-based program that includes both live and on-demand classes. Best of all, the Cubii Pro includes support for popular platforms like Apple HealthKit and Fitbit, making it even easier to integrate this genius little device into your existing health regimen. (Review materials provided by Cubii.)


Forté for iPhone MagSafe Stand
Suggested By: Mordechai Luchins
Mfg: 12South
Price: 34.99
Purchase: Forté for iPhone MagSafe Stand
I used to live and die by my 12South HiRise, but I wished it was wireless. Wish no more. The Forté is a fantastic stand for your MagSafe compatible iPhone. I use mine daily at work. This is a great gift for someone who wants to set their iPhone down at work, but not stay totally tethered to it. Oh, and it will charge your Airpods too, and any QI compatible phone (without the magnetics).

Note that the MagSafe adapter is sold separately.

WD 1TB My Passport SSD External Portable Solid State Drive
Suggested By: Dakster Sullivan
Mfg: Western Digital
Price: $119
Purchase: WD 1TB My Passport SSD External Portable Solid State Drive
Western Digital makes my favorite storage devices. This solid state drive is super small, fast, drop resistant up to 6.5 feet and is cross compatible with USB 3.2 Gen-2 and USB-C. They come in sizes of 500 GB to up to 4 TB.


CZUR Shine Ultra
Suggested By: Rob Huddleston
Mfg: CZUR
Price: $199
Purchase: CZUR Shine Ultra
Beautifully designed hardware combined with smart, powerful software make the CZUR Shine Ultra the ultimate scanning solution, whether you need to scan whole books or just some documents. It also doubles as a document camera, and at a price point much lower than either scanners or document cameras with similar features and quality. Read our full review here.


PowerVolt 32K Portable Power Bank
Suggested By: Michael Kaufman
Mfg: Scosche
Price: $199.99
Purchase: PowerVolt 32K Portable Power Bank
This power bank boasts a 32,000 mAh/118Wh Lithium-Ion battery and will charge multiple portable devices at once with: 30W USB-C (input/output), 20W USB-C and 12W USB-A outputs and a 110V/100W AC outlet. A digital display indicates battery level and a 20W USB-C charger, USB-C charging cable, and protective carrying case are included. 


NextBase 422GW Dash Cam
Suggested By: Dakster Sullivan
Mfg: Next Base
Price: $230
Purchase: NextBase 422GW Dash Cam
The 2.5″ HD Touch screen panel with 1440 HD @ 30fps and enhanced night vision and QuickLink Wi-Fi make this a great dashcam for any driver. Use the built-in Alexa to send messages, play music, find parking, or control smart home devices directly from your dashcam. If you get into an accident, the Emergency SOS will alert first responders to your location. It will automatically record any bump or physical movement to the vehicle when left unattended. Additional accessories available include a rear camera, cabin view, and rear window view. 


The Popular Science by Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 100AZ
Suggested By: Paul Benson
Mfg: Celestron
Price: $299.95
Purchase: The Popular Science by Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 100AZ
Are you looking for a telescope that’s perfect for beginners, but one you can also grow with? Then the Popular Science by Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 100AZ is the one for you! Its 4” lens gives you a nice resolution and light-gathering capabilities, while the sturdy tripod and mount allows you to keep the image firmly centered in your vision. The included StarSense Explorer software not only educates you about the night sky, but helps you find any of the stellar objects you’re searching out. You can read more about the telescope in my recent review. 


M1+ Holiday Bundle
Suggested By: Paul Benson
Mfg:AtmosFX
Price: $359
Purchase: M1+ Holiday Bundle
Ever heard of digital decorating? You can create astonishing scenes and effects with your holiday decorations, without all of the muss and fuss of putting up lights and animatronics. AtmosFX is offering a holiday bundle that includes a compact projector, a gift card, and 20 of their best digital decorations to get you ready for any occasion year-round. You can read my review of the M1+ Holiday Bundle here. 


Xebec Tri-Screen 2
Suggested By: Rob Huddleston
Mfg: Xebec
Price: $459
Purchase: Xebec Tri-Screen 2
Ever wished you could have the convenience and increased productivity of multiple monitors while traveling? The Xebec Tri-Screen 2 gives you just that. You can quickly and easily add two 10″ screens to most laptops. You can be productive while not taking up too much extra space, and it all folds together to fit right back into your backpack or laptop case. An absolute must-have for any road warriors, or anyone else who is starting to travel again and misses all of that extra screenspace they have at home or the office. Watch GeekDad.com for a full review, coming soon!


Sunsa Wand – The World’s Simplest Smart Blinds
Suggested By: Michael Kaufman
Mfg: Sunsa Homes
Price: $80 and up
Purchase: Sunsa Wand – The World’s Simplest Smart Blinds
The Sunsa Wand allows you to automate your existing blinds and even add them to your smart home! Incredibly easy to install, battery operated and controlled from a smartphone app which can then link your blinds from your Amazon Alexa, Google Home, etc.


AlpenGlow USB Lantern
Suggested By: Jonathan H. Liu
Mfg: BioLite
Price:$59.95-$79.95
Purchase: AlpenGlow USB Lantern
These compact LED lamps come in 250-lumen and 500-lumen versions, and have a variety of lighting modes from bright white to flickering candle to shifting colors. Everything is controlled with a single button, with different functions accessed by tapping, pressing and holding, or shaking the lamp, allowing you to control the brightness, change colors, and more. The lamps can run for 5 hours on high or a whopping 200 hours on low, and also have a USB port in case you need to juice up your phone, too.

While it’s great for the outdoors—there’s a hook that flips out so you can hang it up in a tent—they’ve also come in really handy during a power outage as emergency lighting, and I also used them recently to light up some jack-o’-lanterns. Watch for a site-wide sale from November 22 to December 6! 


Logitech Combo Touch
Suggested By: Sophie Brown
Mfg: Logitech
Price:Approx $130
Purchase: Logitech Combo Touch
The Logitech Combo Touch is a combination iPad case and keyboard/trackpad that effectively converts your iPad into a laptop computer. It comes in two pieces. One half works as a traditional case and has an adjustable kickstand as well as a spot to hold your stylus. The second piece is the detachable backlit keyboard and trackpad. When attached, the two pieces can fully enclose the tablet in a sturdy, protective case or work as a comfortable laptop-style setup. The Combo Touch also makes it incredibly easy to switch between user modes. You can use the keyboard to type out a paragraph, then instantly detach it and switch to drawing mode on the same document before pushing out the kickstand to relax and watch a video. 


AIRROBO T10+ robot vacuum cleaner
Suggested By: Michael Knight
Mfg: $515
Price: AIRROBO
Purchase: AIRROBO T10+ robot vacuum cleaner
The recently released AIRROBO T10+ robot vacuum cleaner offers some incredible features not available in other robotic cleaners. Its charging station is also a dirt collection station that literally sucks the dust and dirt out of the robot vacuum cleaner’s dustbin and into a dustbag that does not need to be emptied for up to 45 days. This vacuum even has a water tank and mop attachment so you can wet mop your hard surface flooring. The T10+’s LiDAR navigation quickly and accurately scans the environment for getting around furniture and obstacles. The free downloadable app lets you create rooms and cleaning areas, adjust settings for the robot vacuum cleaner, and schedule cleaning routines. You can control the vacuum through the app or with the included remote control. The AIRROBO T10+ robot vacuum cleaner works great for homes with pets and/or children where frequent cleaning is a necessity. AIRROBO is offering 30% off the T10+ and all their products for Black Friday. Use coupon code BF30 at their site from 11/26 to 11/30.
For more information, see GeekDad’s review of the T10+.


Logitech Crayon
Suggested By: Sophie Brown
Mfg: Logitech
Price: Approx $60
Purchase: Logitech Crayon
The Logitech Crayon is a digital pencil that works with all apps that support the Apple Pencil on iPads from 2018. It has a narrow nib that makes it very precise, allowing you to draw, write on documents, or take handwritten notes. It is super lightweight yet incredibly sturdy and can survive up to 4ft drops, so it will be fine when your child inevitably knocks it off the kitchen table. It’s also not perfectly cylindrical and those flattened sides are designed to prevent it from rolling away and getting lost. The Crayon is a brilliant addition for your tablet and will allow you to write directly onto documents, sketch diagrams, and draw/color in your very own digital art. SB

Toys


LEGO Star Wars Duel on Mandalore
Suggested By: Karen Walsh
Mfg: LEGO
Price: $19.99
Purchase: LEGO Star Wars Duel on Mandalore
If you’re a Star Wars: The Clone Wars fan, then this set, which comes with Ahsoka Tano and Darth Maul minifigures, is perfect for recreating the iconic battle. Intended for kids aged 7+, it also includes a buildable throne with a secret drawer containing a blaster pistol, a decorative surround including a pop-out window element, plus a Mandalorian vault with space for a LEGO® minifigure. 


Friends Advent Calendar
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Insight Editions
Price: $20.35
Purchase: Friends Advent Calendar
Containing 25 little boxes, sleeves, and compartments filled with over 40 items, you’ll have fun spending time with Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Rachel, Ross, and Joey as you uncover activity booklets, BINGO cards, stationery items, games, and more inspired by the hit TV show. Unlike some TV- or movie-themed advent calendars, this one isn’t filled with just ornaments to hang up—though there are a few of those—it has fun activities or items to enjoy each day, from December 1st leading right up through Christmas Day. The calendar itself includes stills from the show, call backs to plot or set elements, and holiday-related Friends quotes. 


Polly Pocket Spin ‘n Surprise™ Playground
Suggested By: Sarah Pinault
Mfg: Mattel
Price: $24.99
Purchase: Polly Pocket Spin ‘n Surprise™ Playground
Polly Pocket is always a big hit in our house, and this year the clear winner has been the Polly Pocket Spin ‘n Surprise™ Playground. Putting aside the usual things we love about Polly and the gang, this set comes in purse form, as in, you can carry it around with you like a purse. I’m not sure my daughter has realized the importance of this yet, but she will learn to appreciate this just as she learns to appreciate a dress that comes with pockets. Shaped like an ice cream cone, the Spin ‘n Surprise Playground has a lid that opens, revealing three levels that rotate out in a spiral, for multiple areas of play. Polly can ride in a hot air balloon, use the banana split see-saw; or create an ice cream sandwich. The playground comes with a water feature that my daughter loved, but I can’t say the adults in her life did. By far her favorite thing about the set was that it came with two dolls and a dog. We have already seen this at several birthday parties, so grab one soon before they sell out. She and her friends were eager to line up their playgrounds and play back and forth with them; it’s a nice portable toy to bring anywhere with you.


LEGO Jurassic World T. rex Dinosaur Fossil Exhibition
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: LEGO
Price: $29.97
Purchase: LEGO Jurassic World T. rex Dinosaur Fossil Exhibition
Nothing combines the childhood (and continuing GeekDad) loves of dinosaurs and LEGO quite like the LEGO Jurassic World line. From top to bottom, it puts builders and wannabe paleontologists alike in the roles of the hapless heroes and fearsome foes from the live-action film/Netflix animated franchise—recreating their favorite scenes or flipping the script into their own unique adventures. With a wide variety of price points and build levels, there’s something here for everyone, but a personal favorite is the T. rex Dinosaur Fossil Exhibition. This set includes Darius and Owen minifigs along with a baby Triceratops toy and various accessories. The real showpiece, though, is the posable T. rex skeleton that blends hard science and fantasy play into easy holiday family fun. (Review material provided by Universal Brand Development.)


RC All-Terrain Batmobile
Suggested By: Mordechai Luchins
Mfg: Spin Master
Price: 55.99
Purchase: RC All-Terrain Batmobile
Get ready to defend Gotham indoors or outside with the Spin Master All Terrain Batmobile. For an under-$60 RC device it has great controls and really does well on grass, concrete, carpet, floors, or even puddles. Haven’t had a chance to test it on snow yet, but I’m DYING to. The water resistance is a big selling point for me. It fits Spin Right’s 6″” BatTech figures perfectly.

The only two downsides? Short battery life and the dog is afraid of it.


Nintendo Switch OLED Model
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: Nintendo
Price: $349.99
Purchase: Nintendo Switch OLED Model
Unsurprisingly, one of the hottest toys in my household is also one of the hottest toys of the 2021 holiday season. The Nintendo Switch OLED Model improves on the original console with the addition of a beautiful, 7-inch OLED screen, louder speakers, a more reliable kickstand for tabletop play, and more internal storage. The bundled dock also adds a dedicated LAN connection for improved online gaming. It’s a luxury upgrade to my family’s favorite platform of this console generation that has become my personal traveling companion, going with me daily to the office, on vacation, and even helping me while away those interminable hours spent waiting in the car for my daughter to finish band practice. (Review materials provided by Nintendo of America.)


LEGO Typewriter and Bonsai
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: LEGO
Price: $199.99 (typewriter), $39.99 (bonsai)
Purchase: LEGO Typewriter and Bonsai
The folks at LEGO—along with those in the fan communities—continue to flex their creativity muscles to devise and deliver new LEGO sets to us, their adoring public. This year has included some of my favorites of all time, including the LEGO Typewriter and the LEGO Bonsai. The typewriter has working keys and an advancing carriage to give the look and feel of a real typewriter. Though it won’t actually type a letter, it gives you and your family a way to interact with the set once built. The bonsai looks similar to the real thing, and includes interchangeable pieces so you can switch between green leaves and cherry blossom flowers in shades of pink. These are both on my wish list this year. See my preview post from earlier this year. 


Dino Rise Playsets
Suggested By:  Will James
Mfg: Playmobil
Price: $20-50
Purchase: Dino Rise Playsets
Dinosaurs, drones, and mechs, oh my! This year, Playmobil introduced a new original line of toys that combine together dinosaurs, armor, and mechs called Dino Rise. If you’re a fan of any of these things or have a nostalgic memory of Dino-Riders from the ’80s, you’re going to love this new line! It is hands-down my favorite line of original Playmobil toys. Not only are there a ton of great sets (all reviewed in detail recently on GeekDad), but the line has a full cast of characters with backstories that include the widest variety of representation I’ve seen in a Playmobil line. While we love all of the sets, I do have to give a special shout out for our favorite from the whole line though – the Spinosaurus set, piloted by a brother and sister team!


DC Super Friends Bat-Tech BatBot
Suggested By: Sarah Pinault
Mfg: Fisher Price
Price: $79.99
Purchase: DC Super Friends Bat-Tech BatBot
Standing almost three feet tall, this is one Batman that will ensure everyone is playing on Christmas morning. We have always had a soft spot for the Bat in our family, and even though the age range on this is three to eight, I’m pretty sure we won’t ever be sticking to that. It reminds me of so many toys I had in the ’80s. In the BatBot, Fisher Price has really taken the style and sounds of my childhood, and created something for my kids from a show that they love. The nostalgia alone is incredible. But it’s not just for me; this has a little something for everyone in the family. A hundred sounds and phrases that I am sure my kids will be recording and playing back ad nauseam on their newly discovered tape recorder (also from the eighties). It transforms from standing to flight mode, and has multiple kinds of launchers: stick, disc, and Batwing glider. It feels like a Transformer, and works enough like one to scratch that itch. For fans of DC Super Friends, or for fans of the Imaginext range of toys this is a must have. It comes fully assembled and is easy to get out of the box; just make sure you have scissors handy as it’s zip-tie-palooza back there. It’s durable and well constructed, though I would have liked a few more figures to be included; this only comes with Batman. It has a small footprint when standing upright which is a huge plus in our house, it easily slides into place, and is easy to pull out for play. 


Paint by Numbers
Suggested By: Will James
Mfg: Craft-Ease
Price: $25-90
Purchase: Paint by Numbers
Art therapy has never been more important for our family this past two years. One of our hobbies we’ve picked up is Paint by Numbers. We recently started on a painting from Craft-Ease (our full review is here), and they are by far the best quality Paint by Numbers we’ve done so far! Kits are available both rolled or pre-framed, which we love as it saves us a lot of extra work. Add to that, Craft-Ease specifically works with artists to license their art for their paintings versus some of the kits you can find online that essentially steal art and never credit the artist. Craft-Ease also offers a wide collection of Diamond Painting kits, though we’ve not yet tried one of those, as well as the ability to turn your own photos and art into custom Paint by Numbers for a truly one-of-a-kind gift for the painting aficionado on your shopping list.


Minecraft Ultimate Ender Dragon
Suggested By: Sarah Pinault
Mfg: Mattel
Price: $49.99-$79.99
Purchase: Minecraft Ultimate Ender Dragon
Minecraft is always a must have in our house on Christmas morning, but this new Ultimate Ender Dragon from Mattel is easily the most comprehensive and instantly enjoyable play experience we’ve personally had from the Minecraft figures. This ultimate boss measures 20 inches from wing to wing, and 22 inches from nose to tail. This is no tree ornament. It’s nicely packaged in a small footprint, but doesn’t go back to that for storage! The pieces all snap together well, and it is a high quality toy. The detailing on the pixelated “scales” give it some nice texture, and the spines are well done, with consistency on all pieces. It’s also pretty darn cute for an Ender Dragon. Lights and sound come standard, but this boss comes with a water tank which, when filled, creates a misty breath that “damages” Steve’s armor. It’s a small tank so you do have to fill it every 10 or so breaths, which gets old. But the frustration of refilling is far surpassed by just how cool it is to spray mist from an Ender Dragon: it is ridiculously fun. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a mist machine? I do have to say, they have made refilling as easy as possible, and it needs no supervision or dismantling to refill. The sounds are fairly normal, but the movement of the mouth and the facial lights bring it up a level. The buttons you have to push to produce the effects are very satisfying to push, a nice hefty click and here comes the roar. The set comes with a three-inch Steve, a weapon, and a pumpkin head, so it plays great straight out of the box with no other toys, but it also plays well with all your other Minecraft figures. 


Snap Ships
Suggested By: Michael Knight
Mfg: PlayMonster
Price: $6 to $40
Purchase: Snap Ships
Snap Ships are a unique building system set during a fictional space conflict between the forces of the Forge and those of the Komplex. They are designed for children 8 years and up. There are currently 21 sets available, which range in price from $6 to $40. The Javelin M-02 Attack Speeder and the Tunnelweb K.L.A.W Spider Mech are the most recently released sets. Each building set includes an instruction manual with blocks and decorative pieces that allow you to build two or three different models individually. Snap ships feature a unique building syste  based on cubical blocks, each with with a stud that can connect with ports on the other fives sides of a different block. The blocks serve as the base for assembling a ship. Once the base has been built, then decorative pieces snap into the blocks. These can include wings, fins, engine intakes and exhausts, and a variety of weapon systems. Sets include a cockpit piece with an opening canopy into which the pilot can be placed. A free downloadable app helps take Snap Ships to the next level. Here users can keep track of which sets they own and find instructions for building new ship designs, some of which combine the pieces from 2 or more sets. You can also play a mini game where you control a model and use its weapons and tech to defeat enemy ships. Snap Ships are great for children and adults who like to create sci-fi models with lots of cool parts and then be able to play with them. The smaller sets even make great stocking stuffers.

Die-Cast Club and Hero Collector
Suggested By: Jonathan H. Liu
Mfg: Eaglemoss
Price: Prices vary based on subscription
Purchase: Die-Cast Club and Hero Collector
If you’re splurging a bit and want to give a more long-term gift, the Eaglemoss Collections are a subscription-based service that include assemble-it-yourself kits like the Back to the Future DeLorean or ships from Star Trek, as well as collectible sets like a Marvel chess set. Each subscription has a low introductory rate for the first shipment, and then will continue for a couple years until the collection is complete. We’ve been working on the DeLorean and the Gone in 60 Seconds Eleanor Mustang, and it’s been a lot of fun to see the vehicles slowly come together. Read my introduction to the Die-Cast club here.


GraviTrax Marble Run Sets
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Ravensburger
Price: Prices vary but $71.99 for the one shown
Purchase: GraviTrax Marble Run Sets
This isn’t your parents’ marble run. GraviTrax is a whole line of modular marble run sets where you can create your own epic tracks with rails, curves, drops, and finish lines. From a basic GraviTrax starter set to tall, vertical builds, you can design on any scale, and there are at least a dozen special accessories you can add on, such as a catapult, a splitter, a magnetic cannon, and even a zip line. This is a fantastic gift for any STEM-minded family, or for kids from about 8 or 10 up to adults. I highly recommend going through the suggested builds before venturing out on your own, as that will help you understand how everything goes together. See my review on GeekMom

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