I’ve already listed most of my gift suggestions in the other holiday gift guides, but here are a few more of my favorite things.
For the obsessive doodler: Papernomad Case
I’d been using a SmartCover for my iPad for years, and actually doodled on it, but the pen rubs off or fades over time. The Papernomad line of cases from Griffin lets you doodle to your heart’s content—plus they’re made from things like paper, wool, and hemp. I’ve only just started doodling on mine, but I’m looking forward to having a fully-decorated case over time. (The one downside—you can’t use the iPad camera while it’s in the case.) Check out the Papernomad site for more details.
For the meticulous illustrator: NeoLucida
The NeoLucida is a camera lucida—it uses a mirrored prism so that you can see your paper and your drawing subject simultaneously, allowing you to create photorealistic drawings. It was wildly successful on Kickstarter, and is finally available to purchase on Amazon. A very nifty 21st-century update on a 19th-century drawing tool.
For the team player: Space Cadets: Dice Duel
Last year’s Space Cadets was a bizarre-yet-fun mishmash of mini-games, but Space Cadets: Dice Duel really clicks for me. The team-vs-team game requires quick thinking, fast die-rolling, and attention to detail. Oh, and lots of shouting. Plus, no sand timer or soundtrack will ever match the sense of tension you get from knowing the other team is racing to shoot down your spaceship. Best with big groups, but can be played with as few as four.
For the, ahem, independently-minded player: Dread Curse
By “independently-minded,” of course, I mean “selfish.” Who wants to share in the victory? Not the pirates of Dread Curse. Steal and cheat your way to the biggest pile of loot, but don’t wind up holding the Black Spot when the bag runs out. A great press-your-luck game for a bunch of people who don’t mind a bit of back-stabbing.
Ok, so maybe “Minecraft-obsessed kid” is a bit redundant. If your kid has been spending hours mining and building, running from Creepers and chasing down pigs, here’s something that might get them to tear themselves away from the screen for a little while. Goldberg and Larsson’s in-depth look at Markus “Notch” Persson and the creation of Minecraft is fascinating, whether you’re a huge fan of the game or just intrigued by the phenomenon. Note: while it’s not intended as a kids’ book, I think it’s appropriate for middle grades and up. (There are some mentions of Markus’ sister’s drug habit and his estranged relationship with his father.) Plus, maybe it’ll help them with those Core Curriculum “informational text” skills we’ve been hearing about lately.
For the builder: Tegu blocks
Tegu blocks are made with sustainably-harvested wood and socially responsible business practices, but what will really hook you is how fun they are to play with. These wooden blocks have magnets embedded in them, allowing you to construct things that balance and spin in ways that regular blocks can’t. They’re available in a wide variety of sets. Buy from Amazon or check out the Tegu site for details.
Hyperbole and a Half is the book version of Allie Brosh’s webcomic/blog of the same name. Her intentionally crude-looking drawings are a perfect match for her painfully honest stories about growing up, dogs, and dental surgery. (Parp?) Her explanations of her own depression are insightful and yet somehow funny. My explanation is boring. Allie Brosh is brilliant. Go buy her book for everyone you know.