2019 Holiday Gift Guide: Last Minute

I hope by this point that most of your shopping is done, but in case you’re procrastinating, here’s a list of things you can probably get in the last week before Christmas. Most of these include Amazon links, so you won’t even have to brave the “cheerful” drivers on the way to the mall and back.


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Image: Spin Master

Hog Zero Gravity Laser Racer
Suggested By: Sarah Pinault
Mfg: Spin Master
Price: MSRP $34.99
Purchase: Hog Zero Gravity Laser Racer

My kids don’t see many TV commercials, so when they do, they have a tendency to latch on like an octopus to a tasty meal. Such is the case with the Hog Zero Gravity Laser Racers. Once my seven year old discovered them, he became obsessed. Once charged, the car will follow an LED “laser” beam over any smooth surface you point it to. Yes, just like a cat. Beware: your surfaces need to be smooth like Shaft for this to work. It takes about 45 minutes to charge up, so it is worth unboxing and charging before introducing it to an impatient child, but then it runs consistently for up to ten minutes. It’s lightweight, which it has to be to go up walls, but not as flimsy as you might expect for something so light. Included with your purchase are the vehicle itself, a controller, a USB charging cable, and the instruction booklet. The car is rechargeable but the controller needs three AAA batteries—these are not included. If you want to race, you will need to buy two, also, as the short charge life does not allow for good sharing among siblings. They have a good range and perform best when you are standing within six feet of the controller, the perfect height difference between my little one and the ceiling at Grandma’s house (which is smooth, compared to our popcorn ceiling). The beam itself needs to touch ground (or wall or ceiling) within one foot of the vehicle itself. This is a ridiculously fun toy for all ages, and, even with the short charge life, it is everything my son wanted it to be.


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Image: Insight Editions

Harry Potter: Exploring Hogwarts: An Illustrated Guide
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Insight Editions
Price: Retails for $29.99 but found for less
Purchase: Harry Potter: Exploring Hogwarts: An Illustrated Guide

One place that’s particularly magical around the holidays is Hogwarts. Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan from way back or you’re discovering it along with your kids, this book gives readers an inside look at Hogwarts from the Harry Potter films with plenty of adorable illustrations, behind-the-scenes tidbits, and semi-deep dives into many areas of the property. Which illustrations will be your favorites? This book is a perfect gift to nab for a last minute gift, or to accompany holiday time movie watching binges. Read my GeekDad review here, and see a fun preview video for it.


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Image: Chronicle Books

The I Wonder Bookstore
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Chronicle Books
Price: $12.69
Purchase: The I Wonder Bookstore

If you have book-loving kids on your gift giving list this year and you’re running out of time to think of a good gift, this book would be a real hit. It’s all about a bookstore filled with books about books. Customers come in looking for something and begin with, “I wonder…” and go on to describe what they are looking for. The shop keeper always finds them something that fills the bill. A lighthearted and sweet book, this will touch parents’ hearts as well as kids’. Read my GeekDad review here.


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Image: Chronicle Books

Animal Anatomy
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Chronicle Books
Price: $6.69
Purchase: Animal Anatomy

This adorable and giggle-worthy book reinvents animal diagrams, renaming body parts with terms that are alternately adorable and clever (and sometimes both). The names chosen sometimes reflect what the body part is used for (such as a goat’s udder being a “posh cheese bag”), what it looks like (a pig’s tail as a “curly booty flourish”), or what it actually does, even if we don’t want it to (a grizzly bear’s paws as “deadly honey scrapers”). Each page contains humorous animal diagrams, and a few have word-based jokes about animal names, such as comparing an axolotl to an… wait for it… axolittle. It’s an incredibly fun read that will change your nature walks forever. Read my GeekDad review here.


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23andMe \ Image: 23andMe

23andMe
Suggested By: Dakster Sullivan
Mfg: 23andMe
Price: $79.99
Purchase: 23andMe

23andMe is a DNA kit with the most comprehensive ancestry breakdown including more than 30 trait reports. They have over 80 personalized reports and 1500+ geographic regions. You can opt in to the DNA Relatives tool to meet other potential relatives that have also used 23andMe. For those interested reports that give you genetic insights into your health, the Health upgrade is available. What’s nice about the Health upgrade is you have the option to not be told about certain reports just in case it makes you anxious to learn.


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myCharge \ Image: myCharge

myCharge Portable Charger – HubPlus Turbo
Suggested By: Dakster Sullivan
Mfg: myCharge
Price: $69.99
Purchase: myCharge Portable Charger – HubPlus Turbo

myCharge HubPlus Turbo is a 6700 mAh external battery pack with built-in charging cables for iOS and USB Type C devices. It has it’s own built-in wall plug, so you don’t have to worry about what to charge your charger with. There’s also a USB port to plug in any additional devices you may need to charge up. You can get up to four times the extra battery before having to recharge the device itself. And it charges up to 75% faster than your average wall outlet.


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Light up your holiday season with Nanoleaf.

Nanoleaf Light Panel and Nanoleaf Canvas Smarter Kits
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: Nanoleaf
Price: $199.99-$229.99
Purchase: Nanoleaf Light Panel and Nanoleaf Canvas Smarter Kits

As I’m always quick to point out, I am very likely the least handy of all the GeekDads. That being said, nothing has made me feel more like a master electrician (or an accomplished interior designer) than Nanoleaf’s interactive light panels. Nanoleaf’s original, triangular panels are a unique, flexible, modular lighting solution that offers a seemingly endless array of physical arrangements and color options. Simply plug them in, connect them to your home wireless network using the intuitive smartphone app, settle on your lighting arrangement (with the help of the integrated Layout Assistant), and affix them to practically any flat, painted surface using the included mounting tape. The 9 Panel Smarter Kit gives you everything you need to get started, including the Rhythm Module used to sync your light show to music. For a cleaner, more symmetrical look, the new Nanoleaf Canvas line reimagines the light panels as unassuming squares that offer the same modular construction and music visualization with added touch functionality. Because they’re joined together by Nanoleaf’s innovative Flex Linkers, you can easily expand your design, even after it’s been mounted, making the Nanoleaf system perfect for everything from mood and accent lighting to temporary holiday displays. Whether you’re looking for a last-minute gift for your resident techie or an easy on-ramp to smart home integration that doesn’t require a costly or intrusive system hub, Nanoleaf is the product you’ve been waiting for. [Review materials provided by: Nanoleaf]


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Give the gift of Amazon Prime.

Amazon Prime Gift Subscription
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: Amazon
Price: $39-$119
Purchase: Amazon Prime Gift Subscription

Truly the gift that keeps on giving, an Amazon Prime subscription provides free delivery options, access to Amazon’s Prime Video and Prime Music streaming media services, free Kindle ebooks, unlimited photo storage, Twitch Prime goodies, and special subscriber-only deals. With 3- and 12-month gift subscriptions, you can give a little or a lot, and since Amazon has everything you want (and much, much more than you need), you can be sure your heartfelt gesture will be appreciated more than another bad scarf or re-gifted scented candle.


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Harry Potter Branded OTL Headphones, Images: OTL Headphones

OTL Kids & Teens Headphones
Suggested By: Sophie Brown
Mfg: OTL Technologies
Price: £15 – 30
Purchase: OTL Kids & Teens Headphones

Lots of kids, tweens, and teens will no doubt be receiving phones, tablets, and games consoles for Christmas, but a good pair of headphones will make for a great accessory and keep parents from going insane by New Years. OTL Headphones are designed for younger listeners with smaller size styles and volume limits.
The headphones come in dozens of popular licenses including Harry Potter, Pokemon, LOL Surprise, and Peppa Pig, and the big padded style that sit over small ears will keep sound in without damaging hearing. A number of styles are available including folding designs ideal for travel, and Bluetooth headphones for use with newer iPhones that comes without headphone jacks.


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Playmates Toys

Ben 10 Action Figures
Suggested By: Sarah Pinault
Mfg: Playmates Toys for Cartoon Network
Price: MSRP $8.99
Purchase: Ben 10 Action Figures

For stocking stuffers or an additional gift, nothing can beat action figures. Whether Barbie, GI Joe, Star Wars, or Doctor Who, the options are endless (and the possibilities for play are also endless). This year we’ve opted for Ben 10. Our kids have been nuts about this show through several iterations now. Last year we scratched the itch with a coloring book and an Omnitrix. This year we’ve opted for Omni Kix Armor DiamondHead and Out of the Omnitrix Overflow action figures. This show and its toys scratch the same itch for my ten-year-old, that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles scratched for me. In our house, these worlds collide as he incorporates his Ben 10 universe with our box of ’80s toys. The latest line from Cartoon Network has a wide variety of characters available, and they are everything that the action figures of my youth were. A great throwback that both kid and parent will enjoy playing with on Christmas morning.


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Broadway HD

Broadway HD
Suggested By: Corrina Lawson
Mfg: Broadway HD LLC
Price: $8.99 per month or $99.99 per year
Purchase: Broadway HD

A streaming service that offers the best of Broadway, from classics to musicals to special concerts such as the Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert and many Shakespeare plays. These are filmed Broadway performances. The only thing you might not find are performances from current running show. (Sorry, no Hamilton.)


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Aqua Dragons Underwater World, Image: World Alive

Aqua Dragons Underwater World
Suggested By: Sophie Brown
Mfg: World Alive
Price: $25
Purchase: Aqua Dragons Underwater World

If you have kids pestering you for a pet this holiday season, an Aqua Dragons kit may well be the perfect solution. These kits contain a small tank, eggs, food, and other accessories needed for raising your very own Aqua Dragons—a type of tiny brine shrimp similar to Sea Monkeys. We raised a tank full over summer and I was amazed at both their longevity (a single set of eggs lasted from initial hatching in April to finally losing our last dragon in early November with multiple breeding cycles in between) and also their personality. We kept our tank in a bathroom and the Dragons would swim up to see me whenever I came in to clean my teeth. In fact, I miss them so much that I’ve popped a refill kit onto my Christmas list this year.
There are various sizes of kits at various price points, but I would recommend the Underwater World kit, which includes everything you’ll need and a nice size tank. An Aqua Dragons kit will allow you to test the waters for the responsibility of pet ownership without a long-term, expensive commitment.


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Bibliophile Reader’s Journal, Images: Chronicle Books

Bibliophile Reader’s Journal by Jane Mount
Suggested By: Sophie Brown
Mfg: Chronicle Books
Price: $15
Purchase: Bibliophile Reader’s Journal by Jane Mount

The ideal gift for book lovers, the Bibliophile Reader’s Journal is a detailed journal for keeping track of your reading. The majority of the journal is made up of pages to record your books with spaces for the author, plot and character notes, favorite quotes, and a star rating. There’s just enough space on these pages for you to fill in information without feeling either squeezed or pressured to write endless essays.
Also dotted throughout the book are full page illustrations of books, bookstore cats, bookmobiles around the world, and more. The final sections of the journal are given over to pages for Books to Check Out, general pages to record ideas and Inspiration, and a list of book recommendations over various categories. This is a beautiful book that will appeal to book lovers of all ages.


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Queen of the Stacks Jigsaws, Images: Sophie Brown

Queen of the Stacks, Set of Two Jigsaws
Suggested By: Sophie Brown
Mfg: Galison
Price: $17
Purchase: Queen of the Stacks, Set of Two Jigsaws

Jigsaws have remained popular gifts for years and if you know someone up for a challenge, this set of two unusually shaped puzzles might be right up their alley. Queen of the Stacks features two puzzles—a stack of colorful books and a cat, and the cat one in particular was one of the hardest jigsaws I have ever worked on. At only 650+ pieces between the pair, they’re not the biggest puzzles you’ll have seen, but you’ll forget all about that when you’re staring at a dozen seemingly indistinguishable pieces featuring cat fur.
Challenging but not impossible, and very high quality, this puzzle set is great for cat lovers, bibliophiles, and jigsaw fans alike.


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Image: Candlewick Entertainment

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Christmas Activity Book
Suggested By: Sarah Pinault
Mfg: Candlewick Entertainment
Price: $9.99
Purchase: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Christmas Activity Book

Every year we like to give each of our kids an activity book. It’s a great distraction while we’re setting up the big kit games or as a break between new video games. This year we managed to combine that tradition with last year’s favorite Christmas movie and one of their all time favorite picture books in the We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Christmas Activity Book. There are several activity books and field guides that have spun off from this classic English children’s story, but this is the one most closely linked to last year’s Christmas special. There are things to enjoy together, such as recipes for edible ornaments and almond Polar Bears. It includes options for both indoor and outdoor activities. My favorite section is the “Wonderful Weather” page as it ties in with the current weather focus of my second grader’s class. The book is littered with fun facts and jokes—I now know that if I were to give out all the presents from “The Twelve Days of Christmas” I would need a massive amount wrapping paper to wrap 364 presents. If you haven’t read the original story, the two together would be a really nice Christmas introduction to an English classic


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Twinkly Curtain Lights 210 RGB LEDs

Twinkly LED Lights
Suggested By: Anton
Mfg: Twinkly
Price: $100-300
Purchase: Twinkly LED Lights

I’ve got a set of Twinkly lights on the way, but haven’t yet received them. I’d prefer to test them thoroughly before I post them to the gift guide, but after searching, and asking friends, these appear to be some of the best addressable LEDs on the market. I’m looking at the Curtain specifically, but they have many other options.
I intend to use the Curtain set on the front porch create holiday specific animations year-round.

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