Gift ideas for science-minded 11-year-old boy
December 15, 2013 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Another gift-question, but I didn't find anything in the archives that's exactly applicable, so here goes: I'm looking for a Christmas gift for my 11-year-old cousin. He's pretty into science and math, and according to my aunt, already has tons of toys/games/kits. So it seems like she would prefer for him not to get another one of those, but her only other suggestion was to give him "coupons" to play card/board games with me. I'd be happy to do that except frankly I'm not sure he'd actually appreciate it - fwiw we rarely see each other, and I'm ten years older and female. I'm thinking a good book might be nice, but I don't know exactly what he's already read and liked, other than the typical series like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Diary of a Wimpy Kid etc. Any suggestions - either lesser-known books or other options I might not have thought of? My max price range is probably $25-30 but I can be a little flexible.
posted by st elmo's fire to Shopping (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Does he have someone he can play board games with? The board game Pandemic might be an option if he's board game savvy.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:44 AM on December 15, 2013

When I was an 11-year-old boy, pretty into math, I read my copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach until the cover fell off. I don't think that book is as popular today as it was in the '80s, so he probably doesn't already have it.
posted by escabeche at 11:47 AM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

My science-loving 9-year-old's favorite section at the the library is Juvenile Non-Fiction. He loves those "1000 Amazing Facts you Didn't Know about Science" type books, as well as books about how scientific discoveries have been made, what people believed in the past, scientific questions that are still be worked on, all that kind of thing.

He also loves his subscription to National Geographic Kids. Your cousin might be a bit old for it, but the Cricket magazine group has several science-themed magazines for kids in his age range. Or he might like Discover or Popular Science.
posted by not that girl at 11:51 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think a nonfiction book would be perfect, too! Especially one like The Elements: A Visual Exploration, which has a lot of browsing potential. I think something like that will have a lot more use potential than a fiction book, if he's super into science.
posted by itsamermaid at 12:04 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does he have a microscope?
posted by pompomtom at 12:05 PM on December 15, 2013

My twelve-year-old nephew is passionate about both science and math. Two gifts which were both extremely well received: a subscription to Popular Science magazine, and a subscription to MAD magazine.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 12:06 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

My kids loved Snap Circuits kits at that age.
posted by COD at 12:40 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Membership to the local science museum if there is one and if it is any good.
posted by sciencegeek at 12:53 PM on December 15, 2013

I don't know, I might take your aunt at her word. Presumably she has a good reason for mentioning the coupon idea. Maybe she knows he'd appreciate an adult other than his parents spending time with him?

Assuming you don't see each other that often not because you live thousands of miles away, maybe you could give him a coupon for a day with his cool older cousin? Take him to a sciencey museum. Show him your cool older cousin hangouts, and where you work and live, your favorite coffee shop where you can play a few board games or teach him to play poker or something. Introduce him to your cool older friends? Take him to the really BIG public library in your city or a nearby city?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:00 PM on December 15, 2013

Little brother - book
posted by squirbel at 3:00 PM on December 15, 2013

Take a look at the Dorling Kindersley/Eyewitness science books. They're good broad introductions to their subjects. More from Powell's.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:17 PM on December 15, 2013

Theo Jansen kit
posted by rhizome at 4:37 PM on December 15, 2013

Another recommendation for non-fiction. At about that age (in the late 1980s, admittedly) I started reading books by Martin Gardner - I particularly liked his pseudoscience debunking books like Fads and Fallacies, but devoured pretty much anything I could get my hands on - and Raymond Smullyan. My copy of What is the Name of This Book? is dog-eared from rereading.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:49 PM on December 15, 2013

Sugru and a gift card for here: or a subscription to the magazine.
posted by tilde at 7:04 PM on December 15, 2013

Big Bang and/or Powers of 10 poster from Fermilab.
posted by Joleta at 7:40 PM on December 15, 2013

Magazine subscriptions! Popular Science, National Geographic, Discover Magazine, and Make are all good options.
posted by elizeh at 8:08 PM on December 15, 2013

In the Pipeline, a chemistry blog, has a few posts on science gift ideas you could look through.

Science Gifts: Telescopes, Etc
Science Gifts: Running Experiments at Home
are two that come to mind.
posted by Canageek at 8:47 PM on December 15, 2013

Not sure what kind of computer he has access to, and he might be a bit young, but Kerbal Space Program is kind of THE geek gift this year. That and a DVD full of tutorials (I recommend those by Scott Manley as they're teh AWESOME).

(Links go to video but they're game play footage, not sales footage.)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:12 PM on December 16, 2013

OK, I just found a video of someone's 2 year old playing Kerbal Space Program so maybe 11 is fine and I'm just old and tired. (They admit that their two year old only occasionally reaches orbit and has trouble doing good reentry burns, but holy shit! He's two! At that age I was mastering the toilet and it only had a staging control - not a throttle, roll, pitch and yaw!)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:22 PM on December 16, 2013

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