Cool, intricate knickk knacks to get for 6 year old nephew?
December 3, 2018 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Growing up I found an old wooden cigar sized box with different conpartments filled with unique coins, shiny rocks, and random knick knacks. I thought it was the coolest thing ever! I want to get something similar for my 6 year old nephew, and fill it with a few cool things that a modern day 6 year old would like. Any suggestions on a box (etsy maybe?) and some cool, intricate items to half-fill it with, so he can have some ideas to get his imagination started, and also have room to collect things on his own?
posted by thankyoumuchly to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have the same thing for my sons. I got a regular cigar box. For Christmas I'd go to the coin store and get a super cool looking coin, and hit the plant, stone, skull store and get a really cool rock/mineral. Then I got him a fake book/ box. Kids love that. We out grew it and have a printers box. It has stones, feathers, mica, found fly wings, sea shells and paper wasps nests.
posted by beccaj at 5:49 PM on December 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

My nephew got something that looked like a pirate's treasure box and that was a big hit. I think his great uncle got it for him. He finds things to put in there himself, there is no end to this. I do recall that there were some foreign coins that were given to him at the same time too though. For trinket ideas, maybe look for arrowheads, geodes, a small glass animal figurine (one without a ton of breakable thin pieces on it), stamps, small antique truck, or of course unusual coins.
posted by belau at 6:00 PM on December 3, 2018

As a veteran treasure box gifter, my go-tos are small bones, urchin tests, bismuth crystals, fools gold, those little skull beads made out of bone or horn, old coins, seed pearls, old pocket watch cogs, curled up parchment, interesting feathers, ... I could go on.

Flea markets are your friend here. Paxton Gate has an online store if you want to get most of that in one place.
posted by ananci at 6:12 PM on December 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

Optical calcite is a lot of fun. So are the fake books that are hollowed out inside.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:30 PM on December 3, 2018

This is a cool box option, aluminum case with canisters inside.
posted by metasarah at 6:34 PM on December 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Haematite and a magnet
Mancala pieces (flattened glass bits)
Bottle caps
Shark teeth
Natural History museum gift shop...
(My son is four)
posted by jrobin276 at 8:02 PM on December 3, 2018

Best answer: If you want to go to town, something like an apothecary's cabinet (lots of small drawers) rather than a shoebox.

Technology: crystal radio, hand-held microscope, magnifying glass, button compass, swiss army knife (can be strategically blunted), harmonica. Add a disc of cork to the magnet mentioned above for an ad-hoc compass. Does he have a phone or a tablet? USB microscope/endoscope

Mineral: Desert rose (gypsum), ulexite (perfect partner to optical calcite), fluorite, opal, peacock ore, the process of growing a single large salt crystal, which can then be saved

Organic: Cut and polished ammonites, peacock feather, mermaid's purse, prepared slides (insect parts etc), dried star anise, cinnamon sticks, lemongrass, bay leaves, peppercorns (look great under an optical microscope), triceratops teeth are cheap, but if you want to get spendy there's meteorite samples, fossilized fish, or trilobites

Manufactured: Greek or Roman coin, mood crystal, metal toy soldiers or games workshop figures, really cool marbles (try ebay), fortune telling fish, an eprom with the glass window, items painted with thermochromic or photochromic pigments, crookes radiometer (probably too large)

Some of my most prized possessions when I was a kid were some electronic components that had been embedded in resin, sliced in half and polished. In retrospect they were important not just because they looked cool but because they were what my dad did for a living. Touch of hero worship there. Anything from his dad's profession is likely to go down well, and anything that someone's taken the time to embed in resin is probably cool.
posted by Leon at 3:45 AM on December 4, 2018

Maybe American Science and Surplus for gizmos and oddities?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:00 AM on December 4, 2018

For the box-related part of your question, try looking at jewelry storage boxes, spice boxes, or tea chests. The tea chests often have cool side drawers as well: option 1, option 2. Also, if he's not sensitive to things that are "too girly," Caboodles are the ultimate in knick-knack boxes.
posted by Rora at 7:35 AM on December 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another thought: you could fill up drawers with consumables, like astronaut ice cream, popping rocks and other novelty foods. As those get eaten, they free up space for more permanent tchotchkes.
posted by Leon at 7:55 AM on December 4, 2018

(Also glow sticks)
posted by Leon at 8:00 AM on December 4, 2018

If you are scavenging for stuff, once I found some broken safety glass (from a windshield?) on the street. Broken into nuggets but not sharp. I put it in a tiny clear vial I had and it looks gem-like, you'd never guess (if you're 6 y o) that it's something mundane.

Also think about lining the inside lid with star maps or marbled paper. Here's some Joseph Cornell for inspiration.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:49 AM on December 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

THIS IS AWESOME! I still have a bunch of the "treasures" I accumulated as a little boy.

Amazon sells super-cheap, battery-powered microscopes, like this one for $12: If not that, than at least an inexpensive loupe or linen-tester.

There are a ton of EBay sellers in China who peddle "pairs" of ammonites (which a close look reveals as not-actually-a-pair) for a few dollars, as well as other neat minerals.

Tiny sand dollars. Warning they are fragile!

LEDs and some coin cell batteries.

Some obsolete ASICs or CPU chips are neat, especially if you can remove the cover and reveal the shiny parts.

Magnetic field viewing film is SO COOL. Pricey, but even a small piece is fascinating.

Decent tweezers & maybe a pick will encourage future investigations.

Include some clear, snap-top boxes or round, screw-top pill containers to hold things. Make sure to include a cloth bag with a drawstring, because those are totally awesome.

Also, consider a belt pouch for days when he wants to go out collecting new stuff, or securely carry along a favorite.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:43 AM on December 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Check out a few thrift stores like Value Village for the box. People have these old boxes that used to contain flatware or scientific instruments, or samples, or something that had multiple parts, beautiful old well made wooden things, but they have nothing that would fit in them and they think they are too nice to throw out and they end up at thrift stores.

Find some thing to put in the box that will smell nice. That will really add to the sensory experience.

Don't forget fossils other than ammonite. I like trilobites. Prisms are good too.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:13 AM on December 4, 2018

> Magnetic field viewing film is SO COOL. Pricey, but even a small piece is fascinating.

Similar to the safety glass vial, a (sealed!) vial of iron filings? Coloured sea glass.
posted by Leon at 11:43 AM on December 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

A tackle box is another idea for his treasure box. I also agree that you've got to get him a magnifying glass or a loupe of some sort to go with it, that adds so much more fun! I actually have one like this and it's perfect for little kids because there's no adjustment needed, you just put it over the whatever and look.

I don't know where you are, but if you have a local Rock Shop you've got to go there. Guarantee you'll find things there. My boys have actually asked for gift certificates to ours for their birthdays!
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:07 PM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Rock shop people are weird and wonderful; the local place gives a free thing to every single child who comes through the door, including school groups and random passers-by. He's awesome: treats it as a museum and educational venture as much (or more!) than a business.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:10 PM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

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