Uncommon Christmas gift for nieces and nephews (ages 8-12)
October 22, 2019 11:13 AM   Subscribe

My nieces and nephews (5 in total) are wonderful kids. Two are too cool for school, and the other three are curious, well-mannered, and thankful for any gift that comes their way. I'm letting go of the fact that the other two might never love the gifts from their aunt, but there have been hits in the past: Swiss army knife, small red metal toolbox with lock (great to store treasures/have some privacy). I'd like to get them all the same gift, as experience-based gifts are for their birthday. Something useful to them now and meaningful to them later in life.
posted by nathaole to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Ukulele kit. I just searched for the one I discovered recently, and it turns out there are a huge range! Prices, degree of preexisting assembly... the one I got was perfect, although I did end up having to re-calculate/re-attach the bridge because the measurement given didn't help me enough (I'm not sure it was wrong, just didn't work for me). The easiest bit of acoustic math later (an octave higher means exactly half the vibrational length, so the distance to the bridge should be 2x 12 frets away), and I had a working ukulele that I felt pretty proud of.

I recommend getting extra strings in case some break.

Super cheap, too! Mine was $30 (found in a stationery store), and the extra strings were maybe $5?

The low price is a feature your recipients should know about -- maybe even get an extra one or two they can donate if they don't need them. That encourages experimentation and freedom in trying things out, applying glue, decoration, etc. If it were really expensive, they might be more timid with it.
posted by amtho at 11:38 AM on October 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

What about a sunprint kit?
posted by wicked_sassy at 11:40 AM on October 22, 2019

How about DIY music boxes? Get extra strips so they can punch a bunch of their own tunes and play them for you and each other.
posted by Chrischris at 1:07 PM on October 22, 2019

Not sure about your budget, but these would be appreciated I think: Fujifilm Instant Camera (Link on Amazon, available at other locations and in a wide variety of colors and varying price points).
posted by nkknkk at 2:06 PM on October 22, 2019 [11 favorites]

What about a nice sketchbook, with nice drawing pens and a different "how to draw x" book for each of them. The Ed Emberley ones are fun.
posted by vunder at 2:17 PM on October 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

A diary - the kind with locks and tiny keys.
posted by ilovewinter at 2:27 PM on October 22, 2019

Wreck this Journal might be fun, along with some art supplies. They have a bunch of different versions, so you could give each kid a different cover, or each the same.
posted by vunder at 3:28 PM on October 22, 2019

A compass, binoculars, a headlamp, a lantern, a nice flashlight, one of those wind up emergency radios, a set of tools, microscope, magnifying glass, fossils, nice wool beanies, leather wallets (with different colors/designs for each kid), maybe a yo-yo/juggling set/nice deck of cards, fishing poles...

I’ve gotten all of these gifts at some point or another from aunts and uncles (except the wind up radio which I got last year from my parents) and I still have nearly all of these today, 20-30 years later.
posted by umwhat at 4:38 PM on October 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

I have one of these phone microscopes and it's aces.

That, and, something to look at?
posted by BrashTech at 4:59 PM on October 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

I mentioned this once before but I really thought these little microscopes were cool and the price is definitely right. I kept one and use it occasionally. Also cool in the looking-at-stuff department is a folding pocket magnifier. Note that most things marketed as “folding magnifiers” are junk, but the little ones with no light and made of glass and metal are pretty good and also cheap and have the potential to last forever. I have one I use to look at knives when I’m sharpening them now that I can’t see things up close. And bugs.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 8:37 PM on October 22, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your responses. I'll be referring to this thread for years to come :) I'll be saving up for five Fujifilm Instax Minis + film (thanks nkknkk!) for next year. Unfortunately it's a bit beyond the budget for this year.

I love the phone microscopes BrashTech linked to but as of now, three of the kiddos don't have phones.

umwhat read my mind with the lantern mention. I had been thinking of something along those lines for sleepovers, make believe, night lights and camping and found the Crush Light Chroma Lantern by Goal Zero. They might not last 20-30 years, but they do look fairly durable.

It's well reviewed and the price is right.

Additional suggestions most welcome and appreciated.
posted by nathaole at 10:38 PM on October 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

A basic tool kit. My great-aunt and uncle got me a little metal toolbox with screwdrivers, hammer, jigsaw, some pliers...I still have some of them, forty years later.
posted by notsnot at 5:29 AM on October 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

You can get them a tool box and buy them new tools each year. By the time they move into their own apt., they'll have a pretty good set. You could even combine it with some projects to do with the tools.
posted by jazh at 5:31 AM on October 23, 2019

Since you mentioned solar lanterns, also check out the Luci lights, favorite gift for backpackers everywhere. Most of their lanterns are plain white for $15-$20, but they also have a DIY STEM kit with colored LEDs for $35.
posted by natabat at 6:54 AM on October 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

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