Do you have tiny wonders? I need 20 of them.
November 2, 2019 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Help me fill 20 4x4x4 boxes with wonderful little things!

Each one should evoke a little wow or aww or pop of curiosity or excitement to try it. Several recipients (aged 30+) will get these boxes at random so not a great idea to key it to overly specialized interests. Science, food, art, pop culture, craft, do-nothing at all, beauty, electronics - anything works as long as it is small and wonder-full. There is a budget, but don’t want to limit the ideas. If it helps, I don’t equate luxury goods with wonder.
posted by this-apoptosis to Shopping (35 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
One small item per box or multiple tiny items per box?
posted by Redstart at 6:58 PM on November 2, 2019

Fossils, wagashi (only if hand-delivered--very perishable), Re-Ment or dollhouse items, cut-paper art, "stained glass" puzzles, mini-abacuses, beautiful chocolates (like the kind with pearlescent dust), butterfly-pea-flower tea, mini-terrariums, kaleidoscopes, color-shifting eye shadow/food-grade powder, a coil of tiny LED lights, netsuke or inro, mini-comics or zines, enamel pins, lockets, bottles of saffron, Miracle Fruit tablets, prisms, origami (or tiny origami paper, which exists), windup toys, tiny arcade games, microscope/macro iPhone lens, beautiful handmade dice, tiny tarot cards, vintage playing cards, a collection of vintage buttons, pieces of labradorite etc., tea or sake cups, "blossoming" tea, a tiny piece of embroidery or cross-stitch in a hoop, some kind of small Raspberry Pi/Adafruit/whatever kit, um...

...I just really like small things, ok
posted by wintersweet at 7:16 PM on November 2, 2019 [51 favorites]

Seeds, hatched bird eggs, or shells.

The softest thing you can find.


A chemical reaction of some kind. Everyone knows baking soda + vinegar, but I'll bet a lot of your 30+ adults haven't seen a calcium gluconate snake.

Miracle fruit tabs. Include instructions and maybe a sour candy or something.

Unusually flavoured things. There are all kinds of strange candy flavours you can get via the Internet.

Unusual scents. For example, there are a number of perfumers that have attempted to replicate things like petrichor or fresh cut grass.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 7:17 PM on November 2, 2019

oh yes, good idea--BPAL imps, or various Lush products.
posted by wintersweet at 7:20 PM on November 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

individual packets of hot cocoa, the fancier the better
posted by Weeping_angel at 7:30 PM on November 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

tiny etch-a-sketch
Enamel pins
Little bottles of liquor; some are in cool bottles.
Chocolate truffles
Keychain stuff - leatherman, tape measure, bottle opener
I have a tiny flashlight that lives in the cig lighter
Lego minifigs
Temporary tattoos
Polished stones/minerals, geode, crystals
I've seen lots of tiny kits in altoids tins- 1st aid,survival, art supplies; I always love them.
posted by theora55 at 7:32 PM on November 2, 2019 [8 favorites]

Miniature figures in some sort of scene, either HO or N scale.

A tiny marching band. A wedding. Mariachi singers.
posted by nickggully at 7:39 PM on November 2, 2019 [5 favorites]

Wind-Up Toys
posted by theora55 at 7:45 PM on November 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Blown glass ball / "witch ball"
Miniature globe?
Play silks
posted by slidell at 7:45 PM on November 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Owl pellets, pretty crystals, a supershock eyeshadow, paper doll bookmark kit, a tiny watercolor set,
posted by Caravantea at 7:46 PM on November 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

shrinkydink matchbox dioramas
posted by umbú at 7:54 PM on November 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wee succulents -- the tiny kinds that come in terracotta pots and look both adorable and minutely menacing.
Erasers that come disguised in funky shapes, like macarons or koalas.
Pine cones, fall leaves, or sachets full of lavender -- basically, anything that looks and smells like a plant.
Hand lotion -- winter is coming, 'tis the season of dry, chapped hands.
Stickers -- the puffy ones are best.
A full punch card for a local coffee shop.
A packet of glow-in-the-dark stars.
Pop-Rocks or other candies that your parents wouldn't let you eat.
A pair of fuzzy socks.
Lip Smackers -- preferably of the fruit-flavored variety.
A fun pin/button that they can clip to their clothes or accessories.
A wholesome note that details how wonderful, beautiful, and brilliant they are.
posted by NewShoo at 7:59 PM on November 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

Little Box of Words
small animal skull
coins or stamps from other countries
posted by Redstart at 8:05 PM on November 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Tiny worry doll
A beautiful marble
posted by Sassyfras at 8:37 PM on November 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have a one-stop shopping suggestion for you - American Science and Surplus! A huge assortment of wonderfully random things, a lot of which fit the bill. Like maybe...

Teensy handheld microscope!

Insect specimens in acrylic blocks!

Break-your own geodes!

Dinosaur bone fragments!

Jeweler's loupe with LED light (five bucks!)

Keychain-sized fire starting kit!

Magnetic levitation demonstration kit!

Tiny steel model kits of sailing ships and dragonflies!

That's just what I saw in ten minutes' browsing - there's tons more. This site is a total treasure trove.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:51 PM on November 2, 2019 [18 favorites]

Compass (here is one you can wear on your thumb.)
magnifying glass
printed sticky notes
Rubik's cube
Is a point-and-shoot camera out of your budget?
tiny screwdriver kit
corkscrew or bottle opener
an interesting bandanna or handkerchief
rubber stamps
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:46 PM on November 2, 2019

Please don't fill them with throw away plastic items. It makes me sad and frustrated to receive stuff like that personally and I know many other people who feel the same Some alternative suggestions:

-- I've seen tiny preseved honey and bumblebees on tiny preseved flowers in tiny glass domes on instagram. They looked really cool.
-- Geode drink coasters. Or other cool drink coasters.
-- Magic eggs, which are big chunks of glass that are weirdly iridescent. They're really neat
-- Small package of high end coffee or less common sweets like macaroons, marzipan, nougat or turron, truffles, baklava, halva, turkish delight (the good stuff).
-- small solar lights like the Luci candle
-- rapid x car chargers that let you charge 5 devices at once. So useful!!
-- tiny bluetooth speakers.
-- reusable shopping bags or super lightweight backpacks/ totes/ cross body bags. I have a few of these and they're great.
-- thin touchscreen friendly gloves.
-- those wrist warmers that cover part of your hand too. Like fingerless gloves but less so.
-- cell phone accessories: braided power cables, cable bites- the animal ones from Urban Outfitters are cute and work well, pop sockets etc
posted by fshgrl at 10:51 PM on November 2, 2019 [12 favorites]

A set of jacks with a rubber ball
A silly putty egg
A worry stone
A jar of ink in a torrid shade or red, green, or bright pink
A heavy silver ring
posted by mochapickle at 1:05 AM on November 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Little glass figurines or crystal figures of animals. I have a dog, a bee and a penguin in my collection - all cheap that I bought on vacations! My friend's boyfriend got her a pricier Swarovski bear figurine but you can get something less fancy.

A tiny music box that plays a song when you crank it. I've seen ones at the store that are very tiny - smaller than 4x4 for sure.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:27 AM on November 3, 2019

Polished stones that are much heavier than they appear. I find them really delightful to handle.
posted by teremala at 4:17 AM on November 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

Holiday-related items from various cultures, like Christmas ornaments.

Tiny musical instruments, like this tiny violin

Fidget toys

I've seen tiny preseved honey and bumblebees

Oooh! Local honey and/or honeycomb! Random link from Amazon. Something local would be even more wondrous, assuming it's not too expensive or difficult to get.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:36 AM on November 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding a few coins from other counties, and beautiful marbles or polished rocks
Trick card deck (or any pre-packaged magic trick)
I don't know how you would track it down, but I remember seeing an ad for a miniature stonehenge concealed within a pocket watch case...
Mood rings.
A tiny kaleidoscope.
posted by coppertop at 6:29 AM on November 3, 2019

Bismuth crystals
teeny-tiny origami animals
posted by belladonna at 6:36 AM on November 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This 3D-printed etching press will probably fit disassembled in 4x4x4 box
Barebones but full-featured synthesizers, samplers, and sequencers
Another tiny watercolor set and an even tinier one! To go with it, a compact waterbrush small enough to fit inside an Altoids tin
Sampler of tiny artists' paper pads (some can be found separately). Borden & Riley also makes little sketchpads.
The Mini Gorilla Pod is cuter, but the slightly larger and more useful Gorilla Pods would fit too
Portable ball lamp with cool, warm, and *d*i*s*c*o* modes
posted by yeahlikethat at 12:01 PM on November 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

Jewellery, if you think your recipient will like it? It doesn't have to be expensive.
Tiny compass!
Slap bracelets
Miniature rubber duck
Set of yahtzee dice
Bag/jacket patches
Fancy tin of chocolate or candy
Hair accessories
Belt buckle
Clothespin doll (how fancy can you make a clothespin doll?)
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 12:04 PM on November 3, 2019

Packs of baseball cards - I'd recommend Topps' Allen & Ginter brand, because they have non-baseball subjects and miniature cards the size of vintage T206 tobacco cards. They're tiny wonders in a box of tiny wonders.
posted by Small Dollar at 6:12 PM on November 3, 2019

Response by poster: So many excellent suggestions - thank you! I plan to post a list of what ended up in the boxes. Shout out to yeahlikethat for the 3D printed etching press - that is exactly the wonder I’m hoping to find more of.
posted by this-apoptosis at 6:40 PM on November 3, 2019

Do you live near an Art-o-Mat location? These vending machines dispense tiny pieces of original art. The one near me is $5 per vend.

Someone mentioned magnets; Supermagnetman is my go-to.
posted by sugar and confetti at 6:49 AM on November 4, 2019

I'm a huge fan of Koosh balls.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 10:15 AM on November 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

a string of lights
a small leatherman multi-tool
a roll of $1 bills (or quarters)
a set of tiny liquor bottles
ben wa balls
a rosary
novelty salt and pepper shakers
good work gloves
pocket watch
tickets to a show
burner phone
strange USB devices
a somewhat rare coin
Christmas ornament
fishing lure
nice tea
posted by Cris E at 7:47 PM on November 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have one of these dandelion gone to seed trapped in resin necklaces and it never fails to inspire wonder in me and others when viewed.
posted by urbanlenny at 3:37 PM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Anything that transforms in your hands. For instance: a set of buckyballs (if available in your country and to be given to a recipient unlikely to eat them), or an infinity cube or kaleidocycle flexagon, or a Rubik's Magic (would fit in the cube when folded up, I think, assuming your 4s are inches not centimetres), or a tiny Japanese puzzle box if your budget is quite high (or they're cheaper where you are!). Or what about a reverse hourglass, where the sand falls up? This one's quite expensive, but there are cheaper versions.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 6:58 AM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

A vial of tritium (with or without keychain). On the surface, it's just a cool glowy thing. It's more interesting if you know a bit about it. Tritium is a gaseous isotope of hydrogen that's produced in nuclear reactors. It's a bit radioactive, but safe as long as you don't inhale it. When stored in a phosphor-coated vial, it glows. This is the stuff they use in self-illuminating exit signs. Fusion reactors use tritium and deuterium (another isotope of hydrogen) for fuel. Tritium slowly decays into helium-3, which is a darling of science fiction because, in theory, it's an even better fuel for fusion. It's so much better, in fact, that some people think we'll one day mine the moon for it.

So, over the course of decades, the gas in the vial will gradually stop glowing and become super sci-fi spaceship fuel.

Other ideas:
• aerogel (cool but on the pricey side)
• gallium (metal that melts at warm temperatures)
• ferrofluid with a neodymium magnet
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:51 AM on November 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I just discovered Scratch Off Mini Notes, several sellers on Amazon and probably other places.

There is also this page for additional ideas.
posted by dancing leaves at 3:17 PM on November 10, 2019

I really like little bits, too. One of my favorites is a little metal John Deere tractor, less than an inch long, with real rubber tires. I had it on my desk at work for 25 years, and I farmed my blotters endlessly while sitting on hold. They still sell them at the farm store, along with lots of bitty little animals.
posted by cookie-k at 7:16 PM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

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