As I'm sitting here ordering things on line and last minute for people's Christmas presents (there, I said Christmas. Take THAT Bill O'Really!) I thought I'd make a few suggestions for my readers.
For the K-6 age scientist:
The 7-Function Binoculars For Kids An inexpensive science trans-formative toy, the "Binoculars for Kids" which also transform into a microscope, magnifying glass (good for observing bugs, starting little fires, or both at the same time), includes a compass, and a signal mirror to warn off the helicopters.
This cool Head Light, again for kids but actually quiet useful for adults (I actually keep one of these in my tool box. Used it just a few weeks ago to assist in relighting the pilot on the water heater.) will keep the tykes busy for minutes.
For much older kids:
A nice set of binoculars is an excellent gift. I have a nice set (a type no longer available) and the last set I recommended here is now out of production, but the following are close to these, mid-size to small, excellent optics and good for birding, much better than the el-cheapo mini binoculars everyone seems to use these days (to little effect):
The Orion UltraView - Binoculars 10 x 50 - wide angle - porro 'nocs are designed for star watching but I've found star-ready binoculars are great for birding. Many birders prefer a wider field of vision, but I'm not sure why. You scan with your eyes, you look at their little heads and stuff with the binoculars.
Equally good or may be better, and more in the range of what most birders like to use, would be the Olympus Magellan 10x42 EXPWP Binocular.
For the person who needs a new push here stupid camera
I don't like Sony, most of their products or the company. They have caused me too much pain in the past. So it is with my nose firmly clamped shut that I say that the camera my sister gave my daughter last year makes me wonder why I use a Nikon SLR! The newest version is even cooler, having and advance panorama feature. If you look around at cameras being produced by other companies now, many are imitating this one. I'd love to know if anyone out there has tried both the Sony and the equivilants to see if there is a difference. There's more than one model out there but this seems to be the most current one.
For anyone with a geeky streak, but NOT AROUND LITTLE KIDS (Toddlers or younger) because it's a little dangerous:
Nanodots Magnetic Constructor Thingies. One thinks its maybe silly. One picks them up and starts to play around with them. Yes, silly. Hmm, I wonder if they'll do this... Hmmm, I wonder if they'll do that..... Hmm, this is kind of cool when they do this. I wonder what happens if I ... Holy crap, look at that. NO LEAVE ME ALONE I'M PLAYING WITH MY NANODOTS!!!
They are rare earth magnets that are very very powerful. That's the danger: If a person swallows a bunch of them, they will attach to each other across the intestinal walls where the intestines loop around near each other and eventually drill a hole through the gut! How cool is that!
So not around kids. But do get two sets so that you can let someone else play with one set. They'll be ore likely to leave you alone.
For fifth or sixth graders:
This is a classic. You can get it cheap (but don't buy a used one for obvious reasons!) and it is a great way to entertain the kiddies with science! SOme of the information is out of date but not as much as you might think: The Human Evolution Coloring Book. And now available, though I've not see it (have you? It looks cool!): The Marine Biology Coloring Book and the Microbiology Coloring Book.
I've looked at a lot of science kits for kids and most of them look like junk. These two, however, look pretty good for younger kids: The Magic School Bus: A Journey into the Human Body and Magic School Bus Secrets of Space.
And, of course, books are always good.
One can't help but wonder about the 100+ used microbiology coloring books Amazon has for sale...
This is both funny and weird. It's a book that tells you how to make 5 play-functional models of guns, using Legos.
I like Legos, because they're so flexible in so many ways - but this application strikes me as being just a little creepy.
Legos are cool! Why, just the other day GrrlScientist had a video of the Antikythera Mechanism made out of Legos. Someone had way too much time on their hands, I guess.
Someone had way too much time on their hands, I guess.
Yeah, but think of all the time saved not having to calculate future eclipses by hand.
True, HP; but with the world due to end on the 2012 Winter Solstice, how many more eclipses would we need to worry about?
I can totally second the magic school bus science kits. They singularly beat that Toysmith crap carried by virtually every museum gift shop in the U.S., the Thames and Kosmos and Science Whiz crap. The Scientific Explorer and Smithsonian aren't as bad, but the Smithsonian kits are generally overpriced. About the only brand I like as much as the Magic School Bus kits, are the Elenco kits - especially the snap-circuitry kits.
I would note that while the contents of the kits rather suck, the books that accompany the Science Whiz line are actually pretty good - at least the ones in the Electricity and Magnetics kits. However, it is entirely possible that your local library has a non-kit copy of pretty much the same books that come in the kits - can't remember the publisher off the top of my head.
My sons received LEGOS until they were well in their teens. I finally had to tell them they were receiving their last set at about 14 or 15. They actually used them to create incredible things. They thought long and hard about which cousin would inherit them. I wish now we'd given them to a charity instead.
Those little magnets and button batteries can be lethal. You MUST go to the emergency room when one is ingested. It is a surgical emergency if it is not passed right away, they can be lethal.
I have a Sony SLR hybrid that I love. Now I need to take a photography class to use it to its potential.
The head lamp is a great idea!
I would also just like to express my appreciation for Amazon, yet again. While it is entirely possible that I could have found one at Toys-R-Us, that would have required descending into the very bowels of hell and if they had one, they would have been teh only place in town. Thanks to Amazon, I didn't need to make the journey and thanks to my student membership - which affords me free two day shipping, Youngest will be getting his fond wish for a boy baby doll.
Apparently he wants to be a momma, just like me - but not a girly sort of momma, presumably because I'm not all that girly. Now I just need to find a doll bassinet that isn't pink. I am just waiting for him to ask me to make his baby doll some cozy, one-piece jammies. That is the sort of thing that happens when your children believe you're capable of making absolutely anything and everything.