Science-y Christmas Gift Guide

Ho-ho-ho, Merry Chri… Ok, I have to be honest, it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere, which means I’m not feeling particularly festive. This will be my second NZ Christmas, and I’ve had an excellent first year of living here, but I’m still struggling to get my head around the warm, BBQ-filled, antipodean version of the festive season. So, to help me out, I thought I’d compile a list of THIRTY cool science-y things that you might like to put under the tree in time for Christmas morn’. This list is a bit… eclectic – it contains everything from books and toys, to clothes and home décor. But hopefully it’ll provide some inspiration for you, my lovely readers.

I’ve separated my suggestions into three broad categories – Kids, Teens / Adults (each grouped by price) and Other. The first two should be pretty self-explanatory, and ‘Other’ pretty much covers stuff for the home, and some smaller gifts that might work well as a token for someone you don’t know all that well, or as Secret Santa gifts. Obviously I haven’t divided these by gender (because how often are genitals really relevant in gift-buying?) but there’s definitely a bit of a #WomeninSTEM lean to my suggestions, for which I won’t be apologising.

Where possible, I’ve provided a UK/EU link and a US link for each item, but do look around for the best price, and if possible, please try and find them in your local town or city. Also, just to be absolutely clear, these are just things that I think are great – I’m not being paid to write about these products, and I’m not using affiliate links. I’m a science writer, guys. There are no brands begging me to work with them, and I’m not a savvy enough blogger to navigate the micropayment landscape. The only bias at work here is my own questionable taste. So, please feel free to judge it harshly 🙂

Do you have any other suggestions for must-have science-y gifts? If so, please comment below, or tweet me @laurie_winkless

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K I D S!

*** Under £20 ***

1. Moluk Plui Rain Cloud Bath Toy (£9)

This got a special mention at the Science Toy Awards 2016 (for which I was on the panel of judges). Since then, I’ve bought this awesome bath toy for at least five sets of parents, and it’s been a success every single time. For tiny kids, it’s just a fun way to splash around in the bath, but once they get a bit older, this ingenious little toy could be used to start a conversation about gravity and air pressure. It can also be taken apart, so is super-easy to clean.

2. Slugs & Snails tights (£14.50 a pair)

While not officially science-y, these cosy, high-quality, unisex tights (made by an Irish company) have loads of cool patterns that any science fan would appreciate – here are a few of my favourites. Oh and a few of the patterns are available in adult sizes too!

3. Detective Dot (18.99)

Did you ever want to be a spy when you were a kid? I know I did, and I really wish Detective Dot had been around then. Suitable for kids aged 7+, this pack features a book about a coder and detective called Dot, membership of the Children’s Intelligence Agency (CIA), stickers, and series of missions for new CIA members to complete.

4. Women of NASA Lego (£19.99)

lego nasa women 3
I’ve put this in the kid’s section, but don’t be fooled – it would be VERY SUITABLE for any space-loving teen or adult too (Case in point: I’ve already bought two). Within 24 hours of launching, this set reached #1 spot on Amazon’s Bestselling Toys list. #WomeninSTEM rule!

*** Under £50 ***

5. Discovery Channel 360 Degree Super HD Microscope (£47.99)

TDK26 HD Microscope 3D jan 2017 (800x800)
This is a finalist in this year’s Science Toy Award, and it impressed the judges hugely. It includes 60/120/200X magnification lenses, filters, LEDs and an adapter for using a smartphone, and the quality is fantastic too. If the child in your life enjoys exploration or nature, this is the gift for them.

6. The Rebel Girls Gift Box (£49.50)

Despite not being a fan of the name (If we want every young girl to feel that any one of them could be the next Margaret Hamilton or Serena Williams, calling them ‘rebels’ seems a bit weird), I wholeheartedly endorse the Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls series. I’ve bought Book #1 for myself and for lots of friends, and Book #2 is on its way now too. The illustrations are stunning, and the stories well-written. It’s a must for anyone who wants to inspire the next generation. I particularly love this gift set, which comes in at just under £50

7. Magformers (£25 – 110)

My soon-to-be-sister-in-law discovered these via her local Toy Library, and ever since, she’s gradually been adding to her family’s collection. In simple terms, Magformers is a magnetic building kit, but in reality, its way more fun than that. The pieces are tactile, robust and brightly-coloured, and they allow children to explore magnetism and construction.

8. Periodic Table Blocks (£25)

Perfect for the tiny future-chemist in your life, these blocks are incredibly tactile, and fantastic quality. Most children LOVE blocks, so why not sneak in some science while they’re at it?

*** Loadsa money ***

9. Musical Tesla Coil (£175)

Are you perplexed by alternating current? Fascinated by Tesla? Or do you just like discharge sparks? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you’re gonna need to get your hands on this beauty. Set-up-wise, it’s pretty straightforward – you really just need a soldering iron and some basic tools. And it’s a great way to learn about electricity… But if you’re buying this for a child (as an adult I’d love one too), please don’t hand it to them and walk away – supervision is definitely required!

10. Lego Mindstorms robot (£299.99)

This is basically Lego-powered-by-Labview. With this kit, your (ridiculously lucky) child could build and program robots that walk, slither like a snake, or shoot tiny plastic cannons. Instructions for one robot are included in the box, but there are at least four others available to download (for free, obviously) from the related website. There are LOADS of helpful ‘Internet Randoms’ who’ve used the kit to build even cooler systems too, so there’s plenty of support, even if you’re not a confident coder. Also suitable for adults.

T E E N S / A D U L T S !

*** Under £20 ***

1. Retroviral mugs (£9.99 each)

These gorgeous fine bone china mugs have a secret – each one represents a well-known virus. Some of my lovely friends bought two of them (HIV and Herpes) a few years ago, and I’ve pretty much used them every day since. I LOVE them, and I expect someone in your life will too. I recently treated myself to the third one of the set (Rabies), and a little birdie tells me there are some new designs in the works too… keep an eye on the shop!

2. Inferior (12.99)

This is a book that anyone involved in science (in any context) should read. It’s brilliant and will totally change your view on research and gender. And Angels also happens to be ace.

3. The truth about working in science (£10 – 30)

A great pressie for an academic’s office, this poster by TwistedDoodles summarises the realities of doing science. Also available in other formats (e.g. cushion covers, tote bags). Expect knowing chuckles from the recipient 🙂

4. Science and the City (£8.99)

Paperback approved_jpg
Ok, TECHICALLY, I will receive money if you buy this particular item, but hey, a woman’s gotta eat. This is the paperback edition of my book, and it takes readers on a whistle-stop tour of the great cities of the world, to unveil their scientific secrets. Some people have said very lovely things about it – and I didn’t even have to bribe them!


*** Under £50 ***

5. Mechanical Clock Kit (£50)

mechanical clock
I don’t own this (yet), but I REALLY want it. Functional and stylish, is a mechanical engineering-fan’s dream come true. Tool’s-wise the recipient would need to supply wood glue, sand paper, a razor saw and counterweight material. But what a cool project!

6. Moon Phases Shirt (£38)

For those of you who prefer your science apparel subtle, may I suggest this lunar shirt? Or maybe this maths one? 100% cotton, and smart enough for any meeting.

7. Raspberry Pi (starts at £29.99)

raspberry pi
This is an ultra-low-cost computer – the size of a credit card – that you can plug into your TV. It offers lots of the functionality you’d expect – internet browsing, word processing, game-playing etc., but at a tiny cost. It’s also a great way to learn programming. (PS: You’ll need a basic computer keyboard too)
(The starter kit, with lots of extra accessories, is £99:

*** Loadsa money ***

8. Atom necklace (£129)

This weirdly-named company (Science Jewelry 1824) has loads of fantastic stock, but I’ve had my eye on this one for ages – I might even ask for it for Christmas 2017. Sterling silver and super-stylish, it would be perfect for any occasion.

9. Lego Saturn V (£109.99)

saturn v
We’re waiting for ours as I type, and having just assembled my Lego NASA Women set (see above), I’m in a very space-y mood. Fingers crossed it comes soon. Things to note: when assembled, it measures > 1 m tall; it has 1969 pieces (yes, really), and it can be displayed horizontally or vertically. Oh and it’s THE SATURN V ROCKET, PEOPLE, what are you waiting for!?

10. 3D printer (£336)

3d printer
There are SO MANY ‘domestic’ 3D printers on the market – price-wise, this sits somewhere in the middle of the range, and has had some fantastic reviews. That doesn’t mean it will be the perfect one for you though, so please do your research before you commit to buying a printer. And have a look around at the many friendly online forums for advice and inspiration for your projects.

O T H E R !

1. Brain coasters (£26.99)

This pack of 10 glass coasters look great individually, but it’s really when they’re stacked that you can appreciate the full effect. They show a human brain slice-by-slice, but in an entirely non-gory way. Richard bought these for me as a random gift a while back, and I’m a big fan 🙂

2. Dinosaur baubles (£7 each)

Designosaur is an awesome company based in Brighton, UK. I’ve been a fan / customer for years, and I also commissioned them to make me a very special necklace for the launch of SATC, so I guess I have a teeny bit of bias. Regardless, they do great jewellery, so you should check them out. They also do a series of ROARballs – dinosaur-themes baubles for your Christmas tree. A great gift for anyone who likes their festive season to be a bit…prehistoric!

3. On a Beam of Light (£10.89)

This is officially a kid’s book, but I defy any science-loving adult not to fall in love with it too. The art style is so wonderful, and it tells the story of a boy (Einstein) who dreamed of travelling faster than anyone ever. Also perfect for bedtimes.

4. YArN periodic table element necklaces (£16)

Have a knitting-loving scientist in your life? Send them to Yarnistry. They sell stitch markers, crochet hook sizers, and blockers. They also sell these fricken awesome YArN necklaces for a tiny price.

5. 50 year calendar keyring (£5)

Smartphone calendars are great and all, but how long would it take for you to discover what day of the week 3rd December 2048 will be? This keyring has the answer, and it presents it in the form of an attractive brass disk. I bought this for myself in the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, but it’s widely available online.

6. HardResols jewellery and accessories (£12 – 65)

This shop sells amazing accessories made from old circuit boards. My sister bought me a fantastic Star Wars Rebel symbol necklace from them last year, and I’ve since bought a couple of things as gifts for other people – I am consistently impressed. I’ve just spotted that they’re now making clocks too, and they look GREAT. Rather than linking to everything they sell, here’s the homepage – go crazy!

7. Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World (£9.99)

katherine Johnson
Fun fact: I came oh-so-close to having Rachel Ignotofsky design my book cover for SATC, but it was not to be. It was just before her own book (rightly) hit the NYT Bestsellers List, so I expect her fees have gone up a bit since 🙂 Anyway, I love this book, and think it’s a wonderful gift for anyone, really. Beautiful enough to be a coffee table book, and informative enough to house surprises for even the biggest science fan, it’s a winner!

8. Periodic Table of the Elements scarf (£25)

PTE scarf
What kind of a science-themed Christmas gift list would this be unless it included not one, but TWO periodic table-based products? This second one is a rather lovely scarf made from cosy jersey. Perfect to scientifically snuggle on cold walks.

9. Space Capsule Tea Infuser (£8)

This gift combines two of my favourite things – tea and lunar exploration. Great for a fan of loose-leaf teas, and a fun talking point in the staff room. Bargainous too!

10. Ammonite cushion (£20.95)

And finally, do you have a fossil lover in your life? If so, this beautiful knitted cushion might be the perfect gift for her/him. Also available in other colours.

Aaaannnnnd, that’s all 30!