It's that time of year again! Time to get cool gifts for cool kids! Hopefully they actually get here on time.

A fully-loaded container ship navigates the waters.
If your gifts don't get here in time, it's cause they're stuck on one of these. Photo by Ian Taylor / Unsplash

Plus: don't abstract the database; make the implicit explicit; and long live the monolith! Welcome to the 86th edition of The Catch Block!

STEM-Adjacent Gifts for Kids

I'm a dad, and a nerd. My kids are also nerds, much to their mother's chagrin. But as nerdy as I am, I want my kids to have more experiences than just scientific, technical, or nerdy ones. Therefore, although I want them to be nerds in their own, I want their Christmas gifts to be both nerdy and worldly. And, of course, fun!

Hence, my annual list of STEM-Adjacent Gifts for Kids, and this year we're just in time for the gifts to arrive late for Christmas due to supply chain issues! Huzzah!


I recognize that this first one is not super-techy, but I love these things so much that I can't help but recommend them to other parents. My kids have had these little magnet building shapes for years, and they are almost the only toy that still gets played with by the 12-year-olds.

A set of hexagonal magformer pieces, stuck together to form a tunnel.

They come in a bunch of shapes, including triangles, squares, hexagons, and trapezoids, and each side has a magnet that sticks to the sides of other shapes so you can build impressive-looking structures. My kids regularly build Star Wars-style starfighters out of them and then run around the house. My daughter builds horse stalls and then puts her toy horses in them.

I'm not gonna lie: the starter set is a bit like a gateway drug. Relatively cheap, but you're gonna need more, and they get pretty expensive. But for this household, they're worth it. Check them out here:

LittleBits Space Rover Inventor Kit

My oldest is a big space enthusiast. NASA shirts, avid Kerbal Space Program player, rocket lover, you name it. This next gift is perfect for any kids out there like him.

LittleBits is a magnetic, electronic "building block" set that allows kids to make elementary circuits and electrical inventions. This particular kit comes with a whole bunch of activities designed around making a planetary rover, similar to the ones currently on Mars. If you've got a space enthusiast like I do, they'll love this kit!

Beginner Microscope

My kids' godparents got them a microscope two Christmases ago, and they spent months running around the yard, picking up grass and dirt and tiny sticks and then peering at them through the scope. One even asked us to spit on a slide (and we did, against our better judgement. Anything for the kids!).

This article is for paying subscribers only

Sign up now and upgrade your account to read the article and get access to the full library of articles for paying subscribers only.

Sign up now Already have an account? Sign in