11 Brilliant Gifts for the Young Explorers in Your Life

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iStock

If your favorite kids can’t stop asking “why,” if they love running their own experiments, and if they never stop learning new things, these 11 gifts are a great place to grow their curiosity even further.

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1. FLACK KIT; $300

Imaginations will soar as high as this DIY airplane once it’s assembled. This kit comes with everything necessary to build this RC airplane, from the radio to the charger. All they'll need are a few simple tools, like a screwdriver, and your enterprising young engineer can pilot their first plane. No soldering of parts required.

Find It: Brooklyn Aerodrome

2. WONDERHOOD GRAND HOTEL BUILDING SET; $60

This deluxe building set from Wonderhood Toys—a company devoted to helping foster the next generation of women architects—includes 24 illustrated panels. The pieces can be connected together in different combinations in order to create a hotel building, complete with an elevator. The STEM-friendly kit also comes with two figurines, so that kids can play with their creation once they’re done designing and building it.

Find It: Wonderhood Toys

3. FIRE TABLET; $50

It might be too early give the younger set in your family a smart phone. Fortunately, the Fire Tablet is the perfect middle ground between allowing the curious kid in your family space to learn and explore on their own and being able to keep a close eye on what they’re doing. Amazon Freetime can be downloaded onto the budget-friendly Fire Tablet, which is a subscription program that only grants kids titles they’ve been given access to and allows parents to set daily screen time limits on the tablet.

Find It: Amazon

4. SOLAR SYSTEM EXPLORATION BOARD GAME; $29

Designed by a NASA scientist who has led a major space mission, this award-winning board game introduces kids to space science ideas and concepts. As they compete, players tackle the in-game challenges of developing and launching various space missions. Other players may sabotage your space exploration attempts with government shutdowns and hardware memory swipes, reflecting the real-life struggles of launching a successful mission to space.

Find It: Amazon

5. THINK & LEARN CODE-A-PILLAR; $31


Future coders and programmers can get started early with this caterpillar-shaped toy from Fisher Price. Kids learn while rearranging code-a-pillar’s body segments and figuring out what combination will make it move forward or backward, left or right.

Find It: Amazon

6. SOLAR PHOTOGRAPHY KIT; $15


Help a young artist harness the power of the sun into prints. The instructions for this budget-friendly kit are simple: Set an object or transparency on the sunography fabric included in the kit, let the sun shine down, and then remove the object for the coolest tan line ever.

Find it: Uncommon Goods

7. LITTLE PASSPORTS SUBSCRIPTION BOX; $18 per month or $180 per year

Take your favorite adventurer on a once-a-month trip around the world without ever leaving home. This subscription box service introduces preschoolers to geography through themed lessons. (There's also an option for older kids.) The first box comes with an orange suitcase, world map, an activity booklet and passport stickers, and every monthly box after that contains activities and souvenirs surrounding that month’s theme, such as art, food, landmarks or celebrations.

Find It: Little Passports

8. DA VINCI MINIMAKER 3D PRINTER; $168

It may be small, but this miniature 3D printer can whip out 6-in. creations at 100mm/second. It’s also easy to use, thanks to its 9-point calibration detection, which assures a level print bed. Your curious kid will also have access to loads of resources, like online courses and 3D modeling software specifically designed for beginners. Of course, if they want to hit print right away, there are thousands of 3D models available on the company’s website.

Find It: Amazon

9. AUTHOR'S KIT; $44

As every writer knows, nothing is more exciting than seeing your name in print for the first time. With each author’s kit, your young writer creates a story and dialogue to go along with a wordless illustrated book. Then, the company prints it and sends a copy, complete with author’s bio, to your doorstep. Every author’s kit also includes writing games, an official author’s certificate, and an idea pad to get them inspired.

Find It: Write Brain Books

10. MECCANOID G16; $145


Every tech whiz kid dreams of building their own personal robot, and now they can. MeccaNoid stands 4 feet tall and includes programmable LED eyes, voice recognition capabilities, and 10 motors, which allow it to smoothly move its arms, head, and feet. Although young programmers have three methods for programming the robot, MeccaNoid also comes with 3000 preprogrammed phrases.

Find It: Amazon

11. PROPS IN A BOX; $60

Help budding actors and directors get their movie or play off the ground with whimsical backdrops and quirky costumes. Each box has props for two distinct characters, a backdrop to hang, and access to the Props in a Box moviemaker app.

Find It: Props in a Box

10 LEGO Sets For Every Type of LEGO Builder 

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

If you’re looking for a timeless gift to give this holiday season, look no further than a LEGO set. With kits that cater to a wide age range—from toddlers fine-tuning their motor skills to adults looking for a more engaged way to relax—there’s a LEGO set out there for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite sets on Amazon to help you find the LEGO box that will make your loved one smile this year. If you end up getting one for yourself too, don’t worry: we won’t tell.

1. Classic Large Creative Gift Box; $44

Amazon

You can never go wrong with a classic. This 790-piece box contains dozens of types of colored bricks so builders of any age can let their inner architect shine. With toy windows, doors, tires, and tire rims included in addition to traditional bricks, the building possibilities are truly endless. The bricks are compatible with all LEGO construction sets, so builders have the option of creating their own world or building a new addition onto an existing set.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Harry Potter Hogwarts Express; $64

Amazon

Experience the magic of Hogwarts with this buildable Hogwarts Express box. The Prisoner Of Azkaban-inspired kit not only features Hogwarts's signature mode of transportation, but also Platform 9 ¾, a railway bridge, and some of your favorite Harry Potter characters. Once the train is built, the sides and roof can be removed for play within the cars. There is a Dementor on board … but after a few spells cast by Harry and Lupin, the only ride he’ll take is a trip to the naughty list.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Star Wars Battle of Hoth; $160

Amazon

Star Wars fans can go into battle—and rewrite the course of history—by recreating a terrifying AT-AT Walker from the Battle of Hoth. Complete with 1267 pieces to make this a fun challenge for ages 10 and up, the Walker has elements like spring-loaded shooters, a cockpit, and foldout panels to reveal its deadly inner workings. But never fear: Even though the situation might look dire, Luke Skywalker and his thermal detonator are ready to save the day.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Super Mario Adventures Starter Course; $60

Amazon

Kids can play Super Mario in 3D with LEGO’s interactive set. After constructing one of the courses, young designers can turn on the electronic Mario figurine to get started. Mario’s built-in color sensors and LCD screens allow him to express more than 100 different reactions as he travels through the course. He’ll encounter obstacles, collect coins, and avoid Goomba and Bowser to the sound of the Mario soundtrack (played via an included speaker). This is a great gift for encouraging problem-solving and creativity in addition to gaming smarts.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Gingerbread House; $212

Amazon

Gingerbread houses are a great way to enjoy the holidays … but this expert-level kit takes cookie construction to a whole new level. The outside of the LEGO house rotates around to show the interior of a sweet gingerbread family’s home. Although the living room is the standout with its brick light fireplace, the house also has a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor furniture. A LEGO Christmas tree and presents can be laid out as the holidays draw closer, making this a seasonal treat you can enjoy with your family every year.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Elsa and Olaf’s Tea Party; $18

Amazon

LEGO isn’t just for big kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can start their LEGO journey early by constructing an adorable tea party with their favorite Frozen characters. As they set up Elsa and Olaf’s ice seats, house, and tea fixings, they’ll work on fine-motor, visual-spatial, and emotional skills. Building the set from scratch will enable them to put their own creative spin on a favorite movie, and will prepare them for building more complicated sets as they get older.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Collectible Art Set Building Kits; $120

Amazon

Why buy art when you can build it yourself? LEGO’s Beatles and Warhol Marilyn Monroe sets contain four options for LEGO art that can be built and displayed inside your home. Each kit comes with a downloadable soundtrack you can listen to while you build, turning your art experience into a relaxing one. Once you’re finished building your creation it can be exhibited within a LEGO brick frame, with the option to hang it or dismantle it to start on a new piece. If the 1960s aren’t your thing, check out these Sith and Iron Man options.

Buy it: Amazon

8. NASA Apollo Saturn V; $120

Amazon

The sky (or just the contents of your LEGO box) is the limit with LEGO’s Saturn V expert-level kit. Designed for ages 14 and up, this to-scale rocket includes three removable rocket stages, along with a command and service module, Lunar Lander, and more. Once the rocket is complete, two small astronaut figurines can plant a tiny American flag to mark a successful launch. The rocket comes with three stands so it can be displayed after completion, as well as a booklet for learning more about the Apollo moon missions.

Buy it: Amazon

9. The White House; $100

Amazon

Reconstruct the First Family’s home (and one of America’s most famous landmarks) by erecting this display model of the White House. The model, which can be split into three distinct sections, features the Executive Residence, the West Wing, and the East Wing of the complex. Plant lovers can keep an eye out for the colorful rose garden and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which flank the Executive Residence. If you’re unable to visit the White House anytime soon, this model is the next best thing.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Volkswagen Camper Van; $120

Amazon

Road trip lovers and camping fanatics alike will love this vintage-inspired camper. Based on the iconic 1962 VW vehicle, LEGO’s camper gets every detail right, from the trademark safari windshield on the outside to the foldable furniture inside. Small details, like a “Make LEGO Models, Not War” LEGO T-shirt and a detailed engine add an authentic touch to the piece. Whether you’re into old car mechanics or simply want to take a trip back in time, this LEGO car will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.

Buy it: Amazon

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13 Gorgeous Coffee Table Books for Anyone on Your List

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Taschen

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

This holiday season, give the gift of a gorgeous, conversation-starting coffee table book. Here are 13 that you can get for anyone on your list, whether they're obsessed with history, art, or cats.

1. Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present; $50

W.W. Norton/Amazon

Deborah Willis’s incredible book features more than 200 photos—many that were previously unpublished—organized by theme. There are famous figures like Josephine Baker, Lil Kim, and Condoleezza Rice, as well as anonymous Black people in the neighborhood, reading magazines, and getting a cut from the barber. Willis spent 10 years doing research and combing through archives to create the book, which has been hailed as “a definitive history of black beauty … a treasure, a triumph and a singular achievement that invites fresh and enduring insights with each viewing.”

Buy it: Amazon

2. Parks: United States National Park Service Maps from the Collection of Brian Kelley; $57

Standards Manual/Amazon

National Park enthusiasts will love this book, which pulls together more than 400 maps and other incredible visual treasures dating as far back as 1910.

Buy it: Amazon

3. America 1900; $70

Taschen

This stunning, 588-page behemoth of a book (it weighs almost nine pounds!) features the first color photos of North America, produced between 1888 and 1924. Taschen also has books devoted to France, Italy, and Germany at the same time period if you’re looking to gift a set.

Buy it: Taschen

4. Walter Chandoha. Cats: 1942-2018; $50

Taschen

After snapping photos of a kitten he’d rescued in 1949, Walter Chandoha—who had previously worked as a photographer for the Army during World War II—started to photograph shelter cats … and didn’t stop taking photos of cats for the next 70 years. This book pulls together his incredible images (which influenced Andy Warhol) in one place, and it’s a gift that any ailurophile/bibliophile will appreciate.

Buy it: Taschen

5. Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books; $24

Clarkson Potter/Amazon

This tome, which features drool-worthy home libraries from history and around the world, will inspire (and possibly enable!) any book lover.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Cabinet of Natural Curiosities; $70

Taschen

This reprint of Albertus Seba’s prized natural history book weighs in at more than 10 pounds and features incredible, colorful illustrations that will delight lovers of the natural world.

Buy it: Taschen

7. The Photography of Game of Thrones; $43

Insight Editions/Amazon

Pop culture aficionados who miss the fiery palace intrigue of Game of Thrones can revisit Westeros with this book of photos by set photographer Helen Sloan. Not only does the book provide gorgeous shots of the show and its iconic characters, but it also provides readers with a peek behind-the-scenes of Thrones. (The Night King doesn’t look so scary snapping a selfie, now does he?)

Buy it: Amazon

8. The NASA Archives. 60 Years in Space; $150

Taschen

Anyone who has dreamed of going to space will love this nearly 13-pound book, which includes more than 400 photos from NASA’s history, rare illustrations, and text by former NASA historian Roger Launius, Apollo historian Andrew Chaikin, and journalist Piers Bizony.

Buy it: Taschen

9. Dog People; $35

teNeues/Amazon

Sandra Müller’s hilarious collection of photos of pups dressed as people is the perfect gift for any dog owner who’s constantly anthropomorphizing their pooch.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Patterns of India: A Journey Through Colors, Textiles, and the Vibrancy of Rajasthan; $22

Clarkson Potter/Amazon

Brighten up the dull winter months with Christine Chitnis’s 288-page book that features more than 200 lush and bright photographs of life in Rajasthan, India. One reviewer called Patterns of India “an inspiring celebration of one of the most visually compelling and engaging destinations for travelers and photographers, where every detail, from the mundane to the sacred, is a divine expression of ancient and modern artisanal mastery.”

Buy it: Amazon

11. Booze & Vinyl: A Spirited Guide to Great Music and Mixed Drinks; $23

Running Press/Amazon

The perfect gift for the person who loves sipping a cocktail while listening to their favorite record, Booze & Vinyl has been billed as “the ultimate listening party guide.” The book is organized by mood and features 50 albums released from the 1950s to the 2000s. (Under Rock, for example, you’ll find The Clash’s London Calling, while Dance features Lady Gaga’s Fame Monster.) Each album is accompanied by notes and a cocktail recipe—Bjork’s Debut, for example, is paired with a cocktail called The Swan that originated at The Waldorf before Prohibition.

Buy it: Amazon

12. History as They Saw It: Iconic Moments from the Past in Color; $36

Chronicle Books/Amazon

The colorization of black and white videos and images might be somewhat controversial, but it’s undeniable that adding hues to our views of history can give us a new perspective. This book by Wolfgang Wild and Jordan Lloyd brings color to 120 photos of unforgettable historical events, including the building of the Eiffel Tower and the sinking of the Titanic, making it a beautiful gift for history buffs who wish they could travel back in time and see these scenes with their own eyes.

Buy it: Amazon

13. The Art of Looking Up; $20

White Lion Publishing/Amazon

In The Art of Looking Up, art historian Catherine McCormack gives the backgrounds and stories behind the most incredible ceilings around the globe. The book is split into four themes—Religion, Culture, Power, and Politics—and features incredible eye candy like the glass flowers that adorn the ceilings of the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada; the intricately tiled ceiling of the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran; and the stained-glass ceiling above the Toluca Botanical Gardens in Mexico.

Buy it: Amazon

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