2020 Holiday Gift Guide – Gadgets and Toys Part 1
Nothing quite defines geeks like their affinity for gadgets and toys. Regardless of our specific geekdom, we often find ourselves ogling some cool new tech toy, or handy gadget to make our lives more fun. This year it appears that our contributors have been wooed by a plethora of items. Below we present part one of two of our Gadgets and Toys guide.
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Set up courses with these mini trampolines and other gadgets, and then send metal marbles through them! The BoomTrix kits are a fun way to play with physics, as you experiment with different arrangements to see what works. Read a review here.
Combing the fun of the beloved video game franchise with the excitement of real-world RC racing through a clever implementation of augmented-reality gameplay, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is, hands down, my top pick for this year’s holiday toy list. Intuitive, customizable, and infinitely replayable, it’s the kind of gift that the entire family can enjoy, with a solid sharable aesthetic that perfectly captures the magic of the Nintendo Switch. Whether you’re a family of existing Switch owners or a later adopter only now adding this innovative handheld/console hybrid to your household, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is sure to please. (Review materials provided by Nintendo of America.)
After requesting entry into the Early Access program pretty much on a whim, I recently was accepted and purchased an Amazon Halo fitness band in hopes that it could help me shed some of those newly-added lockdown pounds. The primary difference between it and the rudimentary pedometer on my old smartwatch seems to be some much-needed context; its point-based activity tracking can tell the difference between a leisurely stroll around the office and a strenuous jog up a steep incline, and it records them accordingly. It also deducts points for sedentary time, which, as a desk-worker, I tend to rack up without even noticing. The sleep analysis feature works extremely well and has given me a new appreciation for my sleep cycle, though its much-touted tone analysis is more of a fun (and battery-sapping) diversion. The Halo comes bundled with 6 months of free membership to the necessary subscription service—it’s normally $3.99 a month—which should be plenty of time to determine whether or not it’s a good match for my lifestyle.
For me on Christmas morning, nothing can beat something from Disney. For my kids, if it’s a train or has a motor, there is going to be excitement. So these sets from a new partnership between Brio and Disney are the perfect intersection of Christmas fun for our family. Our kids may be aging out of some things, but wooden train sets are here to stay. There are three new sets to enjoy from Brio’s Mickey and Friends line. Having an affinity for Donald in our house, the favorite is the Donald & Daisy Train, which comes with a train, caboose, and a figure of both Donald and Daisy. Either of them can drive, either of them can be the passenger. This is the simplest of the three new sets available. The Mickey Mouse Record and Play Station, comes with Minnie and Mickey figures, and is primarily a drive through station for your train set. You can record and play your own announcements and the sound quality is pretty good compared to previous recordable train stations we have had, no this is not our first rodeo. The final piece in this new line is the Mickey Mouse Battery Train. Generally battery powered trains have been the most well received by my kids. They love seeing how many cabooses can be added, how far they can make it go, though of course it usually ends up stuck behind the couch. This one sounds and moves much like previous incarnations of the battery train, though the buttons are a little simpler than in the past.
The winner of these items of course is the theme. Creating a Disney World section on their train tracks is the big appeal to these new additions. Much like the Thomas themed kits my kids own, it is all about the characters and how they can enhance the story play of the kits. This is a great start to the Brio and Disney partnership and I look forward to seeing where this goes in future years. The toys are of the quality you would expect from these two companies, though there is a lot more plastic (thankfully impact-resistant) involved in Wooden Train sets these days. For style, quality, and pure joy on Christmas morning, you really can’t go wrong with these new sets from Brio, and all of them are 100% compatible with your existing train sets, even if your set is older than your kids!
Omega 365 Cold Juicer lets you make healthy juices at home with little work. It even peels the cut up veggies and fruits for you leaving you with pulp-free juice. It’s dishwasher safe and easy for anyone to use. The slow juicing process prevents the destruction of the enzymes in the fruit/veggies.
Get your family a frame that grows with them. Using PhotoShare technology, this picture frame will upload new photos with the push of a button. Anyone with the app can upload their own pictures to the frame, making it perfect for relatives that live far away. It’s super easy to set up and has a touch screen to help you with getting it up and running. Comes in 8″, 10″, and 14″ sizes.
Share your memories of childhood string games with your own kids with this fun set. It includes a “string” (a gold-colored cord) plus a little book explaining how to do a number of one-person string combinations as well as the usual two-person combinations. Some string movements familiar from my childhood are in the book, albeit with different names, but there are still a few missing, such as the Witch’s Broom. Still, this is a fun gift for kids or curious adults who enjoy analog activities.
For those who love its cute, chunky, rubbery plastic-ness, Funko toys are something to collect, something to cherish, something to anticipate. This year is no different with several new items and collections coming out. My eye is especially on the Disneyland Peter Pan Ride Funko, since it’s run of my favorite rides. In addition to various Disney-based toys (including a Santa Mickey, Dumbo, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride), many other fandoms are represented, including Marvel/Wandavision, DC Superheroes in holiday garb, Pokemon, Dumb and Dumber, TMNT, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Furby, and even four different versions of Elvis! There are also advent calendars, keychains, snowglobes, and tabletop games. These are great gift options since there is something for every price range and almost every interest.
The ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ movie may have been delayed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a LEGO set based on the film this holiday season!
This LEGO kit is 371 pieces, and is intended for ages 8+. Some of the features include a rotating transmitter tower, a secret bunker, and LEGO minifigures of Cheetah, Max Lord, and Wonder Woman in her golden armor.
Return to the magical world of Harry Potter with this 797-piece LEGO set. Featuring the Muggle house that Harry grew up in, there are multiple rooms, including a secret room revealing the cupboard where Harry first slept.
Also in this set are minfigures of Harry, Ron, The Dursleys, and Dobby the House Elf. And you can recreate Ron and Harry’s famous trip to Hogwart’s with the Weasley’s flying Ford Anglia.
Based off of Gal Gadot’s appearance in the upcoming ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ this 7″ action figure is highly detailed, and has 22 points of articulation to allow you to create all sorts of action poses.
Accessories include an unfurled golden lasso, and wrapped lasso, and a display base. The figure also comes with a collectible art card, featuring ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ artwork on the front, and character biography on the back.
This handy little gadget is ideal for kids who want to play card games but find holding onto multiple cards at once a challenge. Made of two pieces of plastic with a wafer-thin gap between them, the Little Hands Card Holder allows kids to easily slip cards into the gap between them where they will stay until being removed just as easily.
The holder will allow kids to hold multiple cards easily (my son used it to hold many train cards when playing Ticket to Ride) and also helps prevents little hands from bending or folding the cards while trying to hold onto them too. It’s an ideal little gift for kids who love to game.
My First Scalextric: Looney Tunes is a small scale, themed Scalextric set aimed at younger children aged from three and up. It is easier to build and control, uses smaller track pieces, and features more robust vehicles than a standard Scalextric set but the cars move at impressive speeds that will absolutely thrill kids (and adults) of all ages.
We found My First Scalextric: Looney Tunes convenient to set up and store and as well as being easy and incredibly fun to use. With a wide variety of themes available including James Bond and Justice League, these sets will be great for kids and also anyone who’d love a race car set in their life but doesn’t have space for a large setup.
Blending the classic visual aesthetic of the Game & Watch portable with iconic platformer Super Mario Bros. (plus The Lost Levels and Ball), the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. special edition will surely be one of this holiday season’s most sought-after gadgets. Packed with nostalgic charm and 35 secrets and hidden events, it’s an ideal choice for the gamer on your gift list. (Review and promotional materials provided by Nintendo of America.)
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