The 2016 Holiday Gift Guide for Awesome Young (and Old) Makers

The 2016 Holiday Gift Guide for Awesome Young (and Old) Makers | It's the time of year for gift giving, and what better gift to give to a child (or adult) than something that encourages creativity? Here's some of my top picks for gifts for young (and not so young) makers

I normally tend to stay away from “stuff” lists when it comes to talking about makerspaces.  I believe that the stuff that goes into a makerspace should be based around the needs of the students and the school, not on a checklist of items to get.  But this list is different.  The holiday season is upon us, and what better gift to give to a young (or not so young) maker than something that encourages creativity? (Well, books, but don’t worry, I’ve got those too).

Here’s some of my favorite picks for maker themed gifts for the holidays or any day.

The 2016 Holiday Gift Guide for Awesome Young (and Old) Makers

I’m not sorting these by age, but most of these gifts have a pretty wide age range.  When it doubt, check to see what the manufacturer says.  Also, please note, I’ve listed the price as of the date I’m writing this post (12-3-16).  Prices may change, so check the links.

Awesome Robots

For the Robot Obsessed

  • Dash $129 – Dash is one of my students’ favorite robots.  He has a warm personality that makes everyone fall in love with him.  You can record your voice for playback, drive him around freestyle, and code him to do all kinds of tricks.  If you want to splurge, go for the full Wonder Workshop kit ($279) which includes Dot, another robot that you can code to interact with Dash, and tons of fun accessories.
  • Sphero ($129) & Ollie ($99)–  Sphero is a classic.  It’s easily controlled with any bluetooth device and compatible with tons of apps.  Free play is easy to get started with, and there’s coding apps, augmented reality games and more.  Ollie is a faster, slicker version who is great for doing tricks.  I find it difficult to control, but my students love it.
  • Cubelets ($159 for six pack) – Cubelets are one of the pricier items here for sure, but they’re also lots of fun.  I’ve seen kids anywhere from 5 to 15 have tons of fun creating different robots and devices using these.  They’re super durable and come from a great company.
  • Ozobots ($49 for starter pack) – I don’t have Ozobots in my makerspace, because I never felt like they fit with the way my space is set up.  But I have colleagues who adore them.  They work great with individuals and small groups.  They’re tiny, cute little robots and you can program them to follow different paths with different colored markers from the set.

For Your Future Engineerengineers

  • LEGOs ($49.99 for Classic Creative Large box) – Because LEGOs are always awesome and make an awesome gift for anyone 🙂
  • K’nex ($18.74 for 52 model set) – I spent many hours building with K’nex as a kid.  Now, they’re one of my students favorite materials.  I bought this set for my 6th grade nephew and it was the perfect size to get started with.
  • littleBits ($99 for the Rule Your Room Kit) – It’s no secret that I love littleBits.  They’re easy to tinker with, offer tons of ways to remix them and combine them with other materials, and they’re just plain for.  I love the Rule Your Room Kit for gifting, because what kid doesn’t want to build an alarm system to guard their stuff? (See my review of the STEAM Student Set here)
  • MaKeyMaKey ($49.95) – It does way more that let you play piano with a banana.  MaKeyMaKey can turn anything conductive into a computer key, and when you combine it with coding programs like Scratch, the possibilities are endless.

arts and craftsFor the Crafty Ones

  • Perler Beads ($8.99 for 6,000 count bucket with pegboards) – Another classic favorite.  Perler beads are fun, easy to use, and allow for tons of creativity.  Simply arrange the beads on the board and fuse them together with an iron and wax paper.  See more recommendations for Perler Bead products in my post on why they’re awesome for makerspaces.
  • Potholder Loom Kit ($14.99 for this one that makes 8) – This is a great way to introduce kids to weaving, and it’s tons of fun.  My students love experimenting with different color combinations
  • Skil Cardboard Cutter ($37.74) – I recommend this cardboard cutter constantly when talking about the cardboard challenge.  It’s a great gift for use at home too.  Kids love to build things out of cardboard and this device makes it easier and safer to cut it.  Would recommend some adult supervision, but I have yet to have any of my students cut themselves with this, and they’re accident-prone middle schoolers.
  • Fun Duct Tape ($19.99 for a pack of 12) – Because the crafting possibilities are endless.

Maker booksFor Your Holiday Maker Reading

This category is more for the grown-up makers in your life (or for yourself).  This is by no means an exhaustive list of my favorite maker book, so be sure to check out my book reviews for more recommendations.

  • The Big Book of Makerspace Projects ($14.18) – This amazing new book from my friends Colleen and Aaron belongs in your life.  There’s tons of fun projects to make it here and it’s especially awesome to make them with the kids in your life.  (my review here)
  • Invent to Learn ($34.95) – This book was essential to me as I started my maker journey and it has stood the test of time.  Give this to your friend who wants to get started with making but isn’t sure how to approach it (my review here)
  • The Art of Tinkering ($23.58) – This gorgeous, beautifully photographed book looks at making from an artist’s perspective.  Profiles of various artists and lots of project examples make this the perfect gift for the maker artist in your life. (my review here)
  • Steal Like An Artist ($9.59) – Don’t let the title fool you – this is a book for everyone, not just artists.  It’s a fantastic book full of inspiration to fuel your creativity.  (my review here)
What are some of your favorite maker gifts?  Tell me in the comments 🙂

Post contains affiliate links.  Actions taken may result in commissions for Renovated Learning.

Diana Rendina, MLIS, is the media specialist at Tampa Preparatory School, an independent 6-12 in Tampa, FL. Previously, she was the media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School for seven years, where she founded their library makerspace. She is the creator of the blog & is also a monthly contributor to AASL Knowledge Quest. Diana is the winner of the 2016 ISTE Outstanding Young Educator Award, the 2015 ISTE Librarians Network Secondary Award, the 2015 AASL Frances Henne Award & the 2015 SLJ Build Something Bold Award. She is an international speaker on the Maker Movement and has presented at conferences including AASL, FETC & ISTE. Diana co-authored Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace with Colleen and Aaron Graves and is also the author Reimagining Library Spaces: Transform Your Space on Any Budget.


  1. It’s not a ready made kit but I go to the local salvage store and load up a bag of wires, switches, bolts, and whatever else is cool and inexpensive. Then I give it to my kids and let them come up with their own ideas. For under $10, they have made a spaceship, a tank, a booby trap safe and on and on. Most pieces and parts are reusable too.

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