The Rookie Gift Guide: Gizmos

Tech-y, science-y presents for all! Plus: A bonus mini-roundup of eco-friendly gifts.

Next up in this month’s gift-o-rama: gizmos. Here’s a list of the coolest tech and tech-adjacent stuff you’ll want to give or get this year, all recommended by Maggie, Rookie’s resident computer genius. (And she throws in some bonus eco-friendly gift ideas, if helping the earth is your holiday jam.)


thinking-puttyCrazy Aaron’s Super Magnetic Thinking Putty
This is one of the most enigmatic gifts you could give someone. It’s like Silly Putty (you can tear it into tiny pieces and smash them back together, roll the whole thing up and bounce it like a ball, etc.), but it’s filled with millions of invisible magnets that make it “come alive” in the presence of a magnetic field and wiggle around like a creepy worm. What does it MEEEEAN?!!!!?!? ($15, Crazy Aaron’s Putty World)

led-shower-headLED color-changing showerhead
Your shower shouldn’t just be a shower—it should be a place where you feel inspired to re-enact scenes from Xanadu. Turn it into a candy-colored discotheque with this rainbow LED showerhead. It’s what washing up would be like if your water pipes were full of Skittles. ($40, Amazon)

sound-pop-speakerAudioSource Sound pOp speaker
Every disco-shower needs a sound system. Enter Sound pOp, a small, water-resistant Bluetooth speaker/microphone on a suction cup. Listen to music, answer your phone, dictate to Diane…and do it all from the aqueous environment of your choice. (From $27, Amazon)

insta-snowSteve Spangler’s Original Insta-Snow Powder
Insta-Snow is like a really festive science project. You just add water to a powder-polymer formula and snow instantly materializes before your eyes. It’s perfect to whip out at holiday parties, or to send to friends in snow-deprived climates. The smallest jar still makes buckets of frozen flakes, and the bigger ones yield enough to squash small children—just look at how happy they are! (From $10, Steve Spangler Science)

pistarterRaspberry Pi computer starter-kit
Last year we showed you how to make your own computer using a Raspberry Pi, an old TV monitor, and bunch of stuff you can find online or in the tech-junk aisle of a thrift store. If you (or a friend/relative) want to skip the scavenger-hunt part and get straight to computing, try a Raspberry Pi starter-kit. It comes with a Raspberry Pi, plus all the cables and stuff you need to get started. If you already have a Raspberry Pi, consider some cool accessories like this starter robotics board for using your Pi to control robots, or a camera board that can turn it into a cool photo booth. ($105, Ada Fruit Industries)

credit_card bulbCredit-card flashlight
The website selling this weird credit-card sized, light-bulb-shaped flashlight boasts, “You’ll wonder how you survived without it.” While no one on the planet will ever actually wonder that—unless they have very peculiar survival needs—this is a cute, tiny thing that someone in your life is bound to like. And it’s only five bucks! ($5, Think Geek)

blade-runner-umbrellaLED umbrella
There are only five years till 2019, the year depicted in the killer sci-fi movie Blade Runner. Even though replicant technology is still a ways off, LED umbrellas are here! Get one for your Blade Runner-obsessed friend (everyone has one) or the crush you’re currently stalking (everyone has one). The umbrella’s glowing rod will make it easier to follow said crush around on dark, rainy days. ($20, Amazon)

ledbulbLIFX light bulb
This is a wifi-enabled LED light bulb that allows you to spontaneously mood-light your life. Using a smartphone as a remote, you can adjust these bulbs to any light level and/or color on the RGB spectrum. Create your own “Moonchild” moment whenever you want! ($90, LIFX)

This is a little device that you can stick into the HDMI port of any HDTV to stream whatever’s on the computer’s Chrome browser through the TV. This is the perfect gift for a technologically frustrated parent or grandparent. You’ll magically connect what’s on their computer—Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, Rookie—to their TV screen, and they will freak out and think you’re a genius. ($35, Google)

3D-printerPrintrbot 3D printer
OK, this is really expensive, but you’ll never have to buy a cup again. Or a phone case. Or a guitar pick. Or pretty much anything else you can make out of plastic! This 3D printer can produce solid three-dimensional objects to virtually any specification. Some 3D printers can even make themselves! So meta! It’s like I always say: When it comes to the holidays, the more meta, the betta. ($299, Printrbot)

BONUS: Eco-Friendly Gifts

‘Tis the season to amass and distribute material objects to signify our love for one another. OR NOT? Consider opting out of the shit-show of holiday consumerism by “adopting” an animal for someone this year. You can choose from a bunch of creatures that need our help, including wolves, three-toed sloths (shown here in stuffed-animal form), river otters, pandas, and frogs. Aside from the satisfaction you’ll get from knowing you’re doing something good for the world, you’ll also get stuff (depending on how much you donate) like a certificate of adoption, photos, an info sheet, and a cute plush-toy version of the animal you choose. All proceeds go to protecting wildlife and wild places. (From $25, World Wildlife Fund; from $15, Defenders of Wildlife)

eco_tools_makeup_brushesEcoTools makeup brushes
Seriously, these are the best makeup brushes you can find under 10 bucks. The fact that they are eco-friendly is just the icing on the cake. They’re incredibly soft and well made (no annoying shedding of bristles all over your face), and they’re 100-percent cruelty free. These sets come with a variety of brushes and are not only utilitarian but also really pretty. (From $4, EcoTools)

cafe_mamShade-grown coffees
Coffee, coffee, coffee! We love it, but unfortch it is contributing to the destruction of rainforests. (Most coffee crops are grown on big sunny plantations that are the result of large-scale deforestation.) Shade-grown coffee is cultivated using traditional methods through which beans sprout up under a canopy of trees, so the forest doesn’t have to be bulldozed. Try roasts by Café Mam—all their beans are fair trade, grown by Mayan farmers, and roasted to order. You can also buy shade-grown coffees at Whole Foods, or use the Rainforest Alliance website to find eco-certified retailers near you. ($5 for half a pound, Café Mam)


  • AnaRuiz December 6th, 2013 7:21 PM

    The LED shower is like the perfect gift for parents of small children and cats who refuse to shower.

  • navyblueguava December 6th, 2013 8:18 PM

    Love these!

  • Sophii December 6th, 2013 8:28 PM

    Wow these are amazing!! Especially the showerhead. I didn’t know that such a thing existed! xoxo

  • heyspinachbaby December 6th, 2013 9:10 PM

    I love this gift guide. I have some of the EcoTools brushes (from Rite Aid) and they’re MUCH better than the $1-2 e.l.f. ones from Target.

    I also wanted to mention, the Chromecast plugs in to the HDMI port of modern HDTVs, but they do have a USB port on them for power, if it’s not provided by the HDMI port!

    • Lena December 7th, 2013 1:14 PM

      You’re right! Thank you for pointing that out.

  • Sarah December 6th, 2013 9:47 PM

    3D printers are so cool. We have one at my school and my friend made herself a doctor who phone case!

  • alylee December 6th, 2013 10:00 PM

    Defintely just ordered a Tiger for my little sister’s Christmas present. You can’t really beat giving someone a plush version of their favorite animal AND helping that animal be protected. Especially for $12.00.

  • Hipstermonster December 6th, 2013 10:42 PM

    My family can’t afford a 3D printer (but I can dream I have one… 0)_(0 ). As for a the eco-tools, those would be great sweet 16 things for me! :)

  • maxrey December 7th, 2013 12:35 AM

    I’m going to adopt an animal for my 8 year old cousin this year. She wants to be a vet and loves animals. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • julalondon December 7th, 2013 6:06 AM

    Rookie gift guides are always the best!!!

  • emlyb December 7th, 2013 7:33 AM

    rookie your gift guides are so rad omg!!!

  • daisyparakeet December 7th, 2013 10:34 AM

    Love these clever ideas! Makes me wish I knew more tweens. The video clips are brilliant.

  • cicconeyouth December 7th, 2013 2:47 PM

    I’ve been stalking the Printrbot for a year! Someday, someday…
    If you haven’t seen a 3D printer in real life, take the opportunity if you get it. I’ve been to a few beginner workshops and I’m always transfixed. PURE MAGIC!

  • Savidi December 8th, 2013 9:31 PM

    omigod that LED showerhead. 0.0 i could really up my singing in the shower with that.

  • Sarah244 December 10th, 2013 5:42 PM

    It seems a little odd that you’d post a gift guide well after one of the two major gift-giving holidays of the season has already ended. It’s a nice guide – but misguided to neglect to consider all of the Jewish people who are also buying presents for Hanukkah.

  • HayleyM December 11th, 2013 5:39 AM

    The link to the how to make a raspberry pi computer doesn’t work :-(

    • Amy Rose December 11th, 2013 9:34 AM

      Thank you for catching this! It’s fixed now.

    • Anaheed December 11th, 2013 10:15 AM

      It’s working for me — what browser are you on?