Christmas Gift Guide 2020: 12 gift ideas for master makers

You build

Look, how you spend Christmas is up to you. 

Some of us like to spend the entire festive break force-feeding ourselves in front of bad films and narrowly avoiding heart-to-heart conversations with family members.

Others, however, need something to occupy their hands...

Haynes Mini Amp (£21.99)

That Haynes logo will spark a warm nostalgic glow in the hearts of many, but chances are your dream Christmas present isn’t a manual. So instead, how about putting together your own Haynes mini amp, firing it up, plugging your phone into its aux connection and then rocking out? (Well, to some extent — it is quite wee.)

ARDUINO STARTER KIT (£73)

Fancy getting into electronics but never really knew how? This kit includes an Arduino UNO and the various bits and bobs you can use to work through 15 step- by-step creative projects. Go for the Fundamentals Bundle (£92) and you can even pass an online exam.

Picade 2020 (£165)

Do you download games on your phone? Pfft. In the old days, people wrote their own — after first building the system. The Picade, powered by Raspberry Pi, gives you a hint of that as you have to fashion your desktop cab from an Ikea-like kit. The 2020 version revamps the unit and bundles a Pico-8 code so you can get into making your own games.

CHATTERBOX SMART SPEAKER ($139)

Another Pi kit, this smart speaker sits upon two chunky feet and provides useful responses to skills that you or a nipper code. So it’sabit like a DIY Alexa, then... except this little bot has privacy at its core and only listens when you push down its big yellow button. 

SMARTIBOT (£55)

This robot with a cardboard shell won’t find itself in the recycling any time soon. Control it with an app or attach your phone and watch it blaze about, scaring the cat and chasing people. Or, build the Teabot and have it serve drinks. Although you might need another robot to make them first...

LEGO 1989 BATWING (£180)

Where does he get those wonderful toys? From the Lego shop! After last year’s phenomenal Burton Batmobile comes this detailed brick-built take on the Dark Knight’s swoopy skybound transport from the 1989 Batman flick. You get three minifigs too... but note that the Batwing is at a much larger scale. Holy expand-o-ray, Batman!

KITRONIK MOVE MINI MK2 (£28)

The BBC Micro:bit is an open-source system aimed at education but with a rich ecosystem of oddball add-ons. The Move Mini lets a Micro:bit bomb around on two large tyres, LEDs blinking, with the entire contraption controlled by a second machine.

CIRCUITMESS STEM BOX (from £74)

Whatever your age, there’s huge appeal in learning to make your own gadgets rather than just buying them. The idea with CircuitMess is to subscribe to kits that land every quarter, from a DJ mixer to a games console. Do them all and change your name to Sir Clive.

FSS BRUNSWICK (£110)

Musically inclined? You could grab yourself a modern synth or (shudder) an app. But proper musicians build their synths. A much more serious project than the little Korg on p45, this one is packed full of twiddly knobs and connectivity options.

TIMBERKITS VINTAGE CAR (£45)

Want to go truly old-school – as in pre-wires? When complete, this wooden kit animates via the magic of cogs and hand-crank power. If an old car sounds too tame, try the Demon Dentist kit, complete with squirming patient.

IFIXIT ESSENTIAL ELECTRONICS TOOLKIT (£23)

In a festive season packed full of tech, you can guarantee something will go wrong. But if you’re armed with this kit (and some actual fixing skills), there’s a good chance you’ll be able to save the holidays — like the opposite of the Grinch, armed with 16 screwdriver heads, tweezers and a spudger.

LEGO MINDSTORMS ROBOT INVENTOR (£330)

If the phrase ‘robot drummer’ doesn’t hook you, seek help. And that’s just one of the dozens of kit configurations on offer here before you get properly creative and start fashioning your own personal robot chums.