Brock microscope After several years of looking for an everyday microscope suitable for a busy family I found one. There is no fussing, no adjustments. The viewing field is amazingly bright and clear. And best of all it is practically indestructible. $145
Perplexus This is a cool 3-dimensional maze that is easy to get started and hard to finish. You need to steer a small metal ball along an ingenious obstacle course by rotating the clear plastic globe. Because it’s like a 3D video game without the electronics, the very physical nature of playing — turning it this way and that — is very satisfying. $21
Travel Clothesline On long vacation trips when we wash our own undies, socks, and whatnots in our hotel room sink, this nifty braided rubber clothes line is the thing we use to dry them. It weighs a mere few ounces. $16
Heifer International For fifty years the Heifer Project has been providing families in developing countries (and parts of the US) with breeding pairs of animals. It’s hard to imagine a better gift, or a more practical, proven lever in making a difference in communities of need.