Black Friday has come and gone and you have no idea what to get for the most difficult person to shop for in your life: YOUR Daddy Engineer.  We usually have lots of hobbies and past-times so why are we so hard to shop for?  Well, we buy our favorite gadgets ourselves and for the ones we hold out on, it’s only because we haven’t chosen the exact model yet.  We engineers enjoy browsing through hundreds of reviews, weighing pro’s and con’s and ultimately creating a spreadsheet to keep track of our notes.  So, don’t attempt to go after that perfect wish-list item; it would deprive us of that joyful process.

So, here are a few idea’s which go after our periphery interests and generally cool stuff that we cannot refuse.  I used many Toronto examples in this post but I hope it generates some ideas no matter where you are located.  GOOD LUCK!

  1. Little Bits – Easy-to-connect mini electronics, motors and sensors to mechanize your own toys.  Yes, these are designed for kids but my kids are still too young. However, they are just the right age for daddy to create toys and gadgets for them!  We never had these toys when we were young – not fair – but not too late to play.  With kids at 2 and 5 and I can play with these and be a fun dad.  A few years earlier or later and there’s no socially acceptable excuse. [LittleBits Base Kit at $99 USD]
  2. Arduino – For the dads with some more engineering aptitude, why not see if they can build something cool with micro-electronics and program it to work. If you want to feed your fish by sending a tweet, you can probably do it with this platform.  [Arduino Starter Kit at $77.21 USD on Amazon]
  3. Drone – Yes I know – it’s 2015, what self-respecting Daddy Engineer is still drone-less? Yes, they were giving them out at last year’s Christmas party and are now at Wal-Mart and probably soon at gas stations.  However, if he doesn’t have one yet, he’s probably not a die-hard enthusiast but will surely enjoy whatever you pick out. [Drone on Amazon with Camera at $62.95 USD]
  4. BB8 Droid – This is the droid they’ve been dreaming about.  A cute little droid controlled by phone, from the new Star Wars movie.  Too expensive for them to buy for themselves but it will be a hot gift item for sure. I saw them in action at a Brookstone at Detroit airport – already had a sign saying “Limit 2 per customer”. [BB8 on Amazon for $149 USD]
  5. iFly – “Dude, let’s feel alive again and jump out of a plane!” “Uh, I’d love to but my wife would kill me…”  Ultra-high powered fans and a state of the art facility makes that free-fall sensation a reality again.  Perhaps the whole family can enjoy as the minimum age is only 4 years old! [Intro Flights at iFly Toronto for $72 CAD] p.s. yes, that’s me in the photo!
  6. Obstacle Course – Does your Daddy Engineer watch American Ninja Warrior? Well, give him a run on the local obstacle course or race.  If he doesn’t work out, it might be good motivation for him to start again.  He may not be a jock but I bet that he’ll give it that old college try. Popular races are Tough Mudder, Spartan Races and local indoor gyms are popping up. [Pursuit OCR, $50 CAD for a month, $20 for a day pass]
  7. Crossfit – Let’s discuss that fitness topic again. I’ve always believed in healthy mind and body.  However, then kids came.  While lamenting one day to a cab driver he said “Why?!  You didn’t have the kid, your wife did!”    Well, I started to find time again when my youngest turned 2 and I’ve gotten on the Crossfit Bandwagon.  Workouts involve stretching, movement prep, a strength component and a conditioning session.   2 or 3 times a week, I get up at 5:30, make it to a 6am workout and am back by 7:15am to get the kids and myself ready.  My wife got this for my birthday but it was really her support and holding down the fort for the morning workouts that is the gift.   Whether it’s crossfit or something else, the structured classes help me get back into it with some coaching and get me out of bed those early mornings. [Tidal Crossfit at $128 CAD per month]
  8. Escape Room – I bet your Daddy Engineer thinks he’s SOOOO clever.  Well lock him in a room with his school-mates and see if they can figure out how to escape.  It’s a craze that originated in Asia, became a big hit in New York and has come to Toronto and other major cities.  My friends love it and there are lots of places to check out. [Real Escapes, $28 per person]
  9. Maker Space Membership – There’s definitely a “Maker” movement going on and in all forms.  I asked my colleague what we wanted and it was black-smithing lessons!  That’s old school but most of us want to use 3-D printers, laser cutters and CNC machines.  The good news is that lots of maker spaces are popping up.  Torontonians, check out the new Tool Library or Steam Labs downtown. [$98CAD for 1 month membership at SteamLabs]

How about a Donation!  A final thought: If your Daddy Engineer has enough gadgets and not enough time for these crazy activities, maybe he’d prefer a donation to a cause important to either you or him.  A nice platform my best friend told me about is Kiva.  It’s based on micro-loans to people all over the world who may need $20 or so to start a business to better their family’s lives.  And the loans have a very good chance of getting paid back.  So, a gift of $50USD on Kiva will allow him to help 1 or 2 needy families, and then when the loan gets paid back, redeploy it to others.  The engineer in him will optimize for maximum social impact.  Best of all, it’s in the spirit of the holidays!

Disclaimer: I have not personally tried the gadgets above, please check product reviews.  Chance of injury for all those crazy fitness activities, especially at Daddy age – make sure he takes it easy and maybe see a doc if appropriate.  Ask for a receipt and return/exchange policy!  Engineers often make an exchange to optimize for value/features!  Also, I dabbled with the Amazon Affiliate program in this post, I hope you don’t mind the affiliate links.


My mission through Daddy Engineer is to encourage people of all ages to enjoy engineering play.  Between work, kids and actually doing some of these projects, there’s little time left for blogging but I hope you enjoy my efforts.  Let me know what you think, your feedback and encouragement is much appreciated.

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