You’re here because you’re a maker, and you’d love to inspire someone close to you with that DIY spark, too. That means finding projects that are engaging and easy, and those that make learning fun. We’ve found the perfect electronics project kits to help you do that.
We’ve also included some advanced builds that you can give to friends who may just need a new project, and we promise not to tell anyone if you pick up a few of these for yourself either.
1. MOSS Zombonitron 1600 DIY Robot Bundle ($185/£135)
Getting into robotics can often be a bit complicated. The MOSS Zombonitron kit offers an approach to robot building that doesn’t require any programming out of the box. There are sensor blocks included that allow your creations to react to the environment around them.
The sensors allow for your creation to react to light and proximity to control movement. So you get a working robot by just putting together a couple of pieces. However, with a smartphone app that connects via Bluetooth, you can do more advanced programming that controls the robot.
All the pieces snap together using magnetic balls that transfer the power and command signals, so this should be accessible for beginners to assemble.
If you are trying to get one of your younger relatives in the DIY spirit, this electronics lab is the way to do it. Made to resemble those old-school kits Radio Shack used to sell, this Elco set has everything in the box to make a variety of electronics projects.
The Radio Shack kits were great when I was a kid, and were an easy way to explore the basics. I was always fascinated with the FM tuner on mine, sliding the tube to change the frequency (I’m old enough that comparing this against the dial on our living room stereo made sense). These types of kits are great ways to learn because they spell out concepts in straight ahead projects.
The kit has everything you need right in the box except for batteries. Working through these projects should help someone get their feet wet with all of the basic electronics components, and walk them through projects applying those concepts. There is no soldering required, so it should pass muster with even the most overprotective parent.
3. BOSEbuild Speaker Cube ($150)
Bluetooth speakers are ubiquitous and are nearly disposable tech. However, if you want to give someone a basic build project, the BOSEbuild speaker cube is an option to give a Bluetooth speaker with some additional value. Aside from making this a complete newbie level project, the Speaker Cube also doesn’t look like it came out of a vending machine.
With LED and insert customizations, this is a speaker that can be taken apart and reassembled for a new look. What’s more impressive is that the kit has you work with the magnet, coil, and paper that make up a speaker. There is an iOS app that can walk you through construction, and allows for the LED color customization.
4–6. littleBits Kits
The littleBits kits are focused on a younger crowd as well. The elevator pitch for their approach is Lego electronics. You snap together modules that have electronic components on them, and they stick together using magnets.
The basic entry point into the littleBits ecosystem is a ten piece kit that includes a motor. The instruction book has eight projects, but the combination of pieces allow for further experimentation. If you opt for the premium kit, you can quadruple the number of combinations, and get two additional projects. That set is priced at $150.
The Gizmos & Gadgets Kit focuses on robots, remote control cars and other electronics that move. It’s more specialized than the beginner’s kits and includes sixteen designs in the box. These pieces are also reusable for other projects.
If motorized toys are not your recipient’s thing, maybe they would like to build their own synth. With twelve modules that can combine in different ways to create a variety of instruments, you can use these for recording or performance. This kit would make a great gift for an experimental musician.
7. Squishy Circuit Kits ($60)
So if you’re getting a gift for a kid more into Play-Doh than Lego, Squishy Circuits might be a better place to introduce them to DIY projects. You make your creations out of conducting and insulating clay, and then attach the wires and LEDs to them.
One neat thing about this gift is that you DIY everything in it. You can make both the conductive and insulating dough in your kitchen with common ingredients. Just grab the recipes from this page, add in a few components from your supply and you can have an entirely DIY gift.
If you’re looking for a ready-made beginner’s set, you can choose from three kits. The difference is the number of components you get, and the amount of dough (both metaphorical and literal). The lite kit is limited to a battery holder and some LEDs but is only $10. The deluxe kit has an array of motors, fans, and other components and is $60. The standard kit is somewhere in between priced at $30.
8. Arduino Starter Kit ($70/£75)
Arduino is the gateway to more advanced hardware projects. What better way to help someone start down this path than the official Arduino beginner’s kit. You get the parts needed for fifteen basic projects, with a solderless breadboard and DC motor.
The kit has some interesting projects included, like a digital hourglass and a musical instrument called Light in the RAM. There’s plenty more to do with the Arduino when they finish with the basics.
9. Kano Computer Kit ($130/£110)
You could always give your kids an old laptop, but they might be better served by a Raspberry Pi. The Pi teaches them their computers are something more than an entertainment appliance. It also has Minecraft, which may be enough to sell most kids on it. However, as they explore Kano OS, they’ll find introductions to coding using music and other games.
The Kano kit is a great place to start with the Pi because it has everything they need except the monitor. It comes with a speaker case combo, an external keyboard and trackpad, and all the cables you need to hook the Pi up to a monitor. The Kano OS comes with additional games and activities to help kids learn to code. For another $150 you can get a kit for a build-it-yourself screen as well. If you want to put together a kit yourself, you can download the Kano OS for free — there are no special hardware requirements other than a Raspberry Pi.
10–12. Adafruit Kits
If you are shopping for someone who enjoys DIY but needs a new project, Adafruit kits are a good choice. These three kits are just a highlight reel of the various kits and components Adafruit offers.
Mintyboost 3.0 Kit ($24/£28)
USB chargers are another nearly disposable tech item. However, many people reading this section may have made an Altoids tin charger. If you are not familiar, Mintyboost lets you charge USB devices using two AA batteries. Adafruit updates this kit to support modern devices. It requires a bit of soldering but is a good, basic project.
Adafruit Drawdio Kit ($18)
Drawdio is a fun little project that lets you “draw” music, using a pencil and a speaker. This kit is a bit more advanced and requires some soldering. A few of the Amazon reviews complain about the quality of the pencil, so you may want to grab a more sturdy one for the final build.
Forget a smartwatch, get someone a watch they can build this year. The DIY watch is going to need some soldering and an afternoon to assemble. The watch face is an LED matrix. The time scrolls by when you press a button. This build is an intermediate project though, and requires extensive soldering.
Hopefully, we were able to inspire you to get that perfect gift to generate another DIY acolyte. Make sure to send them our way when they are looking for a new project, because we have plenty of projects to pique their interest.
Let us know in the comments if someone got you the perfect DIY gift. Also, we’d love to hear your stories of helping bring someone into the hobby.
Image Credits: Krezodent/Shutterstock