Gadget Guide: Tinker Toys

Digital gizmos make great gifts, but some givers reasonably wonder, Must everything be so hot-wired? Now you can choose. Here, three pairs of products— with one option for the techie, and its steampunk counterpart for the Luddite in us all.

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1. Powered

Lego Mindstorms EV3

The block maker has upgraded for the times, with new robots—humanoids, snakes, and more—that arrive play-ready within 20 minutes, packed with sensors, and able to sync with iOS devices. It's the Lego for a generation of future hackers. ($350, lego.com/shop)

2.Unplugged

Brinca Dada Blocks

Consider these curvy blocks the antidote to our data-driven world. All blocks can promote smart, spatial thinking in kids, but the absence of right angles makes these beechwood models extra rightbrain- oriented. "We live in a messy world," says Doug Rollins, founder of Brinca Dada. "These are spontaneous, not preprogrammed." ($55, brincadada.com)

[Photos by Greg Broom | Prop Styling by Hannah Jensen]

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