The Best Gifts For Prying People Away From Their Screens

Bake your coworker’s face. Build a gadget. Launch a rocket in the backyard.

The Best Gifts For Prying People Away From Their Screens

*Record scratch.* *Freeze frame.* Yup. That’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got myself into this situation, hiding in the coatroom of a holiday party scrolling through Instagram.


Phones aren’t just convenient because they give us directions and let us send emails. They’re convenient in the way they let us avoid uncomfortable social situations: Maybe it’s your younger sibling playing Counter Strike: Global Offensive under the dinner table. Maybe it’s a coworker at the office party who won’t stop texting during conversations. Odds are good you’re already buying gifts for your holiday guests anyways. Why not make it something the group can build, design, or make together?

Build A Rocket Launcher
The after-dinner stroll and backyard fire pit sessions are hallmarks of the season. Consider how much more excited the group will be to bundle up knowing that they’re heading out to test their own rocket launcher–assembled before dinner in about 20 minutes with this $130 kit. All you need is a bike pump and some common office supplies. And understanding neighbors. Invite them!

Make Light Paintings
If loud noises and airborne objects aren’t your speed, try light painting. The term refers to long-exposure photos where a source of light is used to dynamically “paint” shapes or words. You can certainly do it yourself with ad hoc light sources–sparklers will work, so will a flashlight–there are also tons of tools out there to help get you started, like this $40 color wand set from Lomography.

Bake Your Face
This one involves a little pre-planning, but it’s perfect for days spent baking with family. CopyPastry is a tiny startup led by the design student Kriszti Bozzai, who will create a custom 3D-printed cookie cutter of your face (or multiple faces) based on any photo you send to the site. While $50 for a cookie cutter might sound steep, imagine the look on your relatives’ faces when you gift them . . . their own face.

Build A Gadget
For the creative office that’s always more lively when it’s working on something, check out Kano, a startup that sells Lego-style electronics kits. The company’s latest offerings include a $129 Bluetooth speaker, a camera, and a pixel grid, whose parts arrive in packaging designed by Map that helps lead the way through the assembly process. The building process will have everyone working together–and at the end of the night, you’ve got something that’s useable . . . or not. You’ll always have the memories.

Play Cards
With its Design Pack, Cards Against Humanity commissioned 30 designers to create illustrations of words that, as George Carlin once said, “you can never say on television.” The designers themselves range from Susan Kare to Milton Glaser to Jessica Hische, while the words range from–actually, I’d better not say. Get a pack for $10 here.


Design Fridge Magnets
Perfect for youngins and bored office-mates alike, this magnetic sticker mat from the Danish design purveyor Flying Tiger is a low-risk investment at only $4 a sheet. Just watch that your drunk coworker doesn’t plaster any NSFW magnets on the communal office fridge.

“Finish” An Infinite Puzzle
The design studio Nervous System has been making fascinating laser-cut puzzles for years. Its latest creation? A $130 “infinite” puzzle that can be added to, and added to, and added to, infinitely–or until you run out of room. Put one out on the coffee table and let people have at it.

Atlas Of Remote Islands
Okay, fine. Here’s one for the irreparable introverts.


About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.