When we’re little, the world is full of unexplained wonders. From exploding volcanoes to prehistoric dinosaurs, so much of what we encounter as children seems wild and awesome. To keep those curiosities flowing, we at Atlas Obscura handpicked this treasure trove of gifts for explorers young and old. From a wildly popular Viking game to an escape room that fits in the palm of your hand, each of these experience-based kids’ gifts is an invitation into the extraordinary.
For puzzle masters.
Have you ever wanted to do an escape room from the comfort of your home? Maybe even from the couch? Look no further than Art of Play’s Cluebox series. Each Cluebox is clad in mysteries that will have young sleuths cracking codes and solving riddles. The Nautilus Cluebox is inspired by French writer Jules Verne, the so-called “father of science fiction,” and his daring character, Captain Nemo. Constructed of 116 individual wooden pieces, the Nautilus is the third in the series and the most complex box yet—even experts often take an hour to complete the puzzle.
For future entomologists.
There are over 1 million known insect species in the world, and every year researchers add 7,000 more on average to that list. This explorer’s kit comes with everything a young bug enthusiast might need to find their own new species, from adjustable binoculars to a collection tub with a telescopic lens. The whole kit, which is currently priced at $25.85, includes a total of 16 different pieces and is sure to make any young scientist feel like a real entomologist.
From author and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky comes a beautiful guided journal that invites us to reflect on our place in the world. Filled with vibrant, hand-drawn depictions of animals and plants, the journal opens with a series of infographics explaining how the Earth works. The journal then moves into curated exercises and prompts that ask us to consider how our actions impact the world. The journal is inspiring for anyone young or old who wants to come up with ways to help protect our planet.
For history and chess lovers.
A millennium ago, a hnefatafl obsession gripped northern Europe. Also known as “Viking chess,” the wildly popular board game was likely a Viking adaption of earlier Roman and Greek games. The two-player strategy game is played on a checkerboard. While one person attempts to capture the opponent’s king, the defending player tries to get their king to the safety of a corner square. The game eventually fell out of favor as chess overtook hnefatafl in popularity sometime in the 12th century. But now curious game enthusiasts can still try their hand at the popular Viking pastime with this beautiful, wooden hnefatafl set, which is based on Viking artifacts and historical descriptions.
For the rock-obsessed.
Whether you’ve found rough chunks of mica at New Hampshire’s Ruggles Mine or dug up pieces of quartz at Arkansas’s historic Avant Mining, one thing’s for sure—your rock will look a heck of a lot better polished. This durable, quiet tumbler will easily transform up to three pounds of jagged rocks into beautifully buffed specimens ready for display. Priced at $164.95 with a one-year warranty, the Lortone 3A rock tumbler is a fascinating gift for budding geologists.
For young tinkerers.
The first museum in LEGO’s Modular Buildings collection, this 4,014-piece model is full of tiny wonders. When finished, the two-floor museum features a range of exhibits on natural history, astronomy, and space. A private, staff-only curator’s office is hidden in the roof’s dome, and a soaring brachiosaurus skeleton welcomes visitors in the skylit atrium. This museum is sure to be a dazzling centerpiece of any LEGO lover’s collection.
For curious world travelers.
Written by Atlas Obscura co-founder Dylan Thuras and award-winning science writer Rosemary Mosco, this book is a passport to the world’s secrets. The New York Times Best Seller transports kids to giant crystal-laden caves in Mexico, bamboo trains in Cambodia, and mysterious fairy circles in Namibia. Full of colorful illustrations and fun facts, the Explorer’s Guide is a spectacular journey into the little-known corners of our planet.
For aspiring Egyptologists.
Embark on an Egyptian archaeology adventure with this at-home pyramid dig. Using the included chisel, brush, and hammer, budding archaeologists can excavate the marvels of their very own treasure-laden pyramid. As young explorers uncover hidden mummies and ancient coins, the accompanying guide provides background information on each artifact—it’s learning and adventure all in one.
For fledgling inventors.
Long before driving cars and ChatGPT came on the scene, moving mechanical wonders—known as automata—fascinated the ancient, medieval, and Renaissance worlds. After being set in motion, these simple machines could move seemingly on their own, often mimicking animals or people. From the very first cuckoo clocks to a young Louis XIV’s miniature moving coach complete with horses and footmen, automata enchanted royals and commoners alike. For those who want to try their hand at making their own, American Science & Surplus’s wooden fish automaton is a simple, elegant place to start. When assembled, a small hand crank prompts the fish to appear as if it’s swimming through the air.