You loved the The Official 2017 Cool Tech Gift Guide, and here is its sister-post, focused on things that are not entirely built yet, along with a few books about how to do that.
Fairly recent in the tinkering world is an item that is more of a toy than a maker thing, but it is how we breed new, small makers. I refer of course, to Makey Makey, which comes in regular and special packaging. The difference between the two really is just packaging, with the former minimalist, the latter fancier but also harder to open.
Here’s the idea behind the Makey Makey “In Invention Kit for Everyone”. It is a device that ground-faults safely, and when so doing, sends a signal to a serial output that can be the USB input for a computer. The signal it sends depends on which part of the device is shorted out, and corresponds to a key or mouse move. So, you can hook the Makey Makey up to a banana and the banana becomes your space bar, or whatever. It is a lot of fun, it is cheap, and great for kids of all ages above a certain level, maybe six.
Book related to Makey-Makey:
There are two books that are excellent introductions to using the Arduino, both of which I’v reviewed (see this): The Arduino Project Handbook, Volume 2: 25 Simple Electronics Projects for Beginners and the Arduino Project Handbook (volume 1).
An Arduino Uno R3 Microcontroller A000066, or even better, some sort of Arduino staring kit is among the best things you can give someone who likes to tinker. Don’t worry if they already have one, they need more. If they’ve never heard of it, this will change their lives. Guaranteed.
If you know someone who is beyond just getting started with the Arduino, consider Arduino Playground: Geeky Projects for the Experienced Maker. It is not for the faint of heart. Unless the faint of heart person plans to build a pacemaker with an Arduino!
The Raspberry Pi is a full on computer that is very tiny yet powerful, and merely needs to be hooked up to a screen, keyboard, mouse, and storage device(s), to work. You may know someone who has one, but do they have a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Motherboard? This new version is a huge upgrade. And, if someone is just staring out, a starter kit such as the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit – 32 GB Edition is nice, because it has other parts and fun things.
Or, a robot. These are the two best robots that are easy to build, in my opinion, are the Makeblock mBot 1.1 Kit – STEM Education – Arduino – Scratch 2.0 – Programmable Robot Kit for Kids to Learn Coding, Robotics and Electronics – Blue(Bluetooth Version – Family Prefer) or the Tenergy Odev Tomo 2-in-1
See THIS for my overview of Linux related books.
See THIS for an overview of programming related books.