Jay Silver's Christmas Recommendations for the creative scientific thinker for 2010:
(In no particular order, except the order of my thinking)
1) EyeClops or any lens (but Eyeclops is seriously amazing in terms of modern lenses), binoculars, night vision, see through crystals.
2) A cheap but fully functional stethescope or any other listening device (this is just a good but cheap example, not anything special)
3) Airzooka or a Dyson Fan or anything that provides interesting gas flow situations (but these two are especially intriguing)
4) Ultra Bubbles . I once bought these but don't know where you can buy them now. You can build things with them, decorate with them, and play games with them, plus whatever you can do with traditional bubbles.
5) Dominoes (just one of many good examples) or anything that can be used to set up elaborate machinery without any training (think rube goldberg but more readily accessible). This category also includes marble machine supplies (the guy who made these now works at Exploratorium). I just think dominoes provide so many opportunities for thinking about flow, digital systems, directional branching, etc., and all so visceral. Honestly I also think this is the category that Scratch fits into and it's free. Dominoes and marbles can be procured for free or near free often times.
6) Any kind of persistence of vision toy (this one is a DIY kit)
7) Some nice tree climbing gear (good when paired with a magnifying glass or pocket microscope)
8) Anything that transforms sensory experience especially while letting you build inventions. Drawdio is a great example of this, as are other things built by Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum (many of which are free like glow doodle and singing fingers)
9) Any Klutz book by Pat Murphy. Right now there are 3: Invasion of the Bristle Bots , Bang Splat Kablooey , and Flying Machines
10) Any real "professional" sound sampler (or a high quality toy one). Sample Toy is the best one for your money, but there are so many out there.