Maplin Electronics has been changing over the past few years moving away from being a specialist computer expert's source of bits and pieces to build or fix computers to a broader appeal. The thick, almost encyclopaedia-like paper catalogue has been replaced by a very comprehensive and easy to navigate website where the eclectic product range is classified into clear, and sometimes partly overlapping, sections. I like having a look round Maplin stores for inspiration for gifts or just general interest to see what's new, but the website, with the full product range saves a trip to the shop, with its more limited physical stock range.
If you're after something a bit unusual and off-beat for any age range or interest the Maplin website can be a good starting point.
For example I got a very useful water quality tester, which, being pocket sized, came in very handy on a trip to Menorca, telling us that neither the tap water nor the locally sourced bottled mineral water were advisable to drink.
I thought the hand-held body-fat analyser was potentially useful, too, but felt the recipient might be offended, so passed on that one.
To try and get my daughter into the habit of saving I found a talking robot moneybox on the website: he states which denomination of coin your putting into him, asks for more money and tells you the total saved every so often. Only trouble is, while she enjoys her parents filling him up, she prefers emptying him.
Next on my list is a 3-D printer, of which Maplin list a few, but I think a few hundred pounds is still too much to pay for something that only makes golf tees or Kinder Egg-style toys.