Magnetic Gyro Wheel / Paddle Ball / Pick-Up Sticks/ Barrel of Monkeys Combo Set

Harken back to the days when children used their imaginations, before video games and TV rotted everyone’s brains by the time they reached their third birthday. A simpler time, when a ball attached to a pinewood paddle by a rubber band could occupy the attention of a child throughout the long, cold winter, with nary a complaint of boredom. A time when a pile of sticks was not kindling meant for the fireplace, but actually the beginnings of a thrilling contest. A time when the simple rotation of a magnetized wheel down a reshaped metal coat hanger generated rapt fascination. A time when nothing could be more fun than a barrel of monkeys. If you sell it like this, Bradley will feel horribly dull and inadequate when he doesn’t swim in the current of enjoyment his ancestors found so bracing.



Also known as the “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Starter Kit.” A microscope promises discovery, and that’s just what Bradley is going to get when you make a few comments about 400x magnification allowing him to get a close-up view of all the mites and scabies and other critters that live right on his own face! Isn’t science wonderful? I mean, if you’ve seen one paramecium, you’ve seen them all, but to stare into the eye stalks of the tiny animals feasting on your dead skin cells—well, there’s no greater gift than that. With any luck, Bradley will spend the rest of his life washing his hands 873 times a day. And still never feel clean.


Star Trek Action Figures

You need some acting chops to pull this one off. Every big box store in America is drowning in Star Wars merchandise right now. Those Chinese kids can’t make enough Old-Ass Han Solo action figures. So when little Bradley opens the Mr. Spock doll from you, it’s gonna take an Oscar performance to sell the line, I couldn’t find that big hairy guy, so I got the fella with the pointy ears. Hope you don’t already have him! If you get any lip, just tell the kid that all those Star Man adventure stories are so hard to keep straight in your dumb grownup brain. When you get home, retire to your office, open your secret toy closet, and have Old-Ass Han Solo make out with Slave Leia. Yowza!



The most useless musical instrument to learn. I asked for one of these for Christmas when I was 14 or 15. I guess I thought I might start a blues band? I definitely did not ever try to track down a John Popper harmonica-pocket-vest to go with my starter harpoon. A harmonica is only a lead instrument if you’re on a cattle drive or gyrating in front Charlie Watts’ drum kit. As much as no one wants to be the guitar guy at the party, guitar guy at least gets a little attention from the ladies. But there’s never even a chance to be the harmonica guy at the party, because no one wants to hear a harmonica arrangement of Adele’s “Hello.” The Roots with music-class instruments? Groovy. Bradley with the Christmas harmonica you gave him? Not on fleek.


Geoffrey Redick is a freelance writer and radio producer. He lives in Memphis. He’s on Twitter.

Illustration by Sam Woolley.

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