1. Time Engineers
Let's face it, we need more kids getting into engineering. Ray Shingler, creator of this fun and interactive computer game, makes science and technology games that spark the engineer in all of us. He cornered me at this year's Greenbuild 2010 show in Chicago, where I spent about 10 minutes playing an online demo of his game titled "Time Engineers." Seconds later, I was flinging stones onto a target after fine-tuning a wooden catapult. If you want to dig deeper into this game, you can even work out physics equations and test your results in different scenarios (I didn't). Other levels include building a submarine, cranking open a castle drawbridge and building pyramids in Ancient Egypt. See more on the game's Website. Price: $15.95.
2. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
My family recently welcomed a baby daughter to this world, and she already has heard plenty about "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel." Written in 1939 by Virginia Lee Burton, it's a classic tale that casts a construction worker and his trusty steam shovel in Everyman vs. Industrial Progress: Mike and Mary Anne (a sly hat tip to the old Marion brand?), find themselves out of work, getting outbid by new gas and diesel rigs. But the digging duo earns new respect by excavating the basement of Popperville's new town hall in record time. Support the Historical Construction Equipment Association by purchasing this book on its Website. Price: $7.99.
3. 1:10 Scale Otis Shovel
It appears that model fanatics didn't rush out during the recession to blow their dough on this item, which was available this time last year for slightly more money. Still awaiting orders for a run of only 70 models, this 1:10-scale model of the original Otis steam shovel is sure to be a rare collector's item. The Otis shovel really is the machine that started it all: William S. Otis of Canton, Mass., was a contractor who wanted to find a better way to dig railbeds than a pick and shovel. In 1835, he designed and built this rig and became the grand-daddy of all construction machines. When his patents expired in the 1880s, the market for cable excavators exploded. Get it from the HCEA and $1,500 will be a tax-deductible donation. Price: $4,500.
4. Bucyrus Museum
Speaking of cable excavators, in honor of Caterpillar's recent bid to acquire the legendary mining-equipment producer, Bucyrus, how about a holiday trek to the Bucyrus Museum in South Milwaukee, Wis.? Bucyrus is one of those names that sticks around for generations. The company helped build the Panama Canal. It was a pioneer in electric drivetrains. It created some of the biggest machines to walk the Earth. We can partly thank Bucyrus for today's cheap coal (sorry about that, Mr. Gore). Load up your crew cab with family, grab some hot chocolate and head north of the Cheddar Curtain to learn more. Admission is free to the museum, but if you just want the belt buckle above you can order it online for $16.00, in addition to other memorabilia. Get it all now before it turns yellow!
5. LED Flashlight
You've seen 'em at airport security, and they are starting to show up on the jobsite. Although they are some of the most frequently-used tools in the construction industry, flashlights are also the most under-appreciated, some say. And the new LED technology in many flashlights today is amazingly bright. You can get heavy-duty models in bundles along with your favorite power tools. Or, order a few of these little guys shown above for the whole family—don't forget about your toolbox. They are great for work, camping, working on your car or locating those presents you hid in the basement months ago. Just don't flash it in anyone's eyes unless you want to blind them for good. Price: $3.99.