Put these screen-free gifts on your holiday list to engage your brain

These games, kits, and puzzles will improve your concentration and remind you to take a break for fun.

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Gardening is good for the soul, particularly when you've got expert help in picking out the plants and caring for them. 
This monthly box delivers a small succulent plant, the right potting mix, and care instructions. 

Price: $17.41 or $26.58

Image: CrateJoy

Your Black Friday plans are ready. You know which new TV your spouse wants. You know which Switch games to buy for your kids, and you've got a Ring doorbell on the list for your parents.

Now is the time to round out your gift list with presents that don't have screens. You know you and your kids need a break. Whether it's slowing brain development in little kids or pre-mature aging in adults, there are endless reasons to spend less time scrolling and clicking and playing in the blue light.

SEE: 20 screen-free gifts to engage the rest of your brain (TechRepublic)

This year, make some room on your gift list for presents with no screens. Your brain and maybe your wallet will thank you.

These 23 gift ideas will help you learn a new skill--like juggling or knitting--or connect you to something larger than yourself. Both activities are good for your brain.

The key to staying mentally sharp is developing new neural pathways. This is a bigger challenge than scrolling through your Twitter feed and will be painful at first. You'll feel silly and self-conscious at first, though focus on the payoff:

Play a game

The days are short and cool in the Northern Hemisphere; it's the perfect time for a board game.
If you're tired of Uno and Ticket to Ride, try the Game of Thrones Board Game. If you were a fan before the HBO show (are the books better?) and already have the second edition, add on the Mother of Dragons expansion set.

If you don't have three hours for a game, try Jaws. One player is the shark and up to three others can be the crew. You have two rounds to win by either eating the humans or killing the shark.

Learn something new

It's OK to be bad at something--good for you even. Instead of freezing up and saying no to something you've never tried before, say yes. Stop worrying about what people will think and try knitting or making chainmail or balancing on a Vew-Do board. Learning a new skill builds neuroplasticity, which means you can stay mentally sharp as you get older. This group of screen-free gifts will let you:

Learning a new skill builds new neural pathways, which is good for the overall health of your brain. Plus, it takes practice and patience to become even a lousy juggler, and everyone needs more patience and persistence.

Try a new toy

Productivity is overrated, and pure fun is underrated. Gifts don't always have to be practical or fancy to be worth giving. There's no reason to limit sensory toys to kids. SLIME NEW YORK makes a treat worth any grown-up's stocking. You can pick a scent for your high-end slime, as well as add-ins like glitter and sprinkles.

If you're fresh out of ideas for new desk toys, consider the Ball of Whacks or the X-Ball. Each piece of both toys has a magnet in it. You start with a sphere, but there are many more geometric possibilities. You can make your own creations or recreate the designs in each toy's guide book.

Solve a puzzle

Liberty Puzzles are expensive but worth every penny. The pieces are a quarter inch thick and made from wood. The pictures on the puzzles range from travel posters to maps to original illustrations. Each puzzle contains dozens of pieces in unique shapes, including people and flowers and animals. If meditation isn't your thing, buy a Liberty Puzzle, and spend 10 minutes a day assembling it. Your blood pressure is bound to go down.

Join the space crowd

If you still need a gift for the person who has everything and spends too much time on screens, check out The Planetary Society. Carl Sagan founded it, and Bill Nye is the current president. The group empowers the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration. This summer the society launched a nano-satellite into space powered by a Light Sail. The satellite is the first  spacecraft in Earth orbit prowered solely by sunlight.
Memberships range from $50 to $30,000 per year; if you're a member, you get your name sent to space on select space missions.

Also see
Dark Web: A cheat sheet for professionals (TechRepublic)
Tech conferences and events to catch in 2019 (TechRepublic download)
Policy pack: Workplace ethics (TechRepublic Premium)
Remote working 101: Professional's guide to the tools of the trade (ZDNet)
5 best standing desk converters for 2019 (CNET)
The 10 most important iPhone apps of all time (Download.com)
Tech history: Check out our coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

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If you want something fun to do with the small people in your life or just a fun family activity, try out this complete baking kit from King Arthur Flour. This box turns summer's best dessert into delicious cupcakes. Each box includes step-by-step instructions, pre-measured ingredients, and all the speciality baking tools you'll need. You supply the butter, vegetable oil, eggs and milk. 

Price: $25.00

Image: King Arthur Flour