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The best desk toys to stave off your existential dread

Need something to distract you from the latest, boring Zoom meeting? Start here.

anki vector ai robot on table
Image: Anki

For those of you who have transitioned into work from home arrangements as the pandemic continues, you’re probably settled into a fairly productive routine by now. Well, besides the interruptions from other members of your household, and the interminable video meetings that never seem to end.

While we’ve covered how to set up your home office, and small quality-of-life upgrades, that’s still all aimed at keeping you productive while you’re working. It’s time to take a step back and look at those gadgets that are perfect for taking a recuperative break – the humble desk toy.

I’m always looking for new gizmos to grace my desk since I’m a natural fidgeter, so keeping my attention is always a struggle. Here are some of the best desk toys that I’ve found over the years.

Your desk deserves some toys, here are the best

Whether you’re a fiddler or just want something interesting to look at, here are KnowTechie’s picks for the best desk toys.

BOKS Windmill ($25)

plus-plus boks windmill building kit on office desk
Image: Plus-Plus

Need a place to place your mobile device and don’t want a boring stand? BOKS from Plus-Plus has what you need, with this little kit that’s ostensibly a windmill, but can be anything your mind can dream up while you’re avoiding doing that expenses spreadsheet. Oh, and each building block is like two plus signs stuck together, in case you were wondering where the Plus-Plus brand name came from.


Mezmoglobe ($35)

My favorite desk toy to play with when conference calls are lulling me into a stupor is the Mezmoglobe. Spin the metal globe, stare at the spiraling line that appears to move up (or down depending on which way you spin it). There’s something oddly soothing about the speed it spins at, and it’s got a pleasing heft when your fingers set it to rotate.


Lybra balance lamp

Staring at your desk lamp won’t do anything for your existential dread, but maybe being able to turn it into a fidget spinner will. Lybra’s lamp will balance and spin on anything you can put it on, from your finger, to the top of your head, or anything else you can find.

Nothing’s better than a life that’s in balance, right? Oh, and it’s got six hours of battery life so chances are you’ll get bored way before the lights turn off.


Hoverpen

While we’re talking about balancing acts that aren’t your checkbook, the Hoverpen is great fun. Magnets keep the pen free-standing in the desk stand, so it’s always ready when inspiration strikes. When you’ve got writer’s block, you can while away the hours getting it to stand up in the first place, and if you get really good at it you can make it spin or wobble in place.


Infinity cube

infinity cube being manipulated by one hand
Image: Amazon

Okay, this Infinity cube is one of my favorite desk toys. I’ve spent many, many, many hours flipping it around in my hands, idly unfolding it and refolding while I think about important things like the pile of dishes in the sink. The anodized aluminum warms up after a while, which is nice, and it’s been pretty fingerprint-resistant so far. Sure, the product images all look like bad Photoshop jobs, but the cube is fun. Honest.


Grovemade pen

grovemade pen
Image: Grovemade

Desk toys don’t all have to be whimsical, sometimes they’re functional as well. Grovemade’s precision machined pens are a perfect blend of desk decoration, function, and enough weight to make them fun to twiddle with while you stare out of the window. Get the version that comes with a stand, it’ll make more of an impact on your desk.


Floately Airsai ($90)

Magnets. How do they work? Well, in the Airsai, they work to keep your desk greenery floating in the air, like a magical island of calm. Pick your favorite style, find some small plants, and enjoy your new desktop garden.

If you’re stuck looking for small enough plants that don’t require lots of care and attention, we got you. Head on over to Nice Plant, and pick up any of their plants. We’d recommend the PIY (Pot it yourself) Box since it comes with soil and unplanted plants to slot into the floating plant pot of the Airsai, but you can transplant any of their other plants, as well.


Vector 2.0

anki vector ai robot on table
Image: Digital Dream Labs

Vector 2.0 is a desktop pal that will play games, answer your questions, and relax if you pet him, without having to clean the litter tray. Nice. He’ll respond to your voice, or your face, and can take selfies for you, let you know the weather, and onboard Alexa capabilities extend his usefulness to almost anything Alexa can do. He’ll even wander back to his charger when his battery gets low, so you never have to worry about finding cables to recharge him.


New Wave Toys replica arcade cabinets

replicade arcade replicas
Image: KnowTechie

Want to zone out into your childhood? Oh, you’re too young to remember smoke-filled arcades filled with the only video games you could easily get your hands on? Well, recreate the experience on your desk, with New Wave Toys’ range of 1/6 scale arcade cabinets. Play Street Fighter II, Centipede, 1942, and more, all in perfect scale replicas of the original cabinets. They all hook up to your monitor via HDMI as well, so you don’t have to squint at the tiny LCD screens if you don’t want to.


Waving inflatable tube guy ($7)

tube guy desk sized
Image: KnowTechie

Ever wanted your desk to look like a used-car lot? Well, now you can put that flapping “tube guy” on your desk, so you can feel like you should be upselling aftermarket warranties or something. You don’t just get the flappy tube guy though, you also get a book that explains his origins. Nice.


Magnetic decision-maker ($11)

magnetic decision maker desk toy
Image: Amazon

Struggling with executive dysfunction? It’s understandable, the longer we’re experiencing trauma the harder it gets, and we’ve been living under traumatic conditions for a long time now. Outsource your decision-making to this magnetic executive desk toy and stop struggling with pre-decision dread.

Think of it as a workplace-friendly magic 8-ball, and use it as a guide towards actually making decisions, not as the primary decision itself. Then again, if life is meaningless, it doesn’t matter what decision you make, just that you make one.


There you have it! Some of our favorite desk toys to make the workday just a little bit more tolerable. If you find yourself needing something to distract you, any of these options make solid gifts for yourself or a friend.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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