Not quite kids but not exactly teenagers yet, tweens often feel stuck between cute and grown up but the truth is that they possess growing self-confidence, independence, and academic skills. They flip flop between wanting to be seen as kids but also wanting to be viewed as grown up and crave some autonomy to explore things that they love and develop meaningful friendships. The best gifts encourage tweens to be their best selves by fostering their growing interests. Gifts for tweens can be increasingly pricey but can also be a worthwhile investment for the future.
Here are my 14 favorite gifts for ages 8-12 that are based off the things my two tweens love and chosen with their interests and skills in mind!
Wreck This Journal ($10.78 on Amazon)
For tweens who love to write and draw, Wreck This Journal isn’t about documenting every day but more about the creative process. It’s an illustrated book that encourages creativity on the pages thanks to quirky prompts that will appeal to every tween. And bonus that it helps foster writing in a completely fun and different way from what they’re used to in school!
Nerf Zombie Strike Brainsaw Blaster ($19.99)
Nerf fans with an arsenal of blasters will LOVE the new Zombie Strike Brainsaw Blaster because your friends will never expect a flurry of Nerf darts to come from this neon green and orange chainsaw-looking blaster. This is by far Thomas’ favorite Nerf product among the new ones released for the holidays!
Yamaha JR1 ¾ Scale Guitar with Gig Bag ($134.99)
Thomas had always had his eye on guitars since the age of 3 and three years ago we bought him a Yamaha ¾ scale guitar as he was starting to take lessons. Not only is this guitar the perfect size for tweens, but it has great sound, is durable, includes a gig bag for easy carrying to and from lessons, and comes highly recommended by the studio where Thomas takes lessons. Thomas’ guitar teachers say they recommend the Yamaha JR1 ¾ Scale Guitar to the parents of all their DC private school students where they teach during the day and everyone is always happy with it! I have to agree because Thomas has been playing this guitar for years. It’s a perfect beginner guitar especially for those who have their eyes on an electric. Note: If you’re looking to make your first electric guitar purchase, I’ll have a recommendation in my Teen Gift Guide on Monday!
BOSEBuild Speaker Cube ($149.99)
Earlier this year I shared BOSEBuild and this cool STEM project deserves to be a Tween Gift Guide pick because it’s something that my kids still love. BOSEBuild requires kids to get their hands on speaker components (coil, magnet and paper) and learn how they make sound to build their own customizable Bluetooth speaker that features legendary sound that BOSE is known for. It’s designed to work with the Bose’s free Sound app (iOS or Android) so tweens can customize the appearance of the speaker cube with any color they choose. It’s perfect for using with a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. Plus since it’s Bose, the sound is amazing!
100′ Night Riderz Series Zipline Kit ($124.99)
Three years ago I included Slack Lines in my gift guide for kids who love to climb in the trees and while my two still love to climb, they also love to zip line! Slackers 100’ Night Riderz Series Zipline Kit is the ultimate backyard fun for kids who love to zipline and will probably make you the coolest parents, grandparents, aunt/uncle ever in the eyes of the kids who receive this as a gift. This kit contains a fully assembled trolley, 100 feet of cable to provide a long ride, 50 multicolored LED lights on the seat, and instructions on how to decrease the setup time so your kids can be ziplining in less than 30 minutes. Because who can wait any longer than that to try out such a cool gift! The good thing is that the gift of a zipline encourages plenty of time outside and away from screens and there are some great conversations about math and science related topics that you can have during set up as you think about angles, speed, slope, and gravity.
Graphic artists who love to dabble in the digital world will enjoy making their own animations with the Crayola Color Alive Easy Animation Studio. The 30 page booklet includes characters and backgrounds that can be colored in and scanned using the free Easy Animator app (iOS and Android). When the characters and backgrounds are scanned into the app, kids can use a process similar to stop motion animation to make their characters move fluidly.
Blazing Team Metal Max Tornado ($15.90 on Amazon, regularly $29.99)
A yo-yo may seem like a throwback to a different time for today’s digital kids but during a time when attention spans seem short, learning to yo-yo takes patience and perseverance to learn skills and master tricks. But according to yo you aficionados, not all yo yos are the same. Based on the Blazing Team TV show, the Blazing Team Metal Max Tornado is a metal yo yo that is supposed to allow for high performance tricks and faster, smoother moves thanks to a multi-surface and 360 degree action.
If your tween is a fan of Google Cardboard and virtual environments, they’ll love the View-Master Deluxe VR viewer that works with your smartphone and the free View-Master VR app to immerse you in 360 degree environments. It’s a vast improvement over Google Cardboard thanks to the ability to plug headphones into the audio jack to surround yourself with sound.
Scratch Programming Playground by Al Sweigart ($14.25)
If you are looking for the next thing for your Minecraft-loving kids and haven’t tried Scratch, the Scratch Programming Playground book is a great guide to teach kids how to program by making cool games. The easy to use Scratch involves drag-and-drop programming that’s perfect for beginners and with easy to follow instructions and coding challenges, kids will love being able to create games of their own.
Every year Emily asks for the newest National Geographic Kids Almanac. She loves diving into each year’s edition for 350+ pages of incredible photos, fun facts, news, activities, and features about animals, science, exploration, technology, culture, and more.
Weird but True 8 ($7.99)
We are Weird but True! junkies. We have every single one, including this one and they never get old because my kids can never get enough of the wild and wacky facts and pictures in each book.
5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!) is another National Geographic title that we. This large hardback book is one you can sit with and pour over for hours to learn fascinating knowledge nuggets on all kinds of cool topics, from bubble gum and ice cream to the outer space and the North Pole! This book offers hours of unplugged fun for curious kids who love to be the trivia expert in the family.
Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal ($19.99)
Chances are if your Minecraft loving tween watches YouTube, they know DanTDM and his Minecraft and gaming videos and will love Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal. This Minecraft-inspired adventure involves favorite characters, Trayaurus and Grim racing against the clock to save humanity from the evil Denton. It’s such a captivating read that my two tween testers couldn’t put this graphic novel down and finished it in one sitting!
Visit my other age appropriate gift guides for more gift suggestions:
- Toddlers and Preschoolers (ages 18 months-5 years)
- Early Elementary Ages (grades K-2 or ages 5-8)
- Teens (ages 13+)
Specialty Gift Guides:
Must-Read Gift Guides Compiled by Friends:
Samples were received for review purposes. Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. All images courtesy of the companies.