At 11, kids are right in the thick of their tween years — and there’s a lot that goes along with that. They’re starting to focus more on their social identity. Their friends (and the world outside of the home) are a much larger part of their lives. They’re growing up! But with that comes its own unique set of challenges: the rigors of middle school, hormonal changes, an increased need for independence… you get the picture. “In the tween years, kids begin to set their own goals, so it is important to make them part of the decision-making process regarding their extracurricular activities,” explained Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, OTR, and founder of Pediatric Occupational Therapy Services, LLC.
It’s a lot to consider when you’re choosing a gift for your 11-year-old. And that’s precisely why we went to the pros. In addition to Dr. Warburg, we asked child educators and development experts to weigh in on gifts ideally suited for this developmental stage. Here’s what they had to say on the subject.
“This is a time where we also see a huge uptick in screen time and spending more time indoors rather than outside,” shared Dr. Syeda Amna Husain, M.D., FAAP, of Pure Direct Pediatrics. “To combat that, I recommend thinking outside the box for toys. I like activities where children get some more face-to-face time with their friends rather than staying glued to a screen. So, instead of video games, maybe a ping pong table or a basketball hoop. Card games are a great and affordable option too!”
From an Olympic table tennis brand trusted for 60+ years, this regulation quality multi-purpose table also perfect for crafts, playing poker, boardgames or any other casino table game. Easy set-up and compact storage.
Get them moving with this 32″ portable basketball hoop that’s fully adjustable to grow with them through all their growth spurts.
Trendy Board Games
“Board games provide a screen-free social outlet and facilitate problem-solving, executive functions, and visual perception. For example, Caracassan, Blokus, chess, Labyrinth, Scrabble, and Ticket to Ride. Brain-teasers, such as Rubic’s Cube, also tap into executive functions,” said Dr. Warburg.
Inspired by the medieval fortress in southern France of the same name, Carcassonne is a tile-laying game in which players fill in the countryside around the fortified city.
It’s like Tetris, but IRL. Win by fitting as many of your pieces on the board as possible while strategically blocking your opponents!
Find the shortest route through the labyrinth to win! What this Labyrinth lacks in David Bowie appearances, it makes up for in fun play for the whole family.
This award-winning board game lets players connect iconic North American cities and build train routes to earn points.
Yes Virginia, Rubik’s Cube IS still cool. Challenge your kids’ minds as well as their perspective on how great the 1980’s were.
According to Kimberly Friedmutter, author of Subconscious Power: Use Your Inner Mind to Create the Life You’ve Always Wanted and member at large of UCLA Health System Board, one of the best things a child this age can do is be allowed “quiet time to zone out, daydream, literally lose themselves in thought.” Since today’s 11 year olds are growing up with more technology than ever before, it can be difficult for them to create this time and space — making a journal a great gift to encourage a period of daily “zoning out.”
Journaling with your kids is a great way to share emotions and memories. This one poses a question each day with only a few lines provided for a response, making it the ultimate no-fuss record keeper.
Create a scrapbook/journal that satisfies the inner creativity of your writer/artist. Includes: 250 page notebook, markers, pen, glitter tape, paper rolls, sticker sheets and a storage box.
Action & Accomplishment Gifts
“Tweens are developing greater independence and self-reliance, can set goals they want to achieve and are eager to master new skills that they deem important. Encourage your tween to think about skills he would like to achieve and make a plan to develop them,” said Dr. Warburg, recommending that you look to your tween’s strengths and interests here. If your child loves to cook, try a recipe kit. Do they love flowers? Gardening supplies could be good. These sorts of action and accomplishment gifts “develop autonomy, teach self-reliance, and develop executive functions,” per Dr. Warburg.
This cookbook features 50 recipes designed for the cooking abilities and tastes of children ages 6 to 12. And, it’s about time your kids started pulling their weight in the kitchen.
This colorful nylon knife set contains safe but effective tools for your budding chef to use in the kitchen. They’re non-toxic, can be soaked in boiling water without damage, are comfortable to use, and safe for non-stick cookware.
Take them back to their roots with this planting box that features an acrylic window for students to observe plants and roots develop as they grow.
Give your budding gardeners a fun and educational gift that lets them learn about plant growth and decorate their own planter.
Tech & Tech Accessories
Middle-school English teacher Erica Jabali (who also has an advanced degree in cross-cultural education) says there’s a trick to finding a great gift for kids this age. “Consider leveraging what they are already interested in. For example, most of them are obsessed with technology,” said Jabali. “This generation has been born and raised with technology, so leverage it to find activities that will challenge and engage them, rather than turn them into tablet zombies. Games by Play Osmo incorporate art, coding, math, and critical thinking skills, while using the tablet you probably already have at home.”
The game is afoot! This award-winning learning game uses both virtual and physical components to let kids solve mysteries across the world.
Have your kiddos build their own video games with a combination of physical and digital tools. Includes designs to help get them get started creating their first game.
Made of 300+ parts that create one super smart, super entertaining robot, Cozmo is your kid’s new best robot friend. He can express emotions, remember your name, and recognize you – which is better than your tween can sometimes do.
“My advice is one word: music. And, in particular, playing the piano. For families who want to get a head start on preparing their children for college, it has been established that playing piano not only increases child intelligence but the actual size and shape of the brain! And, on a personal level, piano can develop character, confidence, cultural understanding and pure joy,” shared Elizabeth Venturini, a recognized expert in college admissions.
Get them rocking with this keyboard piano that features 54 full size keys. Includes record and playback functionality, 8 demo songs, 100 sound effects, and 100 rhythms.
Feeling plucky? This high-quality all-wood guitar comes with shoulder strap, carrying case spare strings, and guitar picks.
Active Play Encouragers
According to health and fitness expert Michelle Miller of MM Fitness, this age — where a child’s body is changing and adolescent may cause insecurity — is ideal for reinforcing healthy habits. Bonus? You can do so through gifts that encourage active play. “This one simple activity greatly influences a child academically, physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, relationally, financially, and behaviorally,” said Miller. Middle-school English teacher Erica Jabali agrees, saying, “Team sports are another way to encourage pre-teens to be active, interact with other kids their age and work together towards a common goal.”
What is Spikeball? It’s a fun, active, and competitive (if you want it to be) 2 on 2 outdoor indoor sports game you can play almost anywhere with rules kind of like volleyball.
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