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! (Insert cry face here.) They want to do cool things— like fly drones and kill it in Spikeball with their friends. Coming up with gift ideas for a boy or girl who is 11 years old isn’t hard, you just have to take it up a notch— especially if you’re looking for the best 11 year old birthday gifts.
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.
Social Toys for Tweens
“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!”
Does your 11-year-old need a little bit of encouraging when it comes to getting active? No sweat, Mom. You know what will make them want to break a sweat? An adjustable basketball hoop. This 32” portable hoop is a standout because it is fully adjustable to grow along with your kids. Yes, even through all of their pre-teen and teenage growth spurts! The height adjusts from 5.5’ to 7.5’ in 6” increments, making it super easy to raise up the height for the Lebrons in the family or bring it back down for the point guards. The bottom base can be filled with either sand or water and the rest of the base is both rust and weather resistant. Another great feature? The warranty! This hoosier-approved red-and-black hoop is backed up a 5-year limited manufacturer warranty that can make you feel good about splurging.
What’s better than an air hockey table? An air hockey table that also transforms into a foosball, pool, shuffleboard, table tennis, chess, cards, checkers, bowling, and backgammon table. Say what?! Yes, this versatile game board meets all your 11-year-old’s game needs thanks to its interchangeable tabletops. It’s a 10-in-1 game board, so no matter what your child and their friends want to play, this game board can adapt. And it’s not just fun for kids and their friends. What we love most about this game table is that it provides hours of family-friendly fun. Whether you teach your kids the ins and outs of air hockey strategy or grandpa swings by to totally school your pre-teen in the art of backgammon, this natural wood-like game board has a game for everybody. The portable tabletop switches out easily and quickly, too, transforming any old living room or dining room into a certifiable game room.
Journaling for Tweens
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.”
As we all could, pre-teens could certainly benefit from journaling. But first, before they get into pouring out all of their most complicated emotions throughout the 250-page notebook, they get to decorate it! This journaling kit is half-journal, half-scrapbook. It comes with markers, pens, glitter tape, paper rolls, sticker sheets, and of course, a storage box to keep it all in one place. Both journaling and decorating a journal can help foster a child’s creativity and put their imagination to the test. Decorating their own journal can provide 11-year-olds with a much-needed feeling of independence and helps them develop their own self-expression. Once the cover is decorated to your child’s liking, the possibilities are endless. They have hundreds of pages to detail their day, practice their storytelling skills through fictional writing, and to their teacher’s delight, work on their penmanship. But that’s not all the journal will do for your pre-teen. It will inspire them and encourage them.
OK, so, 11 years old may not technically be a “teenager,” but we’re pretty sure things work the same way when it comes to this journal designed with teens in mind. The Mindfulness Journal for Teens: Prompts and Practices to Help You Stay Cool, Calm, and Present is definitely something you’ll wish you had around when you were hitting the big 1-3, Mom. Kids today – especially middle school kids or kids on the cusp of middle school – have to deal with everything from schoolwork and social media to just plain life in general. This journal features mindfulness prompts that strive to help teach teens and pre-teens a toolbox of techniques to help them through the things that stress them out. In this journal, your pre-teen will find breathing techniques, exercises, meditations, and de-stressing prompts. After a few weeks of journaling in The Mindfulness Journal for Teens, you might just see a change (for the better) in your 11-year-old.
Action & Accomplishment Gifts for Tweens
“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.
Is your child a mini Gordon Ramsay in the making? A young Julia Child? A burgeoning Giada? Then it’s time to encourage them to get in the kitchen! If they can’t yet handle a spaghetti Bolognese or you know, seared scallops, then it’s probably best to start with the basics – dessert. This Baketivity kit is more than just making whoopie pies; it’s an awesome way to bond with kids, build their baking skills in a fun and engaging environment, and challenge them to put their creative skills to the test. This whoopie pie kit includes all your necessary dry ingredients – both premeasured and vacuum-sealed – as well as two extra educational activities to perform while the pies bake. Got allergies? No need to worry. Baketivity makes their certified kosher ingredients in an FDA-approved, nut-free facility in the U.S. While this kit is so easy to do, even a kid can do it, what we love most about the Baketivity whoopie pie set is that it provides quality time between kids and their parents. They may be able to do most of it on their own, but whenever there’s an oven involved, it’s a good idea to hang around and use the opportunity to spend meaningful quality time with your 11-year-old.
Take the 11-year-old in your life back to their roots with this do-it-yourself planting box. Root-Vue features an acrylic window for young, inquisitive minds to observe their growing plants and roots. And trust us, your kids will learn to love that acrylic window. At first, staring at dirt might not seem too appealing (or appetizing). But as their budding roots start to grow, it’s going to get really interesting. In fact, you might just catch your kid staring into the acrylic window often – maybe even a few times a day! The grow kit includes a painting box, a basin with a drainage reservoir (this is super important for ensuring that the roots don’t get too wet), plant identification labels, root markers, a growing chart, and three packets of seeds. The kit also comes with a 16-page booklet with tips and tricks all about plant growth. Show your kid that every day is Earth Day!
Tech & Tech Accessories for Tweens
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 – Osmo Detective Agency – combines both virtual and physical components to let kids solve mysteries around the world. Best suited for kids under 12, this game features both beginner and expert levels and uses real-time audio and visual feedback to teach kids about experimentation in a stress-free environment. In the game box, you’ll find four double-sided maps, a map holder, and a magnifying glass. Your child will be prompted to download the mobile app, then put their device in the base. On screen, you’ll see questions, activities, and prompts that will correlate to physical things you have to do using the map and magnifying glass to solve mysteries. Kids will hone their critical thinking, listening, and observation skills while learning more about history, geography, international landmarks, local cultures, and more. The game is compatible with all iPads except Generation 1 as well as certain Fire Tablets.
Music-Related Gifts for Tweens
“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.
Feeling plucky? Playing piano isn’t the only musical instrument that can hone kids’ creativity, increase their intelligence, and develop their confidence, teaching them invaluable skills about the craft of music-making. If your 11-year-old were to learn how to pluck the guitar at a young age, who’s to say they won’t be as good as John Mayer once they hit high school? This high-quality all-wood guitar designed for kids comes with a shoulder strap, carrying case spare strings, and guitar picks. It may be a guitar built specifically for beginners, but don’t let its novice appearance fool you. It tunes beautifully, features a smooth and glossy finish, and is made of all wood, so you don’t have to worry about it getting dented or cracked when your kid inevitably drops it or dings it against your dining room chair. (Ugh, #MomLife.)
Active Play Encouragers for Tweens
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.
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.”
Does this outdoor game look familiar? Well, you – or your 11-year-old – may recognize Spikeball from Shark Tank. As seen on the reality show, Spikeball is a fun, active, and competitive (but only if you want it to be) indoor sports game. It pits two against two, so it’s a great social activity that requires teamwork. And you know what that means, Mom – it means it’s an awesome activity for siblings because it forces them to connect and meaningfully communicate. The Spikeball set – which features a trampoline-esque net, three spikeable balls, foldable legs, and a backpack to fit it all in – is totally portable, making it the perfect outdoor activity to play at a park, the beach, backyard, tailgate, or even on college campuses. Although, your 11-year-old will need to get through middle school first! The net is also adjustable and can be tailored to the players and the type of play they’re looking to accomplish. Do you want to play the Spikeball tournament standard? Or are you a Spikeball beginner, looking for less bounce as you get a feel for the game? Adjust the net to tailor the tightness for the best personalized play.
All set on gifts for your 11-year-old? Check out more toys for different age groups!