As the tween years go, this one can be a doozy. Twelve-year-olds are toeing the line between being a child and being a teen — and being on the cusp of young adulthood is both exciting and, well, a lot. At 12 years of age, most children have begun puberty. “This may also be a time when your pre-teen begins to face peer pressure and thinks of staying at home as boring, which can translate into mood swings and short tempers with parents,” cautioned Dr. Syeda Amna Husain, M.D., FAAP, of Pure Direct Pediatrics.
So, buckle up! The ride might get bumpy. But also, 12 year olds might be notoriously fickle when it comes to presents. At this age, the primary focus should be finding what excites and inspires your tween. Are they still holding onto tween things, or have they moved more firmly into YA territory? How can you foster their burgeoning sense of self and growing independence? Now, take those things and turn them into a gift.
Since that’s obviously easier said than done, we asked Dr. Husain and a host of other experts to share their thoughts on the best gifts for this age. With all these recommendations in mind, Scary Mommy has curated the best gifts and toys for the 12-year-old boy or girl who has everything.
“As children begin to focus more on their body image and clothing, we see confidence can be greatly affected,” said Dr. Husain. “At this age, you may notice when your child isn’t happy about just any new toy but wants it to be something specific to their interests. Take the time to learn and ask your child what those interests are.” This makes hobby-specific gifts (think an art kit for the 12 year old who is always doodling, or a lyric book for the budding songwriter) a no-brainer for this age.
America’s Test Kitchen is bringing their scientific know-how, rigorous testing, and hands-on learning to KIDS in the kitchen! These recipes for breakfast, snacks and beverages, dinners, desserts, and more were tested by more than 750 kids, so get yours to start cooking stat.
Got a kid who loves miniature model ships? This advanced LEGO set includes 962 pieces and a display stand with a nameplate. Plus, it looks super cool.
Take this one for a test drive. This set lets kids design their own colorful vehicles on paper and then see them come to life using the included app.
Got a budding fashion designer in your house whose style is quickly becoming way better than your own? This set lets them learn how to sketch designs, and test out fashion design ideas by draping, basting and pinning the fabric, ribbon and embellishments onto the mannikin included. Work it!
Independent “Play” Gifts
“Children at this age are also becoming more aware of seeking independence,” said Dr. Husain. So, think about presents that might foster their increased need for space and self-sufficiency — gifts that will make them feel more grown-up. For example, if your child likes to be in the kitchen and get involved with cooking, consider some baking or cooking kits.
This 17-piece baking set includes everything your tween needs to bake an assortment of tasty treats. Comes with 1 spatula, 1 pastry brush, 1 mixing spoon, 1 silicone loaf pan, 6 silicone baking cups, 1 rolling pin, 1 whisk, and 5 recipe cards.
Let them bake something out of this world with this 26-piece set that includes a fun spaceship silicone cake mold, spaceship silicone cupcake tray, 7 cookie cutters, spatula, rolling pin, whisk, pastry brush, frosting bags, and more.
This officially licensed MasterChef Junior Cutting board and Knife Set features real tools that are safe and size-appropriate for kids.
Introduce them to woodworking with this kit that includes over 80 pieces. With instructions for multiple projects they’ll love imagining it and then actually building it.
Sports & Exercise Gear
While gifts that encourage physical activity are great at practically any age, they’re a smart pick for your 12-year-old — for both physical health and another lesser-considered reason. Board-certified pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altmann says that, in general, children and adolescent teens need 10 to 12 hours of sleep every night so they can function properly during the day. But, according to the CDC, six out of 10 middle schoolers don’t get enough sleep each night. “And when they get fewer hours, especially over time, it builds up in their body as a sleep deprivation that can affect their growth, development, and ability to learn at school,” emphasized Altmann. One solution? “Make sure your child is active during the day so they are tired at bedtime,” she advised. “Not only is daily physical activity important for the brain and body, being active during the day will help kids fall asleep faster at night.”
“Capture the flag” after dark? Sounds more like “Where the hell is the flag?” Not with this update on a classic game that includes 25 light-up game pieces, 12+ hours of batteries, and 12 different ways to play!
We know you’ve been waiting for a hoverboard since you saw Marty McFly riding one in ‘Back To The Future 2,’ so your kids may have to share this with you. This one comes with a built-in wireless speaker, so it’s even cooler than you remember.
Let them blow off some steam in a safe, healthy way. Comes with a punching ball, the stand, and a pair of children’s size boxing gloves.
According to board-certified child educator and teacher Nancy Poznansky, children this age become “quite independent in designing their own bedrooms.” As a rule of thumb, 12 year olds are experimenting more and more with self-expression. Think about their bedroom, the clothes they wear, their locker at school — try to find gifts that help them express who they are in those seminal (to them) spaces.
This vintage cinema style lightbox is a great way to let your kiddos decorate their space in a unique and personal way. Comes with 192 letters, numbers, symbols, and 35 popular emojis.
These string lights are a beautiful and unique way to decorate a tween’s room. They can be twisted into letters or just hung from the wall to create a bright and warm ambiance.
This versatile metal wall and tabletop décor piece can be used for craft projects or as a unique room decoration.
Get glowing with these neon art signs for wall decor or as a funky touch to your tween’s bedroom.
Similarly, Dr. Husain points out that gift cards are “an excellent option” for tweens this age, as it allows them to pick items that best reflect the self they want to express.
When in doubt, Gift Card it out and give your kids the power to choose their own gift.
Books & Journals
Not surprisingly, your almost-teen might like holing up in their room or wandering off for a bit of solitude. So, give them something they may gravitate toward when they crave alone time. “Books and journals are also popular among this age group and with the emerging independent tendencies,” Dr. Husain told Scary Mommy.
The 3 Minute Gratitude Journal helps kids cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It is a self exploration journal that allows kiddos to focus on being thankful for what they have — the big things in life, as well as the simple joys.
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.
Your tween will love delving into the world of Impyrium, where the Faeregine dynasty has ruled for over three thousand years. For Harry Potter fans or just any kid with a great imagination.
Found on multiple Best Book of the Year lists, ‘Wolf Hollow’ has been compared to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ for its amazing characters and important message.
This special edition complete boxed set of the Harry Potter series will satisfy any wizard or muggle on your list.
Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal, ‘The Girl Who Drank the Moon’ is the story of a magical girl named Luna and what happens as her 13th birthday approaches.
This New York Times bestseller tells the tale of young Micah and his search for the fabled Circus Mirandus. Will he find the circus and save his grandfather? (At least, he THINKS it’s his grandfather…)
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