Tweens are children between the ages of 10 and 12. Short for “between,” tweens are no longer kids but not yet teenagers. They vacillate between the two in their tastes and interests. That can make it tough to figure out what kinds of gifts to get them.
You have to be especially careful at this age to get them something age-appropriate – not too young or too old. Skew too young, like a doll or stuffed animal, and they’ll feel the gift is too babyish. Skew too old, like a graphic YA novel, and they might not have the maturity level to handle it. So it helps to understand a bit about tweens when looking for the right gift. Although every child is an individual, there are a few general developmental and social milestones they hold in common.
Like teenagers, tweens gravitate toward what’s “cool.” You’ll score big if you get them a gift in line with the latest trends. But tweens also have their own unique interests. During this age of transition, they try out lots of different hobbies and personas, so opt for a gift that speaks to their latest bout of self-expression. You get bonus points if it’s something they can share with their friends. Social connections take on primary importance during these years.
To take the guesswork out of buying for the tweens on your holiday list, everything listed here is age-appropriate and tween-approved. We polled real tweens and scoured the Internet in search of the perfect tween gifts, so you’re sure to find something yours will be thrilled to unwrap.
Music & Literature Gifts
There are undeniable benefits to encouraging kids to read. For example, a 2018 study published in the journal Social Science Research found that the more books kids are exposed to, the better they do academically.
Music is similarly beneficial. A 2006 study in the Journal of Research in Music Education found that students who participated in music programs scored significantly higher on English and math standardized tests than their peers. But when it comes to choosing great gifts for tweens, don’t tell them it’s educational. Instead, focus on the fun.
The tween years are when many kids start to fall in love with reading books, even if their teacher didn’t assign them. They’re reading what they want, exploring novels with complex storylines, and getting hooked on their favorite characters. Middle-grade (MG) fiction is designed for kids 8 to 12 years old and is what tweens typically read.
Some of the best MG books feature diverse characters and help tweens navigate their life experiences. A few that fit that description include:
- “Song for a Whale” by Lynne Kelly, in which a deaf girl helps a whale whose species can’t hear his song
- “Far Away” by Lisa Graff, which is about a girl who talks to her mother – who died shortly after she was born – with the help of her psychic-medium aunt
- “Each Tiny Spark” by Pablo Cartaya, which tells the story of a father and daughter trying to rebuild their relationship after the father’s long military deployment
If you’re not sure what to get, go with a subscription to Reading Bug Box. Every shipment includes a unique set of books curated just for them by kid literature experts. Also included are a personalized note and a few pieces of book swag that go with a theme, like arts and crafts supplies for a set of fine arts-themed books. All orders ship within 72 hours. Plus, you can opt to give a single gift box or a monthly subscription.
2. A Karaoke Machine
Karaoke is super-popular with many tweens. Karaoke mics make it easy for your tween to get in on the fun. They’re small and compact, making them easy to carry around. Instead of coming with speakers, they use Bluetooth to connect with external ones.
The Carpool Karaoke mic lets tweens pretend they’re in the car with late-night host James Corden on his famous segment-turned-Apple Music show “Carpool Karaoke.” The mic connects wirelessly to your car’s Bluetooth-enabled radio. When tweens sing along, the mic broadcasts their voice through the car’s speakers.
Or get them the real deal with the Singing Machine karaoke system. It’s Bluetooth-enabled for wireless audio streaming. Plus, the top-loading CD-G player plays all their favorite CD-G karaoke CDs. Plug it into a TV with the included cable to see the scrolling lyrics. It comes with only one microphone, but if you buy a second microphone, it has an extra microphone jack with separate volume controls so your tween can duet with their friends. While they jam, 54 LED disco lights with dimmer controls help create a party ambiance.
Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) Gifts
STEM education is all the rage, but science and technology kits aren’t all homework. For teens who enjoy solving mysteries and exploring the wonders of the world around them, these gifts let them program their own robot, build marvelous feats of engineering, and even investigate grisly murders.
3. A Science Kit
The Scientific Explorer Sci-Fi Slime science kit is not your average glue slime. It includes some sophisticated ingredients for kids to mix: tetraborate, zinc sulfide, magnetite, guar gum, thermochromic pigment, and polyvinyl alcohol solution. Tweens combine them to produce glow-in-the-dark magnetic alien ooze.
Or let tweens take on the role of mad scientist with their very own bioengineering lab. The Thames & Cosmos Sensors Alive kit uses sound, light, and temperature sensors along with an app to enable them to create, collect, and care for some weird and wonderful virtual creatures.
Alternatively, release their inner engineer with the Gravitrax marble run starter set. It comes with 122 pieces for them to build marble tracks and compete in 24 different challenges that have them experimenting with gravity, magnetism, and kinetics.
Or keep the fun going all year with a subscription gift. A subscription to Little Passports’ Science Expeditions delivers a monthly box of STEM projects designed for ages 9 to 12. Each box is built around a scientific mystery and contains hands-on projects that help kids solve it. The first month’s box comes with a forensic science kit, fingerprint analysis card, lab notebook, and activity booklet, all packaged in a signature tote bag.
4. A Robot
Robotics kits bring together all the letters in STEM, requiring science and engineering skills to build the robot and technology and math skills to program it.
The Unicornbot from the UBTech Mythical series is a fully functioning robot kids build themselves. They then use an app and the included sensor cards to program it to make specific movements and light effects.
Or go with the Star Wars droid kit. Kids assemble their own R2-D2 and then use simple, block-based coding to teach him new skills like drawing pictures, self-navigating, and responding to the Force. Plus, they can send him on over 22 missions to save the galaxy, like decoding secret messages or escaping the Rebel base, with the integrated app.
5. A Building Set
Though some might consider Legos a kids toy, tweens are better at fine motor movements and manual dexterity than younger children. They’re able to master more complex builds with lots of small pieces. Plus, they have longer attention spans and can sit and concentrate on tasks requiring focus. All this means they’re capable of creating some masterful works of art and not just small things.
Lego Hogwarts, an epic set of over 800 pieces, lets “Harry Potter” fans build the Great Hall, complete with house banners, a treasure room, the potions room, and a movable spiral staircase. Plus, it comes with some incredible accessories, including 10 Minifigures, the Mirror of Erised, a basilisk, wands, and cauldrons.
Arts & Crafts Gifts
Artistic tweens have graduated beyond simple line drawings and enjoy more complex fine art involving shading and nuance with charcoals and pastels. And tweens interested in making and crafting like to make things they can use, like water bottles and sneakers. They’re also interested in trying out new artistic outlets, like moviemaking or fashion design.
6. An Art Set
The Royal & Langnickel deluxe sketching and drawing set includes multiple artistic mediums for tweens to explore, including chalk, watercolor pencils, pastels, and charcoals. Plus, it comes in a beautiful, easily portable wooden cantilever case.
7. A Drawing Book
Look for a drawing book that lets aspiring artists combine drawing with a personal interest like fashion or comic books. Klutz’s “My Fabulous Look Book: Fashion Drawing Made Easy” includes model outlines that allow tweens to design outfits, makeup, hairstyles, and accessories. Plus, it comes with a 144-page instructional book that teaches them how to draw complex design elements like ruffles and use the included pencils for shading. At the end of the book, there’s a lookbook with die-cut frames for them to display their best designs so they can show off their portfolio just like a professional fashion designer.
If comic books are more their thing, go with Klutz’s “Draw DC Universe,” which comes with a 94-page instruction book with clear directions on how to draw popular DC comic book characters. Kids can draw right inside the book or use the translucent overlays for tracing. And it comes with everything they need to get started: colored pencils, markers, erasers, and stencils.
8. A Moviemaker Kit
Budding storytellers get to make their own stop-motion animation movies with the Ani-Mate claymation moviemaker kit. It includes a studio stage, four backdrops, props, modeling clay, and googly eyes to make creature characters. It also comes with an instruction book packed with tips, so tweens can immediately start bringing their characters to life using their smartphones and a compatible moviemaking app.
Similarly, the Lego Make Your Own Movie Kit uses stop-motion animation to bring Minifigures to life. The kit also includes a set of mix-and-match faces, props, scenery, and fold-out backgrounds. The easy-to-follow 80-page instruction book shows tweens how to set up their scenes and film them to make a stop-motion movie in as little as an hour.
9. A Craft Kit
Look for crafting kits and supplies that let tweens exercise their self-expression with stuff that’s practical. Give them a set of fabric markers paired with white canvas sneakers or a T-shirt to create wearable art. Pair rolls of decorative washi tape with the book “Washi Tape Crafts,” and teens can elevate all kinds of everyday objects. Or opt for a kit that comes with everything tweens need to make gear and accessories they can use, like the Color Your Own Water Bottle kit or the Puffy Charm Palooza kit.
Or get tweens who’d enjoy leveling-up their friendship bracelet game the i-Loom. The loom holds and organizes the strings while tweens follow along with the app on a compatible tablet to learn various knotting and weaving techniques from simple to complex. The ever-growing library of bracelet patterns ensures there are always plenty of fun designs to try.
Beauty & Fashion Gifts
This is an age when tweens start getting interested in fashion and makeup trends. Though most tweens are too inexperienced for a full makeup kit, you can buy products that allow them to practice self-expression in a kid-friendly way.
10. A Salon Kit
Alex Spa makes a variety of hair and nail kits that help tweens develop their own sense of style. The Hair Chalk Salon lets them add a rainbow of colors to their hair, and the chalk easily washes out. Or tweens can add bling to their hair with the Ultimate Hair Accessories Salon. A faux-tattoo kit like the Fun Sparkle Tattoo Parlor or the Henna Deluxe Set lets them draw temporary artistic designs on themselves. And the Sketch It Nail Pens lets them experiment on their nails with bright colors and fun designs.
11. Styling Tools
Tweens can experiment with different looks with a set of hair-styling tools – preferably cordless tools that increase the safety factor. The Conair Unbound Cordless Auto-Curler helps tweens experiment with curly styles, and the Unbound Cordless Flat Iron lets them go straight.
Jewelry is another gift that lets tweens try out different styles and “personalities,” as it can change the look of a whole outfit. A necklace featuring their name is a timeless classic. Depending on their tastes, go with a script font name necklace or a block-letter name necklace.
For a more trendy option, go with the Lucky Fortune Collectible Bracelets, which come in an entertaining package. Tweens crack open a fortune cookie to reveal a bit of wisdom and a collectible charm bracelet in one of 100 designs. Because these bracelets are on-trend, others are likely to have them too, so they can match or swap them with their friends.
And if your tween is into the friendship bracelet look, go with a set of Earth Bracelets from Uncommon Goods. These have that signature woven look with an eco-chic design that’s also very trendy.
Sports & Outdoor Gifts
Parents typically welcome anything that gets kids outdoors and active. And tweens appreciate anything that emphasizes play – especially if it involves friends.
13. Sports Equipment
Get sporty tweens a set of equipment that lets them play a favorite sport with their friends. A folding street hockey goal set that includes balls and hockey sticks fits this bill. So does a set of pop-up soccer goals paired with a soccer ball — especially a ball that lights up for nighttime play.
14. An Outdoor Game
A game meant to be played outside at night, like Capture the Flag Redux, provides hours of fun for teens and their friends. It features light-up game pieces, so kids can play more safely in the dark.
Or give them the Lazer Tag Phoenix LTX Tagger two-pack from Nerf, which lets them challenge at least one friend to an outdoor – or indoor – game of laser tag. All Phoenix LTX Taggers are compatible and interchangeable. So the game can grow as big as kids want with the purchase of extra blasters.
15. A Bike
Tweens have better-developed gross motor skills than younger kids, which means more control over the kinds of large muscles used in sports. A tween who enjoys congregating outside with their friends and their bikes is now capable of doing more than riding. They can also master a few neat tricks.
A Tony Hawk Freestyle BMX bike lets your tween feel just like a BMX master. The sleek black frame, neon green details, and alloy wheels will make them the coolest kid on the block – especially once they start showing off some impressive moves.
16. A Skateboard
Skateboarding tweens can kick it old-school with an Enkeeo 32-inch skateboard. Its symmetrical double-concave design allows them more control for practicing moves like kickflips.
Or go with an electric mini-skateboard. The smart sensors in the Swagskate NG3 electric skateboard automatically detect weight and motion, allowing for a kick-to-cruise experience with no remote needed. And it automatically stops the board when kids dismount.
Or give them the RipStick Ripster caster board, a modern take on skateboards that’s made with high-tech plastic, slip-resistant concave deck platforms, and high-grade urethane wheels, so your tween can rip through the streets safely.
17. A Hoverboard
A hoverboard is probably the coolest way to get around, and thanks to innovations in technology, today’s hoverboards are safe. The Tomoloo hoverboard is safety-certified and self-balancing when turned on, and it reaches speeds of up to 7.4 mph. Plus, it comes in a wide range of colors and features LED lights and Bluetooth speakers. It’s sure to make your tween the envy of all their friends.
Indoor games for tweens are more complex than kids games, employing more strategy and reasoning and taking advantage of longer attention spans.
18. A Board or Card Game
Sometimes, it’s fun to play the villain. The Disney Villainous strategy board game lets tweens unleash their inner bad guy and compete to achieve their evil objective. Ditto for the Batman Talisman Super-Villains Edition board game. In this one, they take on the persona of a Batman villain and compete to escape Arkham Asylum and take over Gotham City.
Or get them a fun card game like Exploding Kittens, in which they race to win before a kitten explodes. The card game Marvel Fluxx is another one with a fun twist: The rules keep changing depending on which cards you play. Or go with The Mind card game, in which tweens must learn to work together to beat each level – without talking.
19. A New Video Game
Despite their bad reputation, video games teach kids some important skills. According to Understood, an organization aimed at helping those who think and learn differently, video games have several benefits, including improving reading skills, spatial skills, problem-solving, and creativity.
As of 2019, Minecraft is the single bestselling video game of all time, according to statistics reported by PCGamesN. And it’s an obsession of many in this age range. Minecraft immerses players in a stylistically blocky and pixelated 3-D world where they can discover and extract raw materials, craft tools, build structures, and fight enemies. The Minecraft starter collection includes the base game, 700 Minecoins, mashups, texture packs, skin packs, and content for tweens to explore.
Lego video games are also tween fan favorites. The Lego Harry Potter Collection comes with two bestselling games – Harry Potter Years 1-4 and Harry Potter Years 5-7 – so they can unlock all their favorite “Harry Potter” characters and cast spells, brew potions, duel with wands, and solve puzzles.
And if they’re into superheroes, the Lego Marvel Collection gives them the option of playing three Avengers games: Lego Marvel Superheroes 1 and 2 and Lego Marvel’s Avengers. Players have access to the entire roster of heroes and villains from the Marvel Cinematic Universe – plus all of time and reality – as they battle in different time periods and universes.
20. An Active Indoor Game
If your goal is limiting kids’ screen time and keeping them active, go with Chrono Bomb! Night Vision, a secret agent maze game. Tweens use the included string and rubber-grip clamps to create a “laser” maze they must crawl, jump, and step through to defuse a bomb. If they bump the string, the sensor makes the “bomb” count down faster, adding to the excitement. Even more fun, they can play in the dark using the included UV light goggles, which make the string appear to glow.
As kids get older, they often want electronics – cool new tech that allows them to “play” while still feeling grown-up – instead of toys. And some electronics, like cameras and computers, let them try out new interests and hobbies, a critical developmental stage for tweens.
21. A Camera
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 instant camera is a hit with tweens interested in photography or commemorating moments with their pals. It’s cute, portable, and comes in a range of colors. Even better, they can instantly print 3.5-inch-by-2.3-inch pictures directly from the camera. The pics are the perfect size for displaying in a locker or on a mirror or bulletin board in their room.
The camera doesn’t come with film, so load them up with some Fujifilm Instax Mini instant film. In addition to plain styles, the film comes in patterned film sheets with colorful borders. Or go all-in with a Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 camera bundle, which comes with the camera plus over 15 accessories, including a camera case, lenses, frames, stickers, and film.
22. A Drone
A drone is the next step up from remote control cars. The Potensic AW20 mini drone for kids is easy to control and even allows for programming a specific flight path. And the battery beeps when it’s low to remind them it’s time to recharge. Plus, unlike a car, it flies, enabling them to make movies with visually stunning aerial shots or snap photographs with its built-in camera.
23. A Smart Speaker
The Echo Dot Kids Edition lets tweens make calls to their approved list, get answers to kid-friendly questions, and listen to stories and music. Plus, it allows parents to set time limits and review activity. And with a subscription to Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited, tweens get access to over 1,000 Amazon Audible books, thousands of songs, kid-friendly apps, and Alexa skills like setting alarms to help kids get out of bed and making phone calls from a parent-approved list.
24. A Game System
A game system is one of those big-ticket gifts that get very excited reactions, and once kids hit the tween years, they’re more capable of using them. Their hand-eye coordination and capacity to understand complex gameplay are more developed than with younger children.
If you opt to get your tween a game system, the Nintendo Switch is a top choice. It’s beloved by all ages for its capacity to transform from a console used with the TV to a handheld portable gaming pad. Plus, tweens can remove the controllers from the handheld for two-player mode, which makes it an excellent pick for family game night, playing with friends, or curling up on the couch alone.
Also at the top of many tweens’ lists is a virtual reality (VR) gaming set like the Oculus Quest All-in-One VR gaming headset. VR lets tweens step right into the game, where they can dodge magic spells, duel with lightsabers, or slash through enemy hordes. And “all-in-one” means it requires no PC or wires. Tweens can play it anywhere with just the headset and controllers.
Furniture & Decor Gifts
Tweens’ rooms are a place they go for alone time and to hang with friends. It’s important to let them exercise their self-expression through their choice in decor because it helps them grow into individuals.
25. A Beanbag Chair
Beanbag chairs give tweens a place to lounge while reading a book or to prop themselves while gaming. And a good one can long outlast the tween years, even making it to college. The GamerSac kids beanbag chair from Lovesac, makers of sectional furniture, is a high-quality beanbag that comes with washable, replaceable covers and durable filling.
26. Fairy Lights
Fairy lights – string lights with tiny bulbs similar to Christmas tree lights – are an ongoing trend with tweens, teens, and even college students. A 2019 survey of teens by New York Mag found that string lights are one of the most universally beloved decorations with the age group. Lines of string lights hung around their rooms add a cozy glow, as does a curtain of fairy lights draped from a window. Perhaps the most often-requested lights, though, are photo clip string lights.
Choosing the right gift for a tween is unquestionably tricky. And unfortunately, this isn’t one of those categories on your list – like moms, dads, or grandparents — where it’s the thought that counts. On the bright side, just like younger kids, they’ll likely tell you exactly what they want for the holidays.
And even though kids’ tastes get more expensive as they get older and start leaning toward things like electronics and fashion, there’s no need to break the bank this holiday season. To save money on holiday gifts for tweens, keep an eye on sales and take advantage of rebates, both of which you can do with browser extensions like Honey. And don’t forget to check deal sites like Groupon, where you can find lots of material items on sale in addition to experiences.
Regardless of where or how you shop, there are plenty of gifts for tweens at every price point. If you’ve found them something they’ll use – and not return to the store — you’ve done well.
What have the tweens on your holiday shopping list asked for this year?