Need some gift ideas for the Tween (or Teen) in your life? Not only is this age pretty tricky — they all seem to be caught somewhere between childhood and adulthood — but the desire to WOW this decidedly moodier breed of human is STRONG.
At least…it is for this mama.
26 Cool, Unique Gifts For Tweens (& Teens)
So I pulled together a list of gift ideas that I haven’t seen mentioned other places. I really wanted to create a gift list that was both unique and tightly edited. I focused on gifts that are either useful, unexpected, or have been much-loved in this house, and then threw in one absolutely mind-blowing gift idea.
Gifts For Builders
OK, hear me out: At first blush, this doesn’t look like a building set for older kids — and, truthfully, it’s not. But it is made up of tiny, real, terracotta bricks, and it comes with a cornstarch-based mortar to “glue” everything together. The building can then be soaked — the cornstarch dissolves — and the fun can start all over again. There’s something so…satisfying about a tiny brick-and-mortar creation that if you have a kid who has historically loved building…they might actually really like this set. (Raines — almost 13 — has sheepishly mentioned (three times!!) that he’d love this one.)
Pretty enough to leave out on the coffee table, and tricky enough to engage. I love that this game can be played as a race (each side vs the other) or as a team. Perfect for those of us (S raises hand) who struggle with spatial geometry. (You should see me try to park — ha!)
These Magna-tiles have moveable magnets, which means that builders can now go in unexpected directions. Magna-tiles are another product that are pretty enough to keep out…and these could even be used to build cool window sculptures to catch the light in a bedroom.
The key to skateboarding seems to be practicing one move over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until your mother is so freaking sick of the skatepark…this might help.
Life skills!! Survival!! Charmingly wrapped!! But in all seriousness, I’ve always wanted to be the kind of girl who knew all of the important knots…just in case. I am NOT that girl (ha!) so now I’m going to make my boys be that…person.
Gifts For Art Lovers
We have Kim Krans’ insanely gorgeous tarot card deck. You can use it as a tarot (shuffle the cards, draw one out, then look up the meaning in the included guide book)…or as a drawing prompt. Either way, my kids (and I) love this set. It prompts really thought-provoking conversations, and it’s also provided tons of art inspiration. Sometimes, if they’re bored and being annoying, I simply lay out paper, pens, those watercolor pencils above…and then add a bunch of these cards and walk away. Works every time.
We have and LOVE these markers. Dual-tipped, vibrant, smooth and with a satisfying range of shades.
My husband swears by these mechanical pencils, and Raines keeps trying to steal his. Stocking stuffer?
9. Plan Station
This pop-up desk can be nailed…anywhere. I love the idea of creating some sort of drawing/homework desk situation somewhere unexpected: outside, perhaps, or in corner of the basement? Teens (and tweens) sometimes need to be left alone, man.
These never get old. They’re simply the best colored pencils we’ve ever used (baring the true art pencils that ring in at $5 each). This is the next best thing.
From the same Etsy seller that brought us the Knot kit…a wildflower pressing kit. Might be just the thing this spring, when we’re all still waiting for that darn vaccine and need a new (physically distanced) hobby.
Watercolor pencils are v. exciting. Initially, you use them like a (soft) colored pencil…but when you brush over your drawing with water: VOILA! Watercolor. These are the real deal, too: artist-quality, super smooth, and very vibrant. Truly a special set.
Gifts For Thinkers
My boys LOVE our Fatboy beanbag chairs. They are a good size, shockingly comfortable (my boys use them for both reading and video games,) and I love that they now come in velvet or ‘teddy’ fabric.
14. Escape Mail
Such a cool concept! Every month, you receive an installment in what is ultimately a year-long Escape the Room quest. Each month is a self-contained at-home Escape Room, but there is a larger, overarching storyline if you do the whole year. We’re signed up.
If we had to rank all of our board games in terms of Most Used…this one gets the top prize. It’s a real tournament chess set — so v. legit — but is also the easiest with which to travel (and a MUCH better playing experience than traditional travel chess sets). Incidentally, if you also have littles in the house, this chess set was the one that was recommended as best for little kids, too. (See more on how to teach kids chess, here.)
16. Chemistry Kit
This is not some plastic-filled, “play” science kit. This Chemistry Kit from Home Science Tools is basically an actual school chemistry lab…packaged up for home use. We bought this at the start of the pandemic and LOVE it. Real glass beakers, Bunsen burners, and an Erlenmeyer flask — as well as some recommended experiments. If there’s one class that’s really suffered in this new virtual school reality, it’s Science. This has been a solid consolation prize for my science-loving kids.
My kids still prefer reading real books at night before bed. I hate having their bright overhead light on, so this amber book light means they can read before bed without getting all revved up from that blue light. This is going in their stockings.
18. 3D Tic Tac Toe
Back when we went to restaurants, my boys were forever trying to make tic-tac-toe more interesting. Add another row? Add six rows? More X’s and O’s? But when I showed them this intriguing little game they both went, “OOOOOOOO!” Truthfully, I can’t stop thinking about it, either.
If your kids are as Hamilton-obsessed as mine…they’re gonna LOVE this subtle nod to one of the funniest Hamilton scenes. (Also? This tee. WEEEEEEEE)
Gifts For Kids Who Need To MOVE
This color-changing portable bluetooth speaker is under $40, and has more than 2.6K 5-star reviews. My boys would LOVE this.
These ear buds look seriously cool, come in a ton of colors, have over 3K+ reviews, and are currently on sale for $50. Now I want them (especially this rose gold).
22. Oculus Quest 2
Feel like blowing some minds? Skip the Playstation or Xbox updates and get them an Oculus Quest 2, a virtual-reality headset. It’s…amazing. Completely, 100% the future of gaming. And the games that are available on the Quest 2 are seriously cool: Beat Saber (lightsabers to music), The Climb (a Free-Climbing game that looks terrifying), or even an immersive experience called Traveling While Black, to name but three of hundreds. See Syd’s next-gen suggestions here.
23. Slackline Kit
It’s too late for me, guys. I’ll never be able to do this. My kids, however, still have a chance. And it seems to be a thing, this slackline. I like that it gives them an activity to do together at a park or something.
We got Pax this hoverboard and now both boys are obsessed. Based on the reviews, they’re not the only ones: there are plenty of adults raving about their hoverboard adventures. These things go pretty fast, and the big wheels mean that they can cruise around the city. Which…frightening. But fun. (Apparently.)
Skateboards are such a fun gift for tweens and teens, and this one has caught my eye. It’s basically a shorter cruiser skateboard, so can still be used at the park, but has a nicer ride. It also looks really cool, too (and there are more designs to choose from).
26. Pogo Stick
This is basically a super-powered pogo stick, hardy enough for major tricks. The weight limit of this stick only goes up to 90lbs (so best for tweens), but this Pogo stick (the Pro Sports Edition) goes up to 160 lbs.
Hope this helps — happy gifting! (Oh and hey — if you’ve ever gifted a tween/teen to major applause…spill! We’d love more ideas.)