Caroline is the mother of three spirited children. She and her husband have two teenage sons and a 19-year-old daughter.
Best Presents for Birthdays, Christmas, Etc.
If you have any boys in your family, you know that 10-to-12-year-old boys are difficult to shop for. Unlike their female counterparts, they do not want to receive clothing for birthdays or holidays, except perhaps a specific pro sports jersey. Now that they've entered that awkward preteen or "tween" stage, the most appreciated gifts cater to current obsessions—such as video games and sports—and to growing interests, such as music and science.
Great Presents for Boys
This gift guide includes the following sections:
- Gifts for Gamers: Video Games and Computer Games
- Gifts for Outdoor Fun
- Gifts for Musicians
- Gifts for Athletes
- Affordable and Fun Gifts Under $25
Gifts for Gamers: Computer and Video Games
At the top of almost every pre-teen boy's ultimate wish list is a video game system, either a Playstation or an Xbox. Although these days, many parents own their own systems before ever having children, the decision to upgrade to a new video game system or to purchase an initial gaming system is a big decision (and investment) for parents.
Here is an all-new list of popular games that boys from ages 10 to 12 years will appreciate.
Note: If you are a friend or relative looking for a gift, be sure that you know what type of video game system or computer system your recipient owns.
- Minecraft: Possibly the most popular video games for this age group. Great for ages 10+, this annually best-selling game features open-ended exploration in a construction/creative-focused environment. This might sound educational but the boys love it! In fact, Minecraft's popularity has ballooned so dramatically that now, there's an entire array of Minecraft products, from t-shirts and LEGOs® to plush creatures and light-up cubes (see Gaming Accessories below for more information).
Platforms: Linux, Windows, Mac, Xbox
Price: from $21
- Skyrim (Elder Scrolls V): Skyrim continues to be one of the most popular video games with both boys and girls, ages 10+. This is an open-ended exploration and fantasy game, featuring a rich storyline, solid character development, the opportunity for making important moral choices, and a beautifully designed world. Players can choose to act nobly, maliciously, or apathetically. Players who do good are rewarded; those who are evil often end up losing property and skill.
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Windows
Price: from $60
- Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare: Based on the popular phone app, this new cartoon shooter game is popular with 10-year-olds who are not ready for realistic first-person shooter games.
Platforms: Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One (2014)
Price: from $30
- EA Sports Video Games: These developers create high quality annual video games. Their most popular are FIFA, NHL, and Madden NFL. Shop for 2016 games for your sports fan.
Platforms: Xbox, Playstation 3 & 4
Price: from $40
- Mario Kart 8: Part of the Super Mario franchise, this is a go-kart racing video game that features anti-gravity racing and ATVs. It offers up to four local players in Grand Prix races and features downloadable content.
Platforms: Wii U
Price: from $59
- The Uncharted Series: This third-person action-adventure series follows character Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter, through a well-designed, three-dimensional world that features "extraordinarily fun, cinematic, Indy Jones-type adventure," along with Indiana Jones-level violence. The series currently includes four different games. Recommended for players ages 12+.
Platforms: Playstation 3 & 4
Price: from $25
- Civilization V: The fifth 4X (“explore, expand, exploit, exterminate”) video game in the Civilization series. Players strive to become ruler of the world "by establishing and leading a civilization from the dawn of man into the space age, waging war, conducting diplomacy, discovering new technologies, going head-to-head with some of history’s greatest leaders, and building the most powerful empire the world has ever known." According to our 14-year-old, only buy the complete edition, which includes all of the DLC (downloadable content).
Platforms: OS X, GNU/Linux, Microsoft Windows
Price: from $30
- Super Smash Bros. 4: This Nintendo cartoon character game is filled with light-hearted brawling and features such Nintendo characters as those from the Mario, Pikachu, Samus, and Kirby franchises.
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, WiiU
Price: from $33
- Bluetooth headphone sets are great gifts that allow guys to play online with their friends.
- Extra control sets are always welcome gifts.
- Batteries. Lots of AA batteries.
- Minecraft products: Minecraft fans will get a kick out of receiving game-related products, from t-shirts, LEGO products, and wall clings to foam "diamond" swords, foam "creepers," and even wall clocks. These fun/funny products make great gifts and stocking stuffers. Online purchasing resources include: Amazon.com, ThinkGeek.com, jinx.com, and walmart.com.
Gift Ideas for Outdoor Fun
Luckily, unlike most of their female counterparts, there is still some of the fun-loving puppy left in young men. Boys this age still romp, wrestle, roll, and play outdoors.
- Slacklines: Picture a low-hanging, two-inch webbed tightrope accompanied by a teaching line for balance. If you have two sturdy anchor points in your backyard (e.g., a strong tree trunk, a basketball pole, or a sturdy, tall fence post), your son and his friends will have a blast walking, bouncing, and even jumping across the yard. Slacklines can be tightened or loosened for more or less bounce and raised further off the ground. Once skills are honed, the teaching line can even be eliminated. Fun for the whole family!
Price: 50-foot line and anchors usually start around $70.
- Unicycles: I've seen several unicycles in our neighborhood over the last few years. All of them were expertly ridden by this age group and older. Our boys have a friend who uses his unicycle as his primary mode of transport. The other day, I even saw a dad riding a unicycle while walking a dog on a leash, with his little girl riding a tricycle alongside him! Unicycles promote concentration, balance, and patience. Check out unicycle.com for an array of brands, sizes, and accessories.
- Remote-Controlled Cars and Helicopters: Many boys long for the "dream-on," big-ticket remote control helicopters and cars. Boys (and men) of all ages appreciate the science and technology in the latest remote-controlled vehicle. Also popular are high-end robots and the kits to build them. Unfortunately, these toys are pretty expensive, so be sure your guy will appreciate the gift.
- Nerf: Having progressed beyond footballs and basketballs, Nerf now offers incredibly popular Nerf guns for this age group. Used as WWII machine guns, space guns, and other imaginative weapons, these brightly colored, affordable toys offer hours of entertainment for this age group.
Gifts Ideas for Musicians
As one 12-year-old reader reminded me, this is a great age for learning to play the guitar, drums, or any other instrument. From electric guitars, acoustic guitars, and portable keyboards to drum pads, full drum sets, and recording software, many options exist for encouraging a future rocker.
At our house, my husband is a serious home recording artist and plays a variety of guitars, basses, and keyboards. He recommends the following resources for good deals on quality instruments for beginning and young musicians:
They have everything. Not only have we bought some recording equipment from this Ft. Wayne, Indiana-based company (but don't worry—they have a website and ship worldwide), we also purchased a beautiful acoustic guitar for our daughter for her 8th grade graduation. Wonderful service and good prices! They've even compiled a list of gift suggestions you can browse in price categories.
This is a great resource for rockers of any age or experience. My husband has bought from this catalog for at least 20 years. Two years ago for Christmas, we bought our three children guitars: one child-sized acoustic, one child-sized electric, and a mid-priced electric for the daughter. All good quality at reasonable prices.
Along with an instrument, a package of pre-paid private lessons is a fantastic gift from parents, grandparents, or a cool uncle or aunt.
If your son is already playing in a school band or orchestra and has been renting his instrument, sixth grade is an ideal time to evaluate if he is planning to continue through middle school: if so, perhaps it would make sense to get him a new or used instrument of his own. Your son's school band or orchestra instructor or his private lesson teacher will be able to direct you to quality local sources for his particular instrument. Some private instructors, if requested, will even accompany you to the instrument store to help you select the best instrument for your budget and his playing style.
Gift Ideas for Athletes
Young athletes may have a need for some specific equipment that would be welcomed as a gift. Youth baseball and soccer leagues provide certain pieces of equipment and pieces of uniforms, while requiring players to supply the rest. Be sure to check with parents about what sports equipment might be needed. Advanced baseball players may be ready for high-quality mitts and bats, while dedicated hockey players may be ready for higher quality sticks and equipment bags.
Gift card: A gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, or a specialized local sporting goods store (especially for hockey, golf, lacrosse, and fishing enthusiasts) is an appreciated gift—and easy to mail.
For grandparents and other relatives searching for gifts, other much-appreciated options include practice facility gift cards, contributions to summer sports camp funds, or paying for training clinics.
Affordable and Fun Gifts Under $25
From the birthday parties of family members and classmates to fun holiday stocking stuffers and Hanukkah gifts, we're all faced with gift-giving occasions that require something affordable but fun.
While iTunes or Visa gift cards are the standard for a classmate's birthday party, many other affordable, unique, and fun options exist under $25:
- Chinese Diablo Yo-Yo: Taught in circus camps across the nation and tons of fun. About $19, many sources.
- Kendama: A Japanese ball and stick game. About $9, many sources.
- Car and airplane kit: Rubber-band power at its most classic. $16.98 at hearthsong.com.
- Robotic motorcycle kit: $24.98 at hearthsong.com.
- Inflatable tentacle arm: Great fun for all of your kids. $10 on Amazon.
- Rubik's Cube: A retro classic; $16 on Amazon.
- Whoopee cushion: Still a popular gag gift for the family joker. $9
- Mega boxing gloves: Gigantic, totally oversized boxing gloves for hilarious outdoor fun. $15 on Amazon.
- Melting bedside alarm clock: In the style of Salvador Dali. $13 on Amazon.
What does your boy want?
Someone on December 03, 2018:
I also do recommend getting the “LATEST” toy/gadget for boys(and girls).
Nicolas on November 14, 2017:
you had very good ideas but as an 12 year old i would not have enjoyed any of these gifts ideas. i am a gamer/artist so i would find a cool gift would be a sketch book or a video game.
i indeed know that video games are expensive but it almost cost as much as a sports equipment. i just wanted to share. have a wonderful day
potato on July 17, 2017:
chem c3000 is pretty good and home science tools is a good website
Wanda on May 23, 2017:
Where are the ideas for the scientific mind?
Priyansh on April 13, 2017:
Nice the gift I gake my friend by selecting from this site it was very good and my friend also liked it
Melissa on November 30, 2016:
So hard to find something for teen ages. This was perfect!! Thanks for the help!!!
Aysha on September 15, 2016:
I'm gonna be 10 I was seeing what presents that my grandma family could get
J.k Rowling on June 21, 2016:
You should definitely put more book options in there. But other then that keep up the good work
FanboyGamer on September 26, 2015:
Im a 11 year old book lover and i love games
Caroline Paulison Andrew (author) from Chicago, IL on July 31, 2015:
Runtumblerun: Thanks for the great book suggestions. I have a hub on Best Books for 10 Year Old Boys and will be sure to check out some of these books for that age group. I appreciate your comments on gaming as well.
runtumblerun on July 21, 2015:
Really great list! One person commented that boys this age don't want books; however, here are a few suggestions from my 11-yr old son:
Zombie baseball beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi;
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (a bit more challenging);
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen;
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins;
Un Lun Dun by China Meiville (yes, I know it is about a couple girls but it has carnivorous giraffes and smog zombies, so, yeah)
Also, my son has also gotten into some pretty creative graphic novel series, such as:
Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
Bone by Jeff Smith
Also, for what it's worth, I hate excessive gaming like some of the other commentors, but found that the xbox can be actually be another way to connect with my sons and their friends. Every now and then I join in, chaos commences and fun happens (although I'll admit that I just don't get Minecraft). So, even if you want to limit gaming, it doesn't necessarily have to be all-or-none, in my opinion. For example, it's pretty easy to set a time limit on the xbox that requires a passcode to override. Or, one can insist on a few non-electronic days per week (e.g., my wife and I implemented three non-electronic days a week and our boys simply don't seem to miss gaming on those days).
Anyway, great list!
Caroline Paulison Andrew (author) from Chicago, IL on June 08, 2015:
Great suggestion! I will have to add it when I update this list for 2016!
momof3 on June 03, 2015:
How about adding Bluetooth speakers? Kids love music and their handheld devices - good accessory gift!
Caroline Paulison Andrew (author) from Chicago, IL on April 09, 2015:
Hi Momof2: So happy I could be of help! Thanks for your comment.
Momof2! on April 09, 2015:
This age-based list is the best I've ever seen! I will be purchasing multiple presents based on your suggestions! Thank you!!
Johnb855 on December 29, 2014:
Hey there, You have done a great job. I'll definitely digg it and personally recommend to akecgdkkckda
patti kalich on December 22, 2014:
I think its sad when its obvious most boys these ages would like the gifts mentioned & there are parents out there that wouldn't get any of them for their children. If they think the ideas are so bad why? I understand about violence killing themes I don't agree with allowing too many of these sort of things such as movies games toys etc. But its the challenge the chase the thrill of e citement that intrigues. Play with your child on occasion explain the difference between right and wrong play etc. Just saying no & keeping your child excluded will cause him to be embarresed when he cant or doesn't know what all kids are doing .He will prob. be more apt to become defiant disobey when he feels its unfair too many restrictions the same way bullyed kids feel like they don't have a say or their disrespected as far as having personal opinion needs or wants are concerned. Fun should nr fun
Uncle Chris on December 20, 2014:
Buying for my nephew and this has been SO helpful - thank you very much :)
Nick on December 19, 2014:
Hi Caroline, great list for the most part. My only concern is the inclusion of the video game, Skyrim. I grew up playing video games, and I think they can be a really fun way to develop critical thinking, enjoy storytelling in a unique way, or connect with friends. However, Skyrim is rated Mature, and for good reason. I won't go into detail here,but just google: ESRB Skyrim, and it should lead you to the ESRB page where they give a good summary of why they gave it a Mature rating.
Cynthia on December 16, 2014:
I'm the parent of a 10yr old. There are also minecraft lego sets. My son loves minecraft and legos, so I figure it's a good way to keep his mind creative while appealing to his gaming. They even have a lego "minecrafting" box to build whatever you want instead of building a "set". A little more creative. I'm patiently awaiting it's arrival in the mail.
Noah on December 13, 2014:
I think xbox one is a good thing for 10-12 year old boys and im 11
Owen on December 10, 2014:
I have found that the boys get completely consumed when playing minecraft. They become argumentative, neglect homework and anti social. They will even ignore the friends they have invited over. Video games are done in this household. They do play them at other people's houses and there is really nothing I can do about that, but it's only for a while. Not dawn to dusk like it was here for a while.
Momwith12yr on November 26, 2014:
We found that our 12 yr old got lost with his Xbox gaming. He played at home, at friends, and that is all he wanted...we ended up taking away. We finally have our son back, he is doing better in school and there is a happier house (and child) since there is way less yelling that time is up. Please don't make the same mistake we did and set strict limits.
puma is swag on November 09, 2014:
I though this list was okay. I am 12 and speaking from a 12 year old perspective, I thought this was very accurate
nick on April 06, 2014:
My mom won't let me get any of this stuff and my birthday is in a few days.
Sad kid on December 22, 2013:
My mom won't let me me get any of this stuff.
noodles on December 20, 2013:
I like the list but even sport fans don't want close for Christmas. I'm 12 and I think things like the 3DS and a iPhone sounds nice
Wowzera on December 16, 2013:
Nice one for the sports
boss on December 13, 2013:
I have a few ideas what i want to get but my family wants to know all my ideas and i can't think of that many. can u help me.
Mom of Tween on December 10, 2013:
I'm with Stephen Robinson - this list is dead-on. We're in the midwest, so we'll also be adding a snow tube (or snow shoes) to the list. And also a board game for family fun.
Minecraft Dad on December 08, 2013:
My Kids really like this game named minecraft go check it out its for Xbox and PC minecraft.net
Plantastic on December 08, 2013:
If you like zombies and or pet check out the Zombie Plant Grow kit
In it you can grow several zombie plants that Play DEAD when you Touch them!
the minecrafter on December 08, 2013:
my kids really like video games so there always playing them.
so that's why i got the wii because it well get my kids to not just sit there
it well get them to stand up and move and exercise
Jack on December 08, 2013:
How many parents are shelling out $400-$500 for the new gaming machines?
Caroline Paulison Andrew (author) from Chicago, IL on December 04, 2013:
Please note that there are other gift ideas other than gaming. I used to feel the same way about games--but my boys just went elsewhere to play with friends at their houses. Now, they have their friends here. My boys are also involved in Science Olympiad at school, go to tech camp and improv camp in the summer, and participate in band. One played JV basketball and football and has a metal-arts workspace in our garage where he is learning to craft custom knives in his spare time (under the tutelage of his uncle). One is working on a social studies project at school that raises money for a crisis line for LGBT teens, has had a 4.0 for 2 years, and is in the school's gifted program while dealing with ADHD. Not bad for a couple of gamers. While gaming is a favorite activity, it is just one part of their lives.
Caroline Paulison Andrew (author) from Chicago, IL on December 04, 2013:
James, Annoying Mouse: Thanks for the catch on the typo.
Annoying Mouse on December 03, 2013:
There is one thing that I want to correct.. You accidently put "Mindcraft"
The accual name is accualy "Minecraft"
random user on November 30, 2013:
it is Minecraft not Mindcraft
Jim on November 29, 2013:
Author: I'm a parent of a 11-year old. I hope you are able to delete some of the bad behavior above. I think you're right on with some of these ideas. Keep it up.
Beast on November 28, 2013:
It doesn't really teach them to kill its so u can have fun with friends•.•
Lisa on November 28, 2013:
Don't like this list. Why would I buy my 10 year old mindless video games? Especially ones that teach him to kill. What happened to traditional creative things that help them learn?
James on November 08, 2013:
Yes these are very good gift ideas, but there is one problem. There is no such game called mindcraft it is called minecraft
Caroline Paulison Andrew (author) from Chicago, IL on December 03, 2011:
Danny: You are right about the uke or starter guitar. That is a great idea. As soon as I have a chance to update, I will include! Thanks--those are great ideas! As far as reading, I should probably change that to "have to" read--which I'm sure you have to do for your LA/Lit or English class.
Danny on December 03, 2011:
im 12 yrs old and have to say that no-one my age likes to read books a good idea is to by a cheap instrument like a ukelele or a starter bundle electric guitar
Caroline Paulison Andrew (author) from Chicago, IL on November 29, 2011:
HiKevinRox & Dude:
I'd love to use some of your input in my list (which definitely needs updating). Kevin: what do you really like to do? Play football? Baseball? Video games? Dude: Why do you feel your parents wouldn't get you stuff from the list? Is it a cost issue? Or an anti-violence stance?
Both of you, please let me know so I can make this list the best it can be!
Dude on November 29, 2011:
It's fine but there is not a lot of stuff that my parents would get me
KevinRox!!! on November 22, 2011:
I am 12 years old, and i was just wandering. What is something a 12 year old would want? I cant think of anything. I got IPod Touch 4th generation and that's it. if you have anything plz tell me. Thanks
Cole on November 08, 2011:
These are okay
Stephen Robinson on February 06, 2011:
Well I am a 12 year old boy and you were dead-on so this is a very good source for parents