Best Gift Ideas for 10 to 12-Year-Old Boys: Revised for 2016
Best Presents for Boys: Birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.
If you have one or two boys in your family, you know that 10 to 12-year-old boys are difficult to buy 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 in 2016
Revised for 2016, this gift guide includes the following sections:
- Gifts for Gamers: Video Games & Computer Games
- Popular Gifts for Outdoors
- Gift Ideas for Young Musicians
- Gifts for the Young Athlete
- Science & Engineering
- Fun Stocking Stuffers & Birthday Party Gifts
Gifts for Gamers: Computer & 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 annuallly 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.
Nerf, Unicycles, & Fun Outdoor Gifts
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 & 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, 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.
For the Musician
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.
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.
Birthday Party Presents, Stocking Stuffers & Hanukkah Gifts
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 Yoyo: 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.
Finally, check out my Good Books 10 Year Old Boys Will Like blog for great holiday and birthday gifts for your son, grandson, or nephew.