Gifts for Ages

How To Find The Best Gifts For 12 Year Old Boys

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Finding the best gifts for 12-year-old boys is often challenging: as tweens, they are just in between childhood and teenage years, and interests, learning, and everything else about life are fluctuating. Amidst the time of a pandemic, it can be even more difficult.

But even with the pandemic, social unrest, and worry, life goes on, and that’s especially true for 12-year-olds. Look no further than a 12-year-old boy who’s been called the “Birthday Lawn Bandit.” In a surprising twist, the 12-year-old has been leaving gifts on lawns in Yardley Pennsylvania to bring kids cheer.

After being encouraged by his mom, who was furloughed from her restaurant job, 12-year-old Nicky Christopher decorated and gifted a friend for their birthday, then started decorating and leaving gifts for others–now 100 and counting.

Of course, you don’t have to be a Birthday Lawn Bandit to give the best gifts for a 12-year-old boy. In this article, I’ll tell you my top picks, all of which can be ordered online, for a 12-year-old boy, no matter the occasion. By dividing gifts by activity, and offering different price points, you’ll be able to find the best gift for the 12 year old boy or boys in your life. Consider this your gift guide for 2020.

STEM and Technology Gifts

discovery gemstone sets

The best gifts for 12-year-old boys are things they’ll use and love, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to be educational. Some of my favorite gifts teach kids new skills but do so in a hands-on way, which is what I love about these gifts. The following gifts are perfected for tweens–they’ve already been learning some of these STEM skills in school, but aren’t quite ready for some options for teens and young adults.

KiwiCo Tinker Crate

The name may sound young, but this is a fantastic gift for tween boys. Though someone as young as nine or ten may be able to use this kit, a 12-year-old would be a perfect mid-range to get the most out of it.

Each crate your order comes with a blueprint, zine, video tutorials, and a project to complete–perfect for all kinds of learning and satisfying for the boy who likes to work directly with hands-on projects. Buy Here, with options for one month, three months, six months, and year-old shipments.

UGears Mechanical Models

UGears is one of my favorites go to’s for STEM gifts, and that’s also true for 12-year-old boys. While they also offer games and lab kits, those are more advanced and are better gifts for teenagers. My suggestion is to go for an intermediate model. Each model is interactive, and I love that a bit of history is thrown in, as kids will learn about the inventor of the original design. Buy Here for $19.99

Discovery Kids Gemstone Dig Stem Science Kit

This fantastic, eye-catching kit is perfect for any 12-year-old boys interested in earth science or geology. With a setup time of only five minutes, even impatient boys will get into excavating and polishing gems quickly. For a price point under twenty dollars, you get safety goggles, 11 gems, mallet, paintbrush, instructions, and a poster. Buy Here.

Green Science Salt Water Powered Robot Kit

This is a robot kit with a twist and something that really stands out because it also teaches 12-year-old boys about green energy. The robot runs on charcoal and saltwater and contains educational but direct instructions for assembly. Buy Here for $12.99

Outdoor and Sports Themed Gifts

A 2016 study by Preventive Magazine found that teens are nearly as inactive as 60-year-old adults, which can have both physical and mental health implications, and it’s likely that tweens aren’t far behind. Plus, with many organized sports canceled, reduced, or put on hold, all the more reason to look for some gifts that get a 12-year-old boy active. Plus, these gifts can be used in a backyard, even if large gatherings aren’t an option!

Flybold Ninja Obstacle Course Line Kit

If you have a more generous budget and happen to have an especially agile 12-year-old, this gift really brings the wow factor–and will impress an entire family. You’ll get 40 inches of slackline; eight hanging obstacles with adjustable buckles, and fantastic reusability. Buy Here for $144.99; you can also opt for a more budget-friendly option, for a younger 12-year-old boy, here for $69.99.

Slammo Lawn Game Set

This lawn game with a quirky name is a spin-off of volleyball and strategy games and comes with neon green balls, carrying case, and a rulebook. I love how easy it is to set up, and how it can be played with as little as two people or in teams. Buy Here for $62.99 (currently on sale).

Alternative Pick: Spikeball has a similar concept with a more mature, sleek look that may be best with older seeming 12-year-old boys; Buy Here for $59.99.

Bedroom Basketball Hoop

Perfect for a rainy day, bring the fun of sports inside with the cleverly designed mounted basketball hoop by PB Teen. The style is modern and minimal, without feeling too old for a 12-year-old boy and also not too young that he’ll want to take it down anytime soon; you may even consider adding in sports bedding and other decor like wall decals and pillows for a whole bedroom makeover. Buy the Hoop here for $99-$179.

Glow in the Dark Hovering Dart Game

This game can be played outside on a warm summer night, or maybe in a large room or basement, and is safe, with foam balls. What caught my eye was not only the glow in the dark balls, but that they’re driven by vectored air, and have a five ball capacity. Buy Here for $39.95.

Electronics and Games

game of phones

Of course, no list of best gifts for 12-year-old boys is complete without electronics and video games. While I love the idea of an outdoor themed gift, there are no denying tweens love and spend time on electronics, just like we all tend to do. That said, I like these gift ideas for 12-year-old boys because they step away from the highly popular gifts they may already have and offer something a little more innovative.

Game of Phones

This clever game combines a traditional card game feel with smartphone technology. Teams compete in scavenger hunt style by drawing prompt cards related to texts and pictures; best suited for a mature 12-year-old boy well into tween activities but great also for parties; Buy Here for $20.00

ASUS Chromebook C202 Laptop

asus chromebook

Chromebooks are perfect for 12-year-old boys: they may not be powerful laptops but they work for getting school work down, Microsoft Office and Apps to stay in touch with friends–without the price point or risks of more advanced laptops.

This 11-inch screen Chromebook by Asus is my top pick, with a competitive price point, 16 GB flash storage, and built-in virus protection, all with a pleasing and lightweight design. Buy Here for $273.99.

Board Games

house of danger

While it’s true that 12-year-old boys will get excited about electronic gifts, it’s also true that there are a number of great board games that can entertain for hours. Some of my favorites include the fantasy strategy themed Atlandice; the inventive Choose Your Own Adventure Board Game, perfect for fostering creativity; and a classic, Cranium, which is a trivia-style game that combines trivia, creativity and more.

Popular Video Games and Consoles

When it comes to best gifts for 12-year-old boys, there’s no doubt popular video games and consoles come to mind. My recommendation here is to first make sure the 12-year-old doesn’t already have what you have in mind, then comparison shop. Right now, Nintendo Switch is trending.

Creative and Artistic Gifts 

One stereotype is that 12-year-old boys only like sports and science, but this simply is not the case. Artistic themed gifts can be among the best and are important for fostering creativity.

One stereotype is that 12-year-old boys only like sports and science, but this simply is not the case. Artistic themed gifts can be among the best and are important for fostering creativity.

Lanikai LU-21C Concert Ukulele

lanikai lu-21c

Your 12-year-old doesn’t need to be a musician to appreciate this gift. While it may look impressive and offer sturdy construction, it’s a beginner ukulele and also among the highest-rated for its price point. A ukulele is easy to learn and is increasingly appealing to both tweens and teens alike. Buy Here for $155.00; less on sale.

Artist Anywhere Studio Easel & Supplies Set

artist studio easel

This complete art kit is perfect for a 12 year old, complete with watercolor and pastel pencils; an easel, drawing pads, and more for an impressive set with other 120 pieces. Buy Here for $149.95, or opt for a budget-friendly option with this Darice® Artyfacts Deluxe Art Set from Michaels for $39.99.

AKAMATE LCD Writing Tablet, Electronic Writing Drawing Board Doodle Pad

Instead of an expensive tablet, this is a perfect stepping stone in between for 12-year-old boys. Fun, versatile, and easy to use, this pad can be used from anything from sketching to doodles or even notes. Buy Here for $14.99.

Books and Reading Gifts

the golden compass

Whether your 12-year-old is an avid reader or casual peruser, there’s no doubt that there are many books that make the perfect gift to entertain, educate, and inspire.

Modern Fiction/ Fantasy

Some books never get old, and that’s true of what I’d call modern classics.

  • There’s plenty to choose from, including Eragon, Christopher Paoloni’s bestselling series about a dragon or Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass (assuming they already know, of course, about Harry Potter).
  • If your 12-year-old boy is more into general or contemporary, Carl Hiassen is an excellent choice (most well known for eco-minded stories like Hoot).
  • For less advanced readers or if you’re looking for something a bit on the lighter side, Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has captured many with its depiction of middle school woes.
  • Diversity, inclusion, and perseverance are depicted in Louis Lowry’s Number the Stars; The Crossover by Kwame Alexander; and the emotionally poignant The Stars Beneath our Feet by David Moore.
  • And don’t discount Margaret Peterson Haddix’s dystopian series, The Shadow Children.

Classics

gary paulsen hatchet

Classics don’t need to be stuffy, and these are my top picks for 12-year-olds–I only caution that you may want to check they haven’t already been assigned them.

  • Survival themed stories, like Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, or The Call of the Wild by Jack London will capture the interest of adventurous 12-year-old boys.
  • Coming of age stories can sometimes read too old, but classics like Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls are both excellent picks focusing on tween years, with lead boy characters that are relatable.
  • Fantasy touches can add depth to beautiful stories like Lowry’s The Giver Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.

Nonfiction

the boy who harnessed the wind

As much as I believe in the power of fiction to entertain and inspire, I also think nonfiction can be truly powerful. For a 12-year-old boy, I like to look for books that tell an inspiring but still entertaining story in a way they can relate to their own lives.

Other Great Gift Ideas

While I’d argue all the categories we’ve covered offer some of the best gifts for a 12-year-old boy, you can always opt for magazine subscriptions; digital subscriptions, and gift cards. Gift cards for bookstores, gaming stores, and certificates to places or experiences like arcades, theme parks, and outdoor adventures are welcome.

FAQs About Gifts for 12-Year-Old Boys

What’s a birthday gift for a 12-year-old boy who has everything?

We all know someone who’s harder to buy for, and that certainly can be the case for 12-year-old boys. If you’re really stumped, consider a day out; even if attractions are closed, a park visit, some of his favorite food, and some outdoor activities is a welcome gift. If you don’t want to go the experience route, graphic t’s from sites like Etsy or other merchandise related to sports teams, games, hobbies, music, and more are good picks.

Do you have any ideas for a homemade gift for a 12-year-old boy?

As many great gift options there are to choose from, a homemade gift can be among the best of ideas. For this, you can put together themed baskets, stocking up with his favorite snacks (homemade too!). You can also satisfy the bookworm with handmade or bought journals with crafted bookmarks. For the sports fan, you could stitch together socks, gloves, and more.

What do I do for a last-minute gift for a 12 year old boy?

It’s more than understandable if you need a last-minute gift, but since ordering online takes time, your best bet is to buy gift cards at your local grocery store and sneak in a book and a few snacks. Add some fun balloons and a card and you’re set to surprise him!

Can you recommend the best gifts for a 12-year-old boy for under $20?

I understand how important it is to stay on budget, which is why there are actually several ideas above in this 2020 gift guide that fall right around twenty dollars. Paperback books, simple sports equipment, posters, and other decor, magazines, and snacks all fit the bill for budget-friendly gifts you can find for under $20.

Final Thoughts

Finding the best gifts for 12-year-old boys isn’t an easy task. At this age, they are not quite yet teens, but no longer children. But it’s also an incredibly exciting time for boys, when interests, social circles, and knowledge are all expanding. With this gift guide, you’ll be able to find something for a 12-year-old boy, no matter your budget.

Still unsure? I recommend browsing all our gift guides by activity if your 12-year-old has a specific hobby that’s special to him!

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