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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 2022.
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STEM and Technology Gifts
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 a teenage boy or a young adult.
The name may sound young, but this is a great gift idea for a tween boy. 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 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 a teenage boy. 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 around $19.99
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.
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 around $12.99
Challenge your child's imagination with the 4M Salt Water Powered Robot Kit. Perfect for any young scientist, this fun kit teaches robotics and the value of alternative energy sources.
Outdoor and Sports Themed Gifts
A 2016 study by Preventive Magazine found that an the average teen boy is 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!
If you have a more generous budget and happen to have an especially agile 12-year-old, this cool 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 around $144.99.
Prolong your course with longer 40 ft line (safely carries 300 lbs). Protect your line and trees from abrasion with extra-wide tree protectors (5 feet). Fasten the line ease and safe with twin gear ratchet. 8 obstacles and 13 strap buckles include 3 extra strap buckles to add on more obstacles as you need!
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 around $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 around $59.99.
Play anywhere. All you need is 4 people and some open space. People play on the beach, in their backyard, the basement, gym class, you name it.
Bedroom Basketball Hoop
Perfect for a rainy day, this great gift idea brings 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 around $99-$179.
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 around $39.95.
Electronics and Games
Of course, no list of best gifts for 12-year-old boys is complete without electronics and video games. While I love the gift idea of an outdoor themed gift, there is no denying that a tween boy loves to spend time on electronics, just like we all tend to do. That said, I like these gift ideas for 12 year old boy because they step away from the highly popular gifts they may already have and offer something a little more innovative.
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; Shop Now with Gifting Sherpa.
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 around $273.99.
Offers a 180° lay-flat hinge that allows it to be fully opened and laid completely flat on a desk or table. This setup makes it easy to share ideas, visuals and more with friends and family
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 and Game Console Options
When it comes to best gifts for 12-year-old boys, there’s no doubt popular video games or a game console comes 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.
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 around $155.00; less on sale.
The LU series is Lanikai's most popular and most affordable. They are a perfect first stop for acoustic multi-instrumentalist looking to expand their tonal palette or the first time player just beginning their lifelong love of music.
Artist Anywhere Studio Easel & Supplies Set
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. Or opt for a budget-friendly option with this Darice® Artyfacts Deluxe Art Set from Amazon for around $39.99.
This art kit includes a wide variety of art supplies for drawing, painting and more - it’s a great choice for kids and adults, too. The art set includes a wide variety of supplies.
Instead of an expensive tablet, this is a perfect stepping stone in between for 12-year-old boys. It’s versatile, easy to use and fun gift that can be used from anything from sketching to doodles or even notes. Buy Here for around $14.99.
Books and Reading Gifts
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).
A new adventure hatches in the first book of the Inheritance Cycle, perfect for fans of Lord of the Rings! This New York Times bestselling series has sold over 35 million copies and is an international fantasy sensation.
- 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.
It's a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you're ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.
- 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.
In Lois Lowry's unforgettable Newbery Medal–winning novel, a ten-year-old Danish girl's bravery is tested when her best friend is threatened by Nazis in 1943.
This Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award–winning middle grade bestseller is now in paperback! Basketball and heartache share the court in this slam-dunk novel in verse.
- And don’t discount Margaret Peterson Haddix’s dystopian series, The Shadow Children.
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.
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.
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition is adapted from the bestselling adult memoir by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. While it’s set in Malawi during a drought, the take-home theme of making a big change with an idea will resonate.
Now a Netflix film, this is a gripping memoir of survival and perseverance about the heroic young inventor who brought electricity to his Malawian village.
- The Finest Hours by Michael Tougais is a mini-series that tells the stories of Coast Guard rescues and feats of courage and resilience.
- Shoot Your Shot: A Sport-Inspired Guide To Living Your Best Life by Vernon Brundage Jr. strikes a balance of life advice, but, coming from professional athletes, it won’t come off as preachy and is accessible enough anyone from 12 to 16 or even adults can take away something meaningful.
Shoot Your Shot' identifies the key principles that the world's most elite basketball players have applied to their lives and explains in detail how you can use those same exact principles to help you navigate through life, accomplish your goals, and realize your dreams.
- American Trailblazers: 50 Remarkable People Who Shaped U.S. History by Lisa Trusiani offers an easy to read guide to some of the most important figures that shaped our nation’s history. While it reads young enough for a 9 or 10-year-old, the lessons and takeaways may suit 12-year-old boys even more.
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 a gift card. A gift card for bookstores, gaming stores, and certificates to places or experiences like arcades, theme parks, and outdoor adventures are welcome.
FAQs About Gift Ideas For 12 Year Old Boy
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.
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.
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!
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.
Finding the best gifts for 12-year-old boys isn’t an easy task. At this boys 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.