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12 Year Old Boy Gifts: Gift Ideas for Preteen Boys

Updated on March 15, 2013
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If you have not spent a whole lot of time around preteen boys, finding a gift for one may seem like a daunting task. You don’t want to buy something too childish, but you also don’t want to buy something too “old” or boring.

If you are feeling insecure about making a purchase for a preteen boy, let this put your mind at ease: Boys who are not yet teenagers are some of the easiest people to buy for.

Most preteen boys are active, inquisitive, hands-on, and easily amused. They love a good practical joke, have immature humor, and are fascinated with cool gadgets. Keep these things in mind while shopping for the preteen boy in your life, and it will be hard to go wrong.

Here are some fun gift ideas that 12 year old boys are sure to love:

Science Experiment Kits

Young boys are naturally curious and like to test things out for themselves. Hands-on experiments involving fizz, goo, changing colors, and explosions are super cool to boys this age. Encourage this curiosity with safe science experiment kits. Mythbusters (the hit TV series) has a line of "Scientific Explorer" kits that cover everything from crashes and collisions (what boy doesn't like that?), to forces of flight (where you pilot your own helicopter), to weird water wonders (where you launch your own water powered rocket). There are also kits for growing crystals, playing with magnets, and other scientific experiments on the market.

Stilts, Pogo Sticks, Moon Shoes, and Other Fun Active Items

Growing boys are always on the go and gifts that keep them active will also help to keep them healthy. Preteen boys love unusual toys that let them be active like stilts, anti-gravity boots, carpet skates (for sliding on carpets), and unicycles. Bikes, skateboards, roller blades, ripsticks, and pogo sticks are also exciting gifts. If the tween boy you are buying a gift for lives in a place with lots of snow, a mini luge sled or Flexible Flyer PT Blaster is sure to be a hit.

Engineer Build-It Kits

Most boys love to build things. This is a useful skill for them to have in life, so encourage your boy's inner Mr. Fix-it with a gift that lets him think through building and creating. LEGOs and K'Nex are two popular building toys that many boys love. Make sure you check the age on the package because preteens will need more complex models to get them interested (working roller coasters and Ferris Wheels are pretty sweet options). If you want to get something different, there are some seriously cool marble run kits on the market. Boys can build complicated tracks to send marbles racing.

Hand-Eye Coordination Games

Boys like toys that require hand-eye coordination and present a challenge. Kendama, a traditional Japanese toy similar to the cup-and-ball game, is hugely popular with boys this age. Diabolos, yo-yos, boomerangs, and hacky sacks are also good options for boys who like a good hand-eye coordination challenge. Juggling balls, juggling spinning plates, and juggling sticks can also be fun. These seemingly simple toys can provide hours of entertainment.

Robotic and Remote Control Toys

There is something about remote controls that men love, and it starts at a very young age. Almost all boys love remote controlled objects. Cars, helicopters, bugs, you name it - if it is controlled by remote, your boy will love it. Tweens also love robots of any kind. You can buy a build-a-robot kit or pick one that is already put together. Either way, a robotic toy is certain to bring smiles.

Novelty Candy

The only thing boys love more than candy is crazy, weird candy. Go all out and buy the world's largest gummy bear to win the "Best Gift Giver Ever" award from your candy lover. Bacon flavored gum balls, cupcake mints, and Bean Boozled Jelly Belly Beans with flavors like pencil shavings and baby wipes are novelties your preteen may not have tried before, but is sure to enjoy. Gummy brains, gummy fried eggs, and gummy mustaches are also definite wins (yes, these are actual candies available through Amazon).

Magic Sets

Tween boys are frequently fascinated by magic and most would love to have their own magic set. Optical illusions and cool little tricks are fun to learn and give a boy the chance to be in the spotlight while entertaining his family and friends. From simple card tricks to intriguing illusions, magic sets come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Toys That Shoot Things

Much to their mothers' dismay, boys like projectiles. If a boy is not shooting spit balls through a straw, he is shooting rubber bands off his fingers. Marshmallow shooters, Nerf guns, water guns, bow and arrows, slingshots, and Vortex disk shooters all make boys happy. Lazer tag sets allow boys to have friendly competition without actual projectiles (for mothers who worry about someone losing an eye). If his parents will allow it, no tween boy will turn down a toy that shoots things.

What NOT to buy a preteen boy:

Clothes – Unlike tween girls, most preteen boys are frankly uninterested in clothes. Moms who know their child desperately needs something new to wear can make this purchase. Everyone else should go for something more exciting. The exception to this is if you know for sure a clothing item will be a hit - like a favorite sports team jersey. (But then, if you already knew what would be a hit, you wouldn't be reading this list...)

Books – Unless a book is unusually cool (like The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science: 64 Daring Experiments for Young Scientists by Sean Connolly), a preteen boy is likely to find it boring. To most young boys, books are something you have to buy for school, not something you want for your birthday.

Rated M Video Games – The preteen boy in your life may want video games rated above his age, but he will have time enough to get into that stuff when he gets older. For now, encourage him to enjoy the innocence of his youth by sticking with age appropriate gifts instead.

Note: Some gifts like toy guns and candy are potentially controversial with parents. If you are unsure whether a boy's parents would be ok with any of the items listed, it is best to get their approval before purchasing. Remember that it is a parent's right to decide what they feel is best for their child, and abide by the rules they have in place.

For more gift ideas for preteen boys, check out these links:

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