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Best Overall: flybold Slackline Kit
For an affordable gift that will provide endless hours of fun in the fresh air, we recommend the flybold Slackline Kit. The objective is simple—walk across a suspended rope, one end to the other—but slacklining is a never-ending test of strength, concentration, and balance. The sport has surged in popularity over the past few years. It’s popular everywhere from college campuses to corporate team-building retreats, and it also makes a unique and enjoyable outdoor activity for 12-year-olds boys. They can string the line up in the backyard and challenge themselves until it’s too dark outside to see their feet, or they can compete with friends and family to see who has ninja-like agility.
This comprehensive kit from flybold is especially great for preteens and beginners because it includes two training lines and several arm trainers that help with technique and balance. With this kit, you’ll also get a 49-foot main slackline, tree protectors, ratchet protectors and a convenient carrying case—everything your 12-year-old needs for hours of fun.
Best Instrument: KAILUA 4 String Soprano Ukulele
The dulcet tones of a ukulele are beloved from beach campfires to drizzly Sundays at home. The instrument is not just a gift for the music-loving preteen in your life but a gift for whoever hears the strings being plucked and played.
The Kailua 4 String Soprano is one of the most highly reviewed ukuleles online, with the vast majority of customers awarding it five stars. It’s made of gorgeous mahogany wood. The nylon strings provide a rich sound on every note. The custom etchings and design give it a simple, intimate aesthetic. And the best thing you’ll hear from this instrument might be the price, as Kailua is much more affordable than competitors.
Ukuleles are also one of the easiest string instruments to learn—a great foundation for guitar and the ideal gift for the 12-year-old who is just finding his love of music.
Best Sneakers: Vans Old Skool Core Classics
An iconic sneaker design that can stick a landing, Vans’ skateboarding shoes are so universally loved that your first purchase likely won’t be your last. The brand’s Old Skool Core Classics are a versatile pair of kicks, perfect for the picky tween—and no wheels required.
Old Skools feature an all-black aesthetic, complimentary white stitching and Vans’ simple but iconic lined logo. Due to their timeless design and extreme comfort, these sneakers have been around for generations, letting your 12-year-old boy really feel old school cool when he slips them on his feet.
Whether he wears them on or off the ramp, Vans are a safe but stellar pick for someone who wants a simple sneaker style that matches everything while also showcasing his personal style. Plus, they're easy to keep clean!
Best Room Accessory: HaloVa WCH8141 Night Light 3D Printing Moon Lamp
When your 12-year-old was younger he had glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling and loved glow-in-the-dark activities. Now, a few years older, he can trade the stars for HaloVa’s moon lamp—a fantastic gift for science lovers, tech lovers, and preteens who want their bedroom to be more mature.
With mind-blowing detail, this lamp perfectly resembles the shades and textures of the moon, and the simple touch controls allow users to change the lamp to their desired color, from white to yellow to a reddish blood moon. This product is also available in multiple sizes—3.9 inches, 5.9 inches, and 7.8 inches—giving your preteen the flexibility to place it on a small nightstand or make it the showpiece of his bedroom. Your purchase will also include a stylish wooden stand and a handy USB cable to give the lamp 12 hours of glow time.
Best Backpack: Nike Sportswear Hayward Futura Backpack
The swoosh never goes out of style for adolescents. Luckily, Nike’s Hayward backpack isn’t only for turning heads in middle school hallways, it’s also comfy, long-lasting, and highly functional.
Your 12-year-old has to trek from school to practice to home wearing a backpack crammed with hefty textbooks, but the Hayward’s padded shoulder straps, padded back panel, and ergonomic design will give his back a breather. Measuring 18 x 15 x 7 inches, the interior is spacious enough to fit other essentials like lunch boxes, notebooks (see our favorite notebooks here), sports jerseys and laptops. Keep in mind, however, that this backpack does not come with a specific compartment for laptops.
The Hayward Futura M 2.0 also comes in five sleek colorways, guaranteed to match your preteen’s style. And while the name brand might tack on a few extra dollars, this backpack is popular enough to find at various retailers, meaning you can go coupon hunting or hold out for a discount, especially around back-to-school season.
Best Science: Gskyer Telescope
Gskyer crafts their AZ70400 telescope specifically for beginners. It’s affordable, easy to set up, easy to use and, even though it doesn’t have the strength and sophistication of a telescope worth thousands of dollars, it can magnify up to an astounding 40x so that you and he can explore the wondrous night sky in stunning detail.
One of this product’s most unique and kid-friendly features is its Bluetooth Control; with a smartphone in hand, you can see exactly what the telescope sees and snap Insta-worthy pictures. The AZ70400 also comes with an adjustable tripod and two different eyepieces, a 25 millimeter for 16x magnification and a 10 millimeter for 40x magnification.
Best Splurge: Go Standalone Virtual Reality Headset
If he has grown tired of losing the Battle Royale in “Fortnite” or completed every campaign in “Call of Duty,” the Oculus Go will give them a gaming experience unlike any other. They can experience the action firsthand with 3D graphics, a wide-view field of vision and unparalleled audio effects.
The Oculus Go is lightweight, comfortable, and comes at a mid-level price for virtual reality headsets. Customers say it’s also one of the easiest Oculus products to use, which is an extra bonus for preteens.
Once the video games are finished, kids can also watch their favorite movies on the Go’s 180” screen or choose from over 1,000 VR experiences, like puzzles, board games, and brain teasers.
Best Sports: 2K NBA 2K19
FIFA has a global appeal. Madden had its day. But 2k is the video game for a 12-year-old who loves sports.
If you happen to walk through a middle school hallway anytime soon (not recommended) you’ll hear preteens argue about Lebron versus KD, Giannis versus Steph and how the game of 2k they lost was rigged.
Available for both PlayStation and Xbox, 2k has butter-smooth gameplay, unparalleled graphics, and a myriad of game options. Your 12-year-old can spend 20 minutes playing head-to-head against his friends or create a player who likes exactly like him—well, maybe slightly taller—and play from the rookie season to the Hall of Fame.
Over the past few years, 2k has also made classic NBA players like Jordan, Magic, and Shaq available, and they have added intricate game options like The Neighborhood, which allows users to connect online in an open universe—i.e. “The Neighborhood.”