Finding a gift for a 12-year-old tween boy can be tricky, because it's the transition time into the teenage years when kids are figuring out who they are, what they like, what they might like, and how to navigate the world.
We researched several dozen gifts from major brands that are age-appropriate, safe, and also provide some type of educational value. Our list includes a game on Amazon that's sure to provide hours of fun, a classic pair of Vans, and more.
Here are the best gifts for 12-year-old boys.
Kan Jam Original Disc Toss Game
Get your tween outside and moving with this fun frisbee game perfect to play together. Invite their friends over for collaborative play, or challenge the whole family with this fun four-player backyard staple. The goal of this fast-paced game is to get your frisbee in the other person's "kan" through tapping, hitting, or slamming the disc inside.
This kit has everything you need for hours of fun, exciting, and often exhausting play, including the portable can-shaped goals, labels, frisbees, and an instruction guide. Add this backyard staple to entertain your pre-teen on any summer day or bring it to the beach for an added touch of outdoor fun!
Price at time of publish: $40
Saiji Gooseneck Bed Phone Holder
For an affordable gift option that your pre-teen is guaranteed to get tons of use out of, look to this phone stand that attaches to their bed. The flexible material makes it easy to adjust where their precious smartphone will lay as they binge their favorite shows. However, it may be difficult to pull them away from the screen at bedtime.
Luckily, this can transfer to any couch or desk for hands-off watching, gaming, or reading. Take this on-the-go for entertaining them on long road trips or plane rides as just another way for your 12-year-old to enjoy their favorite gadgets.
Price at time of publish: $30
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. 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-old 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 pre-teens 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.
Price at time of publish: $84
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 pre-teen 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, and 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.
Price at time of publish: $40
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!
Price at time of publish: $70
Nike Sportswear Hayward Futura Backpack
Your tween 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, sports jerseys, and laptops. Keep in mind, however, that this backpack does not come with a specific compartment for laptops.
The Hayward Futura also comes in five sleek colorways, guaranteed to match your pre-teen’s style. And while the name brand might tack on a few extra dollars, this stylish 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.
Price at time of publish: $87
Gskyer AZ Astronomical Refractor Telescope
Gskyer crafts this 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 features is its Bluetooth Control: With a smartphone in hand, you can see exactly what the kid-friendly 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.
Price at time of publish: $130
Meta Quest 2
If he has grown tired of losing the Battle Royale in “Fortnite” or completed every campaign in “Call of Duty,” the Meta Quest 2 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 Meta Quest 2 is lightweight, comfortable, and comes at a mid-level price for virtual reality headsets. Customers say it’s also one of the easiest Meta products to use, which is an extra bonus for pre-teens.
Once the video games are finished, kids can also watch their favorite movies on the Quest’s 180” screen or choose from over 1,000 VR experiences, like puzzles, board games, and brain teasers.
Price at time of publish: $399
2K NBA 2K19
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.”
Price at time of publish: $29
Hyodream 3D Moon Lamp
When your tween was younger, he had glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling and always had a night light. Now, a few years older, he can trade the stars for Hyodream’s moon lamp—a fantastic gift for science lovers, tech lovers, and pre-teens 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 of a remote control allows users to change the lamp to their desired color, from white to yellow to a reddish blood moon. Your purchase will also include a stylish wooden stand and a handy USB cable to give the lamp 12 hours of glow time.
Price at time of publish: $33
Thames & Kosmos Exit: The Game
Bring escape rooms to your own living room with this party game perfect for pre-teens. Players must solve riddles and puzzles to escape the sinister abandoned cabin while time is running out. This thrilling game is perfect for a family game night or for 12-year-old boys to work together to escape.
While this game can only be played once, Thames & Kosmos has multiple different versions of Exit: The Game featuring creepy locations that players will want to race to escape from including a cursed labyrinth, haunted rollercoaster, and more. They vary in difficulty, so tweens can gradually improve their escape skills as they race against the clock.
Price at time of publish: $15
Uncommon Goods Kid's Global Adventure Cooking Kit
Foster your pre-teen's love of cooking or introduce them to international cuisines with this global adventure cooking kit. Perfect for family fun and spending quality time with a parent or grandparent, this kit takes 12-year-olds on a culinary journey through different continents all without leaving their kitchen.
The included instructions are easy to follow and include shopping lists and cooking directions for various meals to prepare and enjoy together. The kit also includes interesting facts and puzzles about each country represented, providing an educational experience while still having fun.
Price at time of publish: $25
Gemmy Inflatable Internal Fan Movie Screen
Plan the perfect movie night with this inflatable movie screen perfect for the living room or the backyard. Pre-teens can watch movies with the family, play video games with friends, or watch the game on Sundays in a fun and innovative way, sure to spice up any gathering.
Your pre-teen may need help setting up this outdoor movie screen, but easy-to-follow instructions are included along with a storage bang for bringing to friends' houses or on vacation. All you need is a projector, a speaker, and popcorn for the best movie theater experience at home.
Price at time of publish: $88
ArmoGear Laser Tag Guns with Vests Set
Bring all the fun of laser tag to your own backyard with this set from ArmoGear. Up to four teams can play together, making for the best birthday parties or summer nights when you need an easy way to entertain a gaggle of pre-teen boys.
Twelve-year-old boys will love the various features of this set including target vests, invisibility mode, night vision flashlights, voice-guided directions, and four unique powers of the laser shooters. All you need is batteries for hours of outdoor fun that will guarantee your 12-year-old boy burns off some energy and bonds with his friends or family members.
Price at time of publish: $130
Marky Sparky Magnetic Dart Board
Spruce up your pre-teen's bedroom or any game room with this magnetic dartboard from Sparky Marky. No need to worry about sharp darts damaging walls, furniture, and even family members because all of the darts included are magnetic.
Twelve-year-olds can hang this dartboard themselves, providing hours of fun as they practice their aim and master their skills to play against siblings or friends. This functional room decor is perfect to keep tweens entertained without screens.
Price at time of publish: $38
LEGO Architecture New York City
Lego sets are a perfect gift for any age. You just have to find the right difficulty for your recipient. Twelve-year-old boys will love this challenging architectural set that creates the New York City skyline. With 598 pieces, this kit (like all Lego kits) promote STEM concepts in an exciting way that results in a beautiful build to display or take apart and start again.
Due to the level of difficulty, this might be a great opportunity for tweens to bond with any adults in their life for those particularly challenging pieces. But, the included instructions are clear and easy to follow for the impressive outcome.
Price at time of publish: $55
The Boys' Book Of Survival (How To Survive Anything, Anywhere)
For the reader or the adventurer in your life, all pre-teens will love this guide to survival. Boys will learn how to get themselves out of any imaginable inconvenience from sinking into quicksand to confronting a tiger to getting lost in a desert. He will love sharing all the new tips and tricks he has learned with friends and family.
Available as a hardcover or e-book, The Boys' Book of Survival is a great way to get any 12-year-old back into reading or learning, despite how outlandish the scenarios are.
Price at time of publish: $14
Marvin's Magic Fifty Greatest Card Tricks Set
Help your pre-teen learn a new hobby with this easy magic set. This budget-friendly set will teach 12-year-old boys 50 card tricks, guaranteeing hours of learning, practice, and showing off to friends and family. Keep them occupied in the house or on the go with a convenient case including everything tweens need to master a new skill (or 50).
This set is perfect for beginners or those interested in magic looking to learn more about card tricks specifically. Users are sure to learn at least one new party trick guaranteed to get people asking "how did they do that?"
Price at time of publish: $21
Etsy Custom Bi Fold Wallet for Kids
Thanks to independent creator MyPersonalMemories on Etsy, tweens can have a wallet completely customized for them. Choose from seven different colors to find the one that best matches his taste and style. Then, pick the perfect font and add their name for a personalized touch.
Your pre-teen will love storing their money in a piece designed just for them, and you can feel good about the purchase supporting small businesses. Just be sure to factor in longer shipping times when ordering outside of large retailers.
Price at time of publish: $15 without personalization
US Art Supply Store 162 Piece-Deluxe Mega Wood Box Art, Painting & Drawing Set
We have covered various interests on this list that may appeal to 12-year-old boys, but what about the artists? this 162-piece art set has everything young artists could need, whether avid painters or those just starting out. Tweens can explore new mediums including watercolors, oil pastels, crayons and more.
The great thing about this set is it all packs up in a sturdy wood box perfect for bringing to school, friends' houses, or in the car. Also, the sheer amount of materials makes this an amazing set to share with friends and family members, fostering creativity and collaboration for your young boy.
Price at time of publish: $80
What to Look for in a Gift for a 12-Year-Old Boy
As they're fumbling through these sometimes awkward years, it’s important to make sure that your gift choice is appropriate for a 12-year-old boy. You wouldn't want to offend him with a "baby" gift he considers himself too old for, or gift him something beyond his years either. Take into consideration your pre-teen’s emotional maturity and ability to be responsible, especially if you plan to gift something that is expensive.
For outdoor or adventure gifts, include the required protective gear as part of the gift, or, to ensure that he actually likes and wears the helmet and whatnot, let him pick out the gear himself. If your gift includes access to online platforms, have a talk with your pre-teen about internet safety and have a way to monitor his interactions.
Some gifts are specifically geared towards making school and learning more fun or comfortable. Other gifts can incorporate learning through fun educational apps or exploration. Consider how to engage with your 12-year-old boy and his new gift to bring learning out of the classroom.
When selecting something education, Chuck English, Virginia STEM Coordinator at the Science Museum of Virginia, recommends looking for something that encourages exploration. “They should lead me to a sense of curiosity where I want to learn more,” he says. Whether it’s music or astronomy, a great educational gift can be the gateway to an entirely new passion.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written and researched by Derek Rose, Brooklyn, New York-based writer and teacher. His work has appeared in Atwood Magazine and the Albany Times Union. Additional research was done by Megan McCarty, a writer for The Spruce and MyDomaine with over 13 years of experience in both print and digital media, and Julia Fields, assistant editor for The Spruce since October 2021.