They’re young, fun, and full of energy. Yet when it comes to buying a gift for a preteen, you’re completely out of ideas. A preteen (aka anyone between the ages of nine to twelve) falls in the awkward stage of being too old for toys, but too young for teenage gadgets. So what should you give them?
From DIY projects to easy-to-use tech tools, we did our research and rounded-up some age-appropriate items that’ll spark their creative minds, while still being considered “cool” in the process. Take a look at these smart picks for your preteen below.
01 of 10
Best for Girls: ALEX Spa Hair Chalk Salon
Let your preteen express their creativity in the most colorful way! This top-rated hair chalk (yes, it’s a thing!) is sure to make their hair as vivid as their imaginations. The set includes five washable hair chalk pens, 24 metallic beads and 24 hair elastics for a full-range of fun that allows them to experiment with several colors on any hair type. The best part? The hues come out with a quick wash of the hair, so you won’t have to worry about anything being permanent.
02 of 10
Best for Music Lovers: Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones
For jamming out to their favorite pop bands, to playing with the latest iPhone game, these wireless over-ear Bluetooth headphones cover all their needs. Complete with memory-foam ear cushions, high sound quality and 13 hour listening (15 for talk time) battery life, and a 33-foot range they’ll have all the amenities they need to keep them happy for hours on end. Plus, with an easy-fold design and portable carrying case, they’ll be able to tote your gift everywhere from the bus to their BFF’s house. They also come in five fashion-forward colorways.
03 of 10
Best Active: KanJam Ultimate Disc Game
At an age where their energy is at an all time high, this is one activity that’ll keep up with their pace. Consistently rated as a top game, KanJam has all the elements of a good time. The goal of this fast-paced two-on-two flying disc sport is to get the disc in your opponents can, hence the name KanJam. The set comes complete with all you need for hours of fun — two portable goals, two labels, custom-designed discs and instructions, making it the perfect entertaining idea for the backyard to the beach.
04 of 10
Best Creative: Harry Potter Coloring Book
Let them color their way through one of the most renowned series of all time. From the four Hogwarts houses to the Forbidden Forest to the Weasley’s residence and more, they’ll be able to add life to the designs from all of their favorite scenes in the Harry Potter books and movies.
With the book they'll get sixteen pages of art, that'll keep their interests (and away from technology) until each page is covered, while also exploring their imagination.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Best for Boys: Penny Style Skate Board
The lightweight design and flexible technology make it easier to maneuver than traditional skateboards. Plus, the strong steel composition promote significantly less wear and tear than other boards and a handy tool is included to help tighten and adjust wheels. And it all comes at an amazing value proven to outperform many of the leading brands at only a fraction of the cost.
06 of 10
Best Vintage: Felt Letter Board
This popular vintage-inspired felt letter board is the perfect way for them to add personality to their bedroom, bathroom, or anywhere they spend their time! There are 16 different colors and five different sizes to choose from, so they can select the right option for their space. Each board has a warm, oak frame and the ribbing is tight enough so the lettering won't fall off. With 300 letters, numbers, and symbols, they will never be at a loss for words.
07 of 10
Best Comfy: Sofa Sack-Bean Bags Bean Bag Chair
The busy life of a preteen can be exhausting. Why not give them a place to rest, refresh and unwind with this five foot Sofa Sack that comes in 15 fun colors and sizes to suit any personality. This comfortable bean bag chair will last a lifetime taking them through the early double digits well through college with its made in the USA construction.
Want to check out other options? Read through our list of the best bean bag chairs you can buy now.
08 of 10
Best Tech: Mpow Selfie Stick Bluetooth
With selfies still going strong this Bluetooth self-portrait model selfie stick is better than before, featuring an easy-to-assemble one-piece design and a U-shape clamp to make all their selfie-taking a cinch. This Amazon bestseller captures 270 degree views and can extend 31.5". With a convenient, collapsible design, they can carry it around to any event worthy of a few snaps. Just don’t forget to say cheese!Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Best for Science Lovers: 4M Kitchen Science Kit
Give your little scientist a good reason to play around in the kitchen. This kits allows you to convert your cooking space into a lab where they can complete six unique different experiments. Watch along as they create a working volcano, generate electricity with a lemon, launch a vinegar-powered rocket and more! With easy-to-use instructions and tons of fun included, they’ll be ready to explore the full range of other 4M science kits (also available on Amazon.) Recommended for kids ages eight and up.
10 of 10
Best Educational: Ravensburger 3D The Earth Puzzleball
Allow them to exercise their curiosity for the world with the Ravensburger's 540 piece globe. This 3D puzzle is made of 540 curved pieces that form together to create a realistic colored globe. If puzzles can be a struggle for them, the printed numbers on each piece will put their frustrations at ease, while keeping them entertained—and educated—for hours on end.
Products Tested by The Spruce
How We Tested
We bought one of our readers’ favorite gifts for preteens that our reviewers tested on multiple occasions for hours on end. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using this product, from its age level to its ability to be reused. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in Gifts for Preteens
Age appropriateness Preteens, or “tweens,” are usually between the ages of 9 and 12. While these children are too grown up for many kids’ toys, they’re also not quite ready for young adult themes. As such, you’ll want to screen any gift to ensure it doesn’t have mature content and is age appropriate for your recipient.
“Cool” factor As almost-teenagers, preteens are very keyed into what’s “cool.” You’ll score a lot of points if you get them a gift that’s in line with the latest trends, so browse through social media to see what’s popular. Pro tip: Fidget spinners are so last year!
Reuse Finally, consider whether your gift has replay value. Some novelty gifts are fun once, but then end up collecting dust on a shelf. Instead, try to find a game or activity that preteens will want to use again — bonus points if they can share it with their friends.
Test Results: ALEX Spa Hair Chalk
What We Like
Easy to apply
Fun for groups
What We Don't Like
Chalk stains hands and fabric
Our testers found the ALEX Spa Hair Chalk to be a perfect gift for preteens, with one reviewer declaring it “great for the price.” One of our reviewers, whose two daughters used it at a party, said, “It is bright, fun, and easy to use.” One of our testers cautioned that the chalk did stain fabric and hands during application, but also said it washed out of hair fairly easily. The bottom line: “There are some downfalls with it, but if you use creativity with hair designs and be mindful of not rubbing it off on fabric, it is otherwise a very entertaining and fun experience,” summed up one of our reviewers.