Ready to exert their newfound independence and with ever changing interests, tweens can be some of the hardest folks to shop for.
Luckily, we tested and researched the best gift options on the market considering the age appropriateness of the item, safety considerations, and the potential educational value. Through our tests, we chose the ALEX Toys Spa Hair Chalk Salon as our top pick. The kit fosters tween's creativity, is easy-to-use, and the chalk washes out easily for enjoying again and again.
Here, the best gifts for tweens.
ALEX Toys Spa Hair Chalk Salon
Let your tween express their creativity in the most colorful way! This hair chalk is sure to make their tresses 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.
Our tester found that the chalk pens are precise and easy to use with minimal mess. A comb is helpful for distributing the product, but this can also remove some of the color in the process. The chalk works best on light-colored hair when applied with high pressure. Note that kids with brown or black hair may not get the same results.
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. Each day, tweens can pick a new color and design to experiment with. Our tester noted that the chalk did not transfer to clothes or fingers and washed out easily with shampoo.
Price at time of publish: $15
Kan Jam Original Disc Toss Game
At an age where their energy is at an all-time high, this is one activity that’ll keep up with their pace. KanJam has all the elements of a good time and makes a great toy for a tween. 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 everything 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.
Price at time of publish: $40
LEGO 75954 Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall Building Kit
If your tween loves Harry Potter, this detailed LEGO set is a must-buy. There are 878 pieces, which may seem intense at first, but LEGO always includes extremely detailed and easy-to-follow directions that will ensure success. It may take a few hours or even days to build, but that is all part of the fun. After it is complete, your tween will have a Hogwarts Great Hall Building to display in their room as a collectibles for years to come.
Price at time of publish: $165
Uncommon Goods Kid's Global Adventure Cooking Kit
If your child has a love of cooking, learning about other cultures, or all of the above, then this cooking kit is a must. Each box highlights a specific country and includes some ingredients for three meals. It’s easy to virtually journey to Lebanon, Ethiopia, or Greece from the comfort of your kitchen. Also, the kits feature fun facts and an activity sheet.
For the gamer or music lover in your life, a good pair of headphone is pivotal. The Treblab Z2 over-ear headphones are active noise cancelling so you can focus on what you're doing while staying safe and aware. They connect via Bluetooth, are water-resistant and sweat-proof, and have a built-in microphone, perfect for playing video games. Plus, they are still affordable compared to other options on the market.
Price at time of publish: $120
SEI Tumble Dye Classic Tie Dye Kit, Pack of 8
Finding the perfect craft to keep your tween's attention can be a difficult task, but tie dye kits have proven to be great fun for people of all ages. This kit from SEI comes with eight ready-to-use paints in vibrant colors that can dye up to 20 shirts. Think outside the box and transform sweatpants, socks, bed sheets, and anything else white you can find. This is an affordable present option that doubles as a bonding activity and results in a fun fashion piece they can treasure for years.
Price at time of publish: $20
Lulu Jr. IlluStory Book Making Kit
This award-winning book makes it easy for kids to write, illustrate, and publish their own 20-page book. The set includes templates, instructions, and a set of markers. Also included is a postage-paid envelope so after the artist has crafted their masterpiece, it can be professionally printed and mailed back to them within a few weeks.
Price at time of publish: $30
SOONNESS Arctic Life Puzzle
Get the whole family together to work on this adorable 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle that displays polar bears and penguins lounging in their arctic paradise. SOONNESS is a woman-owned business that celebrates artists and prioritizes sustainability. They are best known for their gradient puzzles, which may be a bit advanced for young puzzlers, but they are a great goal to work towards. In the meantime, practice your skills with your tween to build this super cool scene.
Price at time of publish: $29
Klutz LEGO Make Your Own Movie Activity Kit
This might be the coolest gift for a movie-loving tween. With this kit, they can make and film their own live-action Lego movie! The 80-page book has instructions for how to set up stop action scenes for both beginners and advanced moviemakers that can all be done in under an hour.
Price at time of publish: $24
Big Joe Milano Bean Bag Chair
This affordable bean bag chair will elevate any space and provide the perfect place for your preteen to read, game, or simply relax. Unlike other picks, this bean bag chair has a structured seat and back for ultimate comfort. The fabric is easy to spot clean, and bean refill bags are available for when your chair needs a pick-me-up.
Price at time of publish: $71
4M Kitchen Science Kit
Give your little scientist a good reason to play around in the kitchen. This kit allows you to convert your cooking space into a lab where they can complete six unique 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.
Price at time of publish: $16
A sweet treat is always a great gift option for a preteen and sending through a company like Sugarwish ensures that you can still celebrate a special day when you can't be there physically. Sugarwish lets you pick a selection of two to six candies, cookies, snacks, popcorn, and more to the recipient of your choosing. Let your tween choose their picks themselves or gift a mystery surprise box full of delicious delicacies.
Pottery Barn Teen Gear-Up Aurora Recycled Backpack
A backpack should absolutely be functional, and this one is also fashionable and eco-friendly. The Gear-Up Aurora backpack is made from 100 percent recycled polyester and features an intergalactic design. Also, there's no shortage of exterior and interior pockets, including a secure laptop sleeve. For a few extra bucks, personalize the backpack by adding their name or initials.
Ravensburger The Earth 540 Piece 3D Jigsaw Puzzle
For the kid who’s probably done a million puzzles, this option is a little different and sure to keep them engaged. The puzzle has 540 pieces and when completed, it’s a 3D model of a globe. The pieces click securely together and there are numbers on the back if your kid needs a bit of help. Also, the rotating base is included, making this perfect to display.
Price at time of publish: $55
Lohanu Ukulele Concert Size Bundle
Start an interest in a new hobby—learning the ukulele! This bundle will give them everything they need to learn a master a fun, interesting instrument. They’ll receive a beautifully designed ukulele, more than 15 videos perfect for beginners, and a quality leather pick. There’s even a hanger so the instrument can be securely displayed on the wall when not in use.
Price at time of publish: $75
Bewbow Bamboo Utensils Cutlery Set
A cutlery set might not seem like the most obvious gift for a tween, but if they're on a journey to become more eco-friendly, then it makes total sense. Bewbow's set is made from 100 percent recyclable bamboo and features a fork, spoon, chopsticks, straw, and more. Everything conveniently wraps up in the canvas pouch. This is great for everyday use or those fun camping trips.
Price at time of publish: $12
Gemmy Inflatable Internal Fan Movie Screen
Though this is a gift for a tween, it's an item everyone in the family can enjoy. Gemmy's movie screen inflates in a matter of seconds and measures 11.5 x 12 feet. Family movie nights are sure to get an upgrade, thanks to this screen that would look great in the backyard while displaying your favorite flick.
Price at time of publish: $88
Boogie Board Blackboard Writing Tablet - Note Size
For the tween who's not exactly ready for an expensive device or who needs help getting organized, opt for a writing tablet from Boogie Board. It's absolutely perfect for jotting down notes, a to-do list, or simply doodling. Everything can be erased with a swipe of the magnetic stylus or scan and save any important notes to the app.
Price at time of publish: $35
Liene 4x6'' Photo Printer
Whether your preteen has her own smart phone or not, let her print and savor precious memories in the blink of an eye. The Liene Photo Printer prints 4 x 6 inch pictures instantly from your device using Bluetooth. It also operates on its own WiFi hotspot, so you can print photos from anywhere. Tweens will love having high-quality pictures of family and friends to hang up in their room or paste into a scrapbook.
Price at time of publish: $140
Amazing Items Personalized Water Bottle
Keep your tween hydrated for school or sports practice with a personalized water bottle with a handy straw lid. Choose from nine colors and four sizes, then add in your preteen's name for a personalized touch. These would work perfectly as a birthday party goodie bag gift, or get a bunch for a sports team and customize the bottle with your child's team name.
Price at time of publish: $35
Nike Air Force 1 '07 Sneaker
A good pair of sneakers is a must-have for your tween's wardrobe and Nike's Air Force 1's are a bestseller for a reason. The unisex design is sleek and modern and pairs perfectly with any outfit. They are also extremely comfortable and transition effortlessly from school and casual errands to playing in the park or going to basketball practice.
Price at time of publish: $155
Anomia Card Game: Party Edition
Gift your preteen a high-energy card game perfect for family game nights or birthday parties. Anomia is designed for players ages 10 and up who will turn over cards from the two decks each with 92 different category cards until the symbol on both cards match. This is a great option for your tween to throw in a backpack for a sleepover or vacation to play on the go.
Price at time of publish: $25
Etsy Custom Neon Sign
Add some flair to your tween's bedroom with a custom neon sign. Choose from 12 colors, three styles, and 36 fonts to perfectly match your pre-teen's tastes and bedroom decor. Opt for a sweet saying, their favorite song lyrics, or their name or initials to shine bright when the lights are off. These signs are completely customizable, but won't break the bank and double as a modern night light.
Price at time of publish: $60
BONAOK Wireless Bluetooth Karaoke Microphone
There is no wrong age to belt out your favorite song. Elevate every party or sleepover with a karaoke microphone like this one, that connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone. Without an entire karaoke machine, this choice makes it easy to bring the fun of karaoke anywhere without annoying cables or cords. Pick up a couple for your tween and their friends for hours of musical fun.
Price at time of publish: $50
Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag
For the tween who loves to hike or likes being hand-free when running errands or vacationing, a stylish belt bag is the perfect solution. This one from Lululemon is understated and affordable and can be worn around one shoulder or your waist for two different looks. The material is designed for active wearers and made of water-repellant fabric built to last. There are 11 colors available so boys and girls alike can find their perfect match.
Price at time of publish: $38
Alien Workshop Abduction Black Complete 7.5
Prepare for warmer days with a stylish skateboard, perfect for the tween who loves skating or wants to pick up a new hobby. This option is perfect for beginners, but also suitable for those who have been skating for a few years. The medium concave of the deck helps riders maintain their balance and provides a more comfortable stance as your tween improves their skills. It is recommended for ages 9 to 12 and a height of 53 to 62 inches.
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils 72 Pack
If your tween loves to create art or is looking for a stress-relieving pastime, a professional set of colored pencils is the perfect gift. Prismacolors are artist-grade pencils with a variety of vibrant shades that are easy to blend and build. They can be expensive compared to other brands, but the quality definitely equates the high price tag. For an affordable option, choose the 36 count or splurge on 150 bright colors.
Price at time of publish: $57
Preteen girls and boys need a solid pair of sunglasses for the beach, for vacation, or just for everyday use. BioSunnies are unisex, come in two colors, and are biodegradable, so you can feel good about your eco-friendly purchase. Another plus is that they're much more affordable than other brands, so if your tween loses them, it's no big deal.
Price at time of publish: $25
Book of the Month Subscription
If your tween is a voracious reader, they need a Book of the Month subscription. They will receive a new release right to their door every month. Your tween will have the choice between five books all from different genres so there is something for everyone. This is a relatively affordable subscription service that is customizable and perfect for gifting to any age.
Williams Sonoma DIY Fortune Cookie Kit
Whether your preteen loves trying new recipes or would rather order take-out, a simple cooking DIY kit is a great way to spend time with your tween or a perfect activity for a birthday party or special event. This kit has everything you need to make up to 40 fortune cookies. There are 60 pre-written fortunes included, along with 11 blank ones and edible marker to use your creativity and fill in your own. For an affordable price, a kit like this guarantees hours of fun and results in delicious cookies.
Price at time of publish: $33
What to Look For in Gifts for Preteens
Tweens are a tricky age to shop for. They are becoming more independent, but still benefit from the guidance and supervision of caring adults. Age-appropriate tween gifts encourage independence and socialization while still maintaining their safety. Keep this in mind when shopping for games or items that include internet access.
““Kids today can find access to anything," says teacher and literacy coach Alicia Drozd. "Even with older kids now, it’s important to talk to them and set up rules.”
STEM toys are great for tweens, since they encourage exploring new things and imagining—two things that tweens tend to be great at. Just make sure that any gifts that include intricate pieces to build with specialized tools, chemical solutions, or advanced skills are still safe for this age group. It helps to set some limits with your tween, such as they need to ask an adult before performing certain tasks like chopping food in their culinary kit, so that you both feel comfortable.
Games and toys can be both educational and fun. Tweens are a great group to take advantage of toys that teach or develop a new skill, such as cooking, coding, or movie-making. Physical games that encourage socialization with friends and family are also great for this age group.
One of the most important things to think about when choosing a gift for a tween is what they love to do and explore. Whether they are into sports, art, or anything else, they are probably very enthusiastic about their hobbies. Choosing a gift that is geared toward their interests shows that you value their opinions and listen to them when they share.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This roundup was written by Julia Fields, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce and The Spruce Crafts, covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, crafts, and the holidays.