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Shopping for gifts for 12-year-old boys can be tricky. They're right at that age where some toys will feel too baby-ish and others beyond their grip, and it's your challenging task to find a gift that they won't outgrow by their next birthday.
Toys for 12-year-old boys should fit these criteria: They should challenge them physically or intellectually, encourage them to explore the world around them, and, most importantly, be fun. Whether your pre-teen loves science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), or is into games that they can enjoy with friends and family, there are tons of options out there that'll suit any style.
While you shop, be sure to consider each pick's recommended age, safety, and educational value. From there, you'll be able to narrow down options and find the perfect fit. Here, the best toys for 12-year-old boys that he'll love (and you won't hate).
NERF Lazer Tag Phoenix LTX Tagger 2-pack
Dimensions: 12.13 x 14.88 x 4.37 inches | Material: Plastic | Age Range: 8 years and up
Great for collaborative play
Engaging sounds and effects
Suitable for indoor or outdoor use
Users reported buttons stick over time
Nerf shooters are always a great gift option for tweens that get them outside and keep them active during warm months. This kit designed for two players imitates the high-energy game of laser tag with interactive audio and visual features that bring the arcade right to your home. The two-player design is perfect for twins, siblings, or an excuse for your 12-year-old boy to invite a friend over and get moving.
Unlike other Nerf products, there are no rubber bullets to worry about breaking furniture or getting lost behind couches, making this an option for indoor play as well. Add in even more sets and invite more friends for a larger outdoor game suitable for a birthday party or backyard barbecue.
ThinkFun Gravity Maze
Dimensions: 9.38 x 3 x 10.5 inches | Material: Paper, plastic | Weight: 1.1 pounds | Age Range: 8 years and up
Great option for kids who love puzzles
Single player game
Pieces don't snap in perfectly
There is no one way to play Gravity Maze; in fact, the game comes with 60 levels that become increasingly difficult as he works his way up. The game is a marble run, logic game, and STEM toy all in one, and it comes with a game grid, 10 towers, three stainless steel marbles, and a target piece to navigate him through the game.
Though it might seem intimidating at first, the super engaging maze game comes with clear instructions and is pretty easy to learn. While it helps improve strategic thinking, Gravity Maze also aids in building spatial reasoning and encourages thinking like an engineer.
OKK STEM Robot Building Block Toys for Kids
Dimensions: 11 x 10 x 2 inches | Material: Plastic | Weight: 2 pounds | Age Range: 8 years and up
Similar to LEGO products
Learning toy for older kids
App isn't the most user-friendly
Yes, he can build his very own robot with everything included in this educational kit. It includes 635 pieces of building blocks—but don't panic. The instructions are detailed and come equipped with impressive visuals to aid you from the beginning of the building process to the end. It's a great way to introduce coding to your 12-year old and inspire him to think creatively.
Once the robot is completely assembled, he can control his new robot with a phone via Bluetooth. The robot's head, shoulders, arms, tracks, and even eyebrows can move thanks to remote or voice control.
Snap Circuits Pro Electronics Exploration Kit
Dimensions: 17.7 x 3.3 x 13.8 inches | Material: Plastic | Weight: 9.02 pounds | Age Range: 8 years and up
Educational STEM toy
Over 500 experiments possible
Some users wish for clearer instructions
With the Snaps Circuit Kit, kids will grow more comfortable learning about electric switches, fuses, digital circuits, and more with a very hands-on approach. They can create various projects, including an FM radio, a digital voice recorder, and a music alarm.
As your 12-year old progresses through the manual, he'll be able to master experiments that become more and more complex. Note that there are other adaptations of this game, like Snap Circuits Jr. or Snap Circuits Light, in which circuits glow in the dark.
Blue Orange Djubi Classic
Dimensions: 11.5 x 3 x 16.5 inches | Material: Plastic | Weight: 1 pound | Age Range: 8 years and up
Perfect for sports fans
Entertaining for a wide range of ages
Balls aren't durable
From your backyard to the beach and beyond, this fun outdoor game is a guaranteed hit. Similar to playing catch, this peculiarly named game—Djubi (pronounced joo-bee)—adds some fun twists. The set comes with two paddles, each of which is equipped with a launching hook and a catching net, as well as two plastic balls. To send the ball to your partner, you pull back the launch hook and release. They attempt to catch it in their net. Back and forth you go, running and diving to keep it going.
The ball flies 100 feet or more, and it floats, so it’s great for the pool or beach, too. You can purchase additional sets for bigger groups to play together as well. Customers say the game is a hit with kids and fun for the whole family to play. Some note, however, that it’s wise to buy additional balls, as (like most balls) they tend to get lost over time.
4M Tin Can Robot
Dimensions: 6.75 x 3.25 x 5.25 inches | Material: Plastic, aluminum | Weight: 0.45 pounds | Age Range: 8 to 15 years
Easy to put together
Not as engaging once robot is built
Recycling has never been so much fun. This kit helps kids turn any old tin can into a super cool little robot who they can send waddling about. It comes with almost everything they need to get the robot up and running. You will need to supply the can (any soda can will do), one AA battery, and a small Phillips head screwdriver to get the work done.
While most customers say this kit is fun and educational, some caution that it involves quite a few steps and can be complicated for younger children. For 12-year-olds, however, it should be challenging enough without any difficulty.
Jenga GIANT JS7 Hardwood Game
Dimensions: 18.5 x 13.5 x 9 inches | Material: Wood | Weight: 23.5 pounds | Age Range: 12 years and up
Great for group play or parties
Can be built up to 5 feet
Low craft quality
This giant Jenga set takes all the nail-biting fun of the traditional game to huge new heights. When it’s all stacked up, it stands more than 5 feet tall, and it's perfect for the backyard.
There are 54 blocks in all, and your tower could reach over five feet tall during play. Players take turns trying to remove one block without sending the whole thing toppling. Each move is a mesmerizing mix of panic and precision, and a sigh of relief can be heard as each one is successfully removed. Of course, there’s also the moment when it all comes tumbling down.
This game is great for parties or when you need to keep a group of boys entertained. It also comes with a carrying case so you can take the fun on the go. Customers give the game high marks for fun, though some have noted issues with the quality of the carrying bag.
Horizon Group USA Boy Craft Catapult Wars Build & Battles
Dimensions: 11.5 x 9 x 13 inches | Material: Wood | Weight: 1 pound | Age Range: 8 years and up
Durable and sturdy
Highly engaging and entertaining
Glue doesn't work well
This cool craft kit lets kids build their very own catapults to launch fun to new heights. It comes with everything they need to build two catapults, including 20 wooden pieces, glue, rope, stickers, and eight mini bean bags to send soaring through the air. Perfect when friends come over, boys can work together to hit targets or wage an all-out war against one another. It’s also a great way to help kids develop engineering and science skills because they can experiment with velocity, distance, and more. Parents say kids of all ages love it, though younger children will likely need help with assembly.
LEGO Architecture New York City
Dimensions: 10 x 9 x 1 inches | Material: Plastic | Weight: 1.28 pounds | Age Range: 12 years and up
Promotes creative thinking
Doubles as decor
Comes smaller than expected
All those years of mom and dad stepping on errant LEGO pieces aren’t over just because the kids are growing up. The LEGO Architecture series is designed for older kids.
With more intricate building plans, this one lets them construct the Big Apple’s skyline. It includes the Flatiron Building, Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building, and Lady Liberty herself.
There are 598 pieces in all; it comes with instructions containing background information about each of the buildings’ architecture and history. Once they build it, it makes a great display piece for their room and the pieces can also be combined with other LEGO sets.
While designs for tweens, many adults love the LEGO Architecture series, too.
Fireside Games Castle Panic
Dimensions: 10.5 x 10.5 x 2.5 inches | Material: Cardboard | Weight: 2.04 pounds | Age Range: 10 years and up
Easy to learn and play
Can be played solo or with others
Not a game to play again and again
When it’s time to step away from the screen, the Castle Panic board game is a good diversion. It can be played by a single player or with up to six players, and the level of difficulty can be adjusted to provide a variety of challenges.
The goal is to defend the castle from monsters. Players work together to strategize and slay the monsters by rolling dice and choosing cards. Winning takes a mix of strategy and luck, and the one who masters both is crowned the Master Slayer.
Overall, customers like that this game encourages teamwork when played as a group, but they also love that it's an activity kids can do on their own.
What to Look for in a Gift for a 12-Year-Old Boy
Finding the right toy for a 12-year-old boy can be a tough task. They’re getting too old for the toys that they may have enjoyed just a few years earlier but not quite mature enough to handle high-tech gear. Follow the recommended age guidelines that come with each toy to make sure that you hit the right balance for your pre-teen.
If you are choosing an active toy, look for recommended protective gear (helmets, safety goggles, knee pads) to go with it. Include your 12-year-old boy in picking out the perfect accessories that will keep them safe while expressing their personal style. That's a great way to incorporate safe habits early, because wearing a helmet is both necessary and cool.
Some 12-year-olds may love to explore, making their toys a great opportunity to incorporate learning and fun. Whether it’s a STEM-focused experiment or a board game that the whole family can enjoy, great toys for preteens allow them to take learning outside of the classroom.
“I love as many open-ended projects as possible,” Chuck English, Virginia STEM Coordinator at the Science Museum of Virginia, says. “But if kids are not used to that, they need just enough scaffolding to get them started.”
Look for hints, website guides, or other ideas to get the ball rolling without taking over the activity from the child.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written and researched by Julie Evans, a writer and editor whose work covers topics including health and wellness, parenting, and technology. Her writing has appeared on USA Today, Realtor.com, Brit + Co, and CafeMom, among others. She has nearly 20 years of experience. Additional research was done by Megan McCarty, a writer for The Spruce and MyDomaine with more than 13 years of experience in both print and digital media. She regularly contributes to design-focused outlets such as Architectural Digest, Domino, House & Home, and Hunker.