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Twelve-year-old boys are right at that age where some toys will feel too baby-ish and others beyond their grip, so it's ideal to get a gift that they won't outgrow by their next birthday.
Luckily, we researched the best toys from top brands, being sure to consider each pick's recommended age, safety features, and educational value. Based on these factors, our top picks include an interactive laser tag set from NERF, a New York cityscape from LEGO, and a beginner-friendly drum kit from Alesis.
Here, the best toys for 12-year-old boys.
NERF Lazer Tag Phoenix LTX Tagger 2-pack
Great for collaborative play
Engaging sounds and effects
Suitable for indoor or outdoor use
Users reported buttons stick over time
Nerf shooters always make 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 toy suitable for indoor play as well. Add in even more sets and invite more friends for a larger outdoor game perfect for a birthday party or backyard barbecue.
The sturdy taggers are loaded with cool features, according to users, making them perfect for all ages so even adults can get in on the fun. You can adjust how you play by picking the number of lives allotted to each player. Just note that users reported that some of the buttons can stick over time.
Alesis CompactKit 4 Electronic Drum Set
Perfect for beginners
Compatible with headphones for quiet drumming
Smaller than expected
Inspire a new hobby or foster musical skills in your tween with a drum set designed for beginners. Less expensive, and much quieter than a traditional kit, the Alesis CompactKit 4 features four electric drum pads with 70 different sounds included for a realistic experience. The drum coach features shows notes and instructions on the LCD screen to learn new beats and skills at any age. Also, parents don't have to worry about noise since your tween can plug in headphones for a quiet drumming practice during late nights or early mornings.
ThinkFun Gravity Maze
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 includes a marble run, logic game, and STEM toy all in one. It comes with a game grid, 10 towers, three stainless steel marbles, and a target piece to navigate him through the maze.
Though it might seem intimidating at first, this super engaging maze game comes with clear instructions, making it easy to learn. While it helps improve strategic thinking, Gravity Maze also aids in building spatial reasoning and encourages thinking like an engineer.
Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike
Easy to assemble
Suitable for various ages
Heavy and bulky
Outdoorsy and adventurous tweens need a fitting bike fitted for any terrain they encounter. The Schwinn High Timber Bike rides smoothly on concrete for chill neighborhood rides or bumpy trails for mountain biking challenges. Suitable for both kids and adults, this bike can grow with your child and suit him for years to come. It supports up to 250 pounds and includes an adjustable seat, perfect for growth spurts. While expensive, the extensive speeds, gears, and other features make this a good investment for active summer months.
Horizon Group USA Boy Craft Catapult Wars Build & Battles
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 to fun 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. Your tween and his friends 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.
Kan Jam Illuminate Light-Up Game Set
Suitable for various ages
Can play in daytime or nighttime
Easy to assemble and disassemble
Some users found it not as high-quality as the original version
The beloved lawn game Kan Jam features two teams of two trying to throw a frisbee and knock it into their corresponding can to earn points. Perfect for outdoor parties, the game suits various ages, is simple to learn, and makes for hours and hours of active fun. Plus, the fun doesn't end when the sun goes down. Kan Jam's Illuminate Light-Up Game Set includes two targets and one disc that glow in the dark, for a fun twist on the game your tween will love.
OKK STEM Robot Building Block Toys for Kids
Similar to LEGO products
Learning toy for older kids
App isn't the most user-friendly
To his delight, your tween 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.
Ravensburger Marvel Villainous
Great themes and storytelling
Easy to learn
Not as fun with just two players
In this strategy board game, your tween takes on the role of one iconic Marvel villain—Thanos, Hela, Ultron, Taskmaster, or Killmonger—to fulfill their sinister schemes. The strategy-element ensures that every game is different with different characters, different goals, and different players. Marvel fans and board game enthusiasts alike love this expansion of Ravensburger's Villainous universe, perfect for 2-12 players. Face off against mighty heroes to see if good or evil prevails.
Fireside Games Castle Panic
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 makes 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.
LEGO Architecture New York City
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 and 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 for huge city scenes.
Snap Circuits Pro Electronics Exploration Kit
Educational STEM toy
Over 500 experiments possible
Some users wish for clearer instructions
With the Snaps Circuit Kit, kids 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.
4M Tin Can Robot
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 their room. 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
Great for group play or parties
Can be built up to 3 feet
Suitable for various ages
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 3 feet tall, and it's perfect for the backyard.
There are 54 blocks in all, and your tower could reach over three feet tall during play. Players take turns trying to remove one block without sending the whole thing toppling. Each move provides a mesmerizing mix of panic and precision, hopefully followed by a sigh of relief as each one is successfully removed.
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. This way, staying safe remains pivotal and cool.
Many 12-year-olds enjoy trying new things and learning new skills, 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," he adds.
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 by Julia Fields, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays. She's also covered similar topics in other roles, including toy reviews, product round-ups, craft articles, and more.