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Toys for 12-year-old boys can be fun, challenge them physically and intellectually, and encourage them to explore the world around them. No matter if your preteen 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.
Best Science: 4M Water Rocket Kit
This water rocket kit is a blast…quite literally. It allows kids to build a water rocket out of a recycled soda bottle and blast it up into the air—as high as 30 feet! It’s powered not by electricity or batteries, but water and air pressure. This is pure science, so prepare for blastoff!
You will need a bicycle pump, which isn’t included. Everything else they need is, including the plastic bottle, parts, and detailed instructions.
Additionally, customers say it’s as fun as it is educational, and that kids of all ages love it.
Best Outdoor: Blue Orange Djubi Classic
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.
Best Building: 4M Tin Can Robot
Recycling has never been so much fun. This kit helps kids turn any old tin can into a super cool little robot dude who they can send waddling about.
It comes with most 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 Phillips head screwdriver to get the work done.
While the majority of 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 being too difficult.
Best Music: Beats Studio³ Wireless Noise-Cancelling On-Ear Headphones
For young dudes in tune with their musical taste, these over-ear, wireless headphones from Beats are perfect. They can jam out to their favorite tunes without blasting everyone else around them.
With noise canceling technology and other features, they’re designed to provide amazing sound quality. The cushioned ear cups make for a comfortable fit. They feature a rechargeable battery with a life of up to 22 hours, so the beat can go on and on. They can sync with a variety of Bluetooth-enabled devices, and they also come with a hard-shell carrying case to keep them protected on the go.
Customers say the sound quality is crystal clear, and they love how they drown out background noise. Many give them high marks for style as well.
Best Group Game: Jenga GIANT JS7 Hardwood Game
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 each measures 7 1/8 by 2 3/8 by 1 3/8 inches. 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 an audible 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 anytime 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.
Best Craft: Horizon Group USA Boy Craft Catapult Wars Build & Battles
Talk about a cool craft kit! This one lets kids build their very own catapults to launch fun to new heights.
It comes with everything they need to build two catapults, including 18 wooden pieces, glue, rope, stickers, and eight mini sandbags 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. More than 160 people reviewed this kit online and most gave it a top rating.
Best Lego: LEGO Architecture New York City
All those years of mom and dad stepping on errant Legos 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 that also contain background information about each of the buildings’ architecture and history. Once they build it, it makes a great display piece for their room (measuring 10 by 9 by 1 inches), and the pieces can be combined with other Lego sets as well.
Designed for kids 12 and up, many adults love the Lego Architecture series, too.
Best Board Game: Fireside Games Castle Panic
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: 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 the best is crowned the Master Slayer.
Overall, customers like that this game encourages teamwork when played as a group, but also that’s 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 tricky. 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. You can follow the recommended age guidelines that come with each toy to make sure that you hit the right balance for your preteen.
If you are choosing an active toy, look for recommended protective gear (helmets, safety goggles, knee pads) to go with it. Including your 12-year-old boy in picking out the perfect thing that keeps them safe while expressing their personal style is a great way to incorporate these habits early.
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,” says Chuck English, Virginia STEM Coordinator at the Science Museum of Virginia. “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.