Gift Guide To The Best Toy For 12 Year Old Boys

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Oh, the “tween-ager”.  Not quite ready to leave childhood, yet looking ahead to the teenage years. They aren’t quite as peer-driven as their older siblings – but only by a little.  The approval of their peers is a big part of what they think is cool. This makes it difficult to shop for them – whether they are a boy or a girl tween.

As you shop for your 12 year old boy, you need to keep this pressure in mind.  Your gift will be judged through the lens of what other kids think about it.

It’s a big reason why cash and gift cards are often a default choice as a present for tweens.

But you aren’t the type to give up and sign a check, are you?  You have the courage to not only pick a gift that is “peer approved” but also one that reflects how much you care for your 12 year old boy.  We’ve selected some gifts that check both boxes to help you in your quest.

We also tried to pick gifts that will last and have some replay value – so your young adult can get some use from your present and remember you in the years to come. The world doesn’t need your gift to end up in a landfill come May of next year.

Finally, in acknowledgment that no one gift is “the best” for all kids, we’ve selected a wide variety of toys that should appeal to different types of kids.  Hopefully, you find something to match the child you are shopping for.

The Rundown: Our Top Toy Picks For 12 year old Boys

This smart speaker can answer questions, read the news, give a weather forecast and stream songs from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Sirius XM, and others.

Pros:

  • The Dobson style means it is much smaller and portable than refractor telescopes.
  • This is a serious scope – it will last for many years with proper care.
  • Can add additional lenses to see even more universal detail.

Cons:

  • While a younger child could use this, this isn’t meant to be abused. Keep close supervision on younger brothers and sisters.
  • No real instructions provided in the box, but plenty available online.

Ever used a telescope and thought “Big Deal”?  That’s usually because the images you see aren’t coming in very bright.

When your child has outgrown a more toy-like telescope and is ready to step up to an adult-level, quality tool, the Orion 10014 Skyquest XT is a perfect fit. Due to the much larger aperture, this telescope producers images over 260% brighter than your run-of-the-mill starter telescopes. That means they will be able to see hundreds of more objects from the night sky.

The Dobsonian style means it’s more compact, so it’s easier to transport.  Just be careful when moving it.  It’s not a toy – it’s not meant to take too much abuse.   Try this telescope out, and view the moon – or Venus – and see if you still think “Big Whoop”!

Helps To Develop: “Exploration, STEM,Thinking Skills”

Pros:

  • Parental controls help protect children online.
  • Matches almost every room decor.
  • Works great for music and audiobooks, along with being an alarm in the morning.
  • Can be used as an intercom system to talk to the kids in their room.
  • Has a off button for the microphone for times you want to ensure no one is listening.

Cons:

  • Not everyone is comfortable inviting listening devices for outside corporations into their home.
  • Need FreeTime subscription to enable all the kid-friendly options.

If you are looking for a way for your 12 year old to have access to music, stories and alarm functions without having to take out a second mortgage, this device is great for you! The Amazon Echo is quite amazing – the sky is the limit to what it can do when you install additional “skills”.  You can set it up to voice control your music – streaming music is available  from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Sirius XM, and others.  The Echo will answer questions, control your lights (if you have a a smart home), and work with other Echo’s around the home as a intercom system from room to room.  There’s more, but I only have so much room in this review.  :)

When paired with Amazon Free Time, the Echo becomes the top smart speaker for kids.  Why?  You can use the Amazon Parent Dashboard to enforce time limits, content filters and more so your children are only exposed to age-appropriate content at times you want.  12 year old boys need to learn how to use technology instead of being ruled by it – you can help them by setting reasonable usage limits.

You are inviting a listening device into your home (which should make you at least a LITTLE uncomfortable) – but the mechanical On-Off button means regardless of Amazon’s promises, you can make sure certain conversations stay private in your home.  The speaker quality is good for the size – but you’ll need two for stereo sound.  For the price of almost any toy your 12 year old would want, it’s a great gift.

Pros:

  • The soft-tip nature of darts means there is virtually no chance of damaging property or other children while playing with these toys.
  • Gun is lightweight enough that most school-aged children can participate in the fun.
  • Real camaraderie is built up among teammates.

Cons:

  • Darts are easy to lose.  They especially seem to find their way into the vacuum cleaner. You’ll want to buy some extras.
  • There are many Nerf Blaster choices – so your child may prefer a toy for a different playstyle.

Nerf dart blasters are a perennial favorite of boys and girls everywhere. The N-Strike Elite Strongarm Blaster is no exception to this rule. With this blaster gun, you’ll be able to fire 6 darts in a row up to 90 feet.  Just slam the slide to reload and you are on your way.  That’s right, this blaster doesn’t require batteries.

While fine to shoot at targets by yourself, the real fun comes when a group of boys organize into teams and play tag or other games. Kids learn to implement strategy, cooperate with teammates and burn off a ton of energy running around outside while working to tag opposing team members.

Helps To Develop: “Social Skills, Strategy, Outside Play”

Pros:

  • Jumping helps your 12 year old boy develop muscles and balance while burning off energy.
  • Tramp comes with a long list of safety features to make jumping as safe as it can be.
  • Your kid’s friends will always be over at your place when you are the ‘trampoline house’.

Cons:

  • Parents need to supervise play – there are dangers involved if instructions aren’t followed.
  • This isn’t a small toy.  You need to have dedicated space in your backyard to set up and jump.

As we mentioned in our outdoor trampolines review, we think this toy is a winner. Safety is a prime concern in the design of this model. It’s so important, Skywalker has made sure this model exceeds all American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) requirements.

We like the ‘W’ supports – they give more stability to the trampoline. The padded poles and enclosure net are well-made and help to keep your 12 year old is safe. The basketball hoop is a nice touch – it has a breakaway rim and even comes with 2 basketballs. It’ll keep your children and friends entertained for hours at a time. A great gift.

Helps To Develop: “Outside Play, Burning Off Energy, Social Development, Motor Skill Development”

Pros:

  • Active noise cancellation makes them great for car or air travel.
  • Long battery life means they can be used all-day.
  • Fold-able for easy storage
  • Also comes with a 3.5mm cord for wired use.

Cons:

  • While better for noise reduction, ear-cup design can make some ears uncomfortable.
  • Plastic headband designs are nearly always weaker than metal ones. These won’t be indestructible.

Everyone likes to listen to their music, videos and games with a good set of headphones. These active noise-cancelling headphones are a good deal for the price.  You get dual microphone cancellation technology, along with the option of either using a Bluetooth or wired connection to your device.  That’s nice because kids (and adults) will forget to charge these headphones on occasion, but you’ll still be able to use them.

These aren’t going to compete with $400 headphones – but at well under $100 you’ll have trouble finding anything better.  The plastic headband is well made, but might eventually break if you have a large head.   A nice hard case will help ensure your boy doesn’t accidentally break the headphones by stepping on them.

I like the noise-canceling feature because it’s really handy when trying to study or traveling by plane – and with how well constructed these headphones are your child will likely end up having a chance to do both while owning them. They also function as a headset for talking on the phone as well.

Pros:

  • Quick enough to be fun, but not as fast as some bigger models.
  • Soon will become a child favorite for expressing growing independence
  • Will last for years with proper maintenance.
  • Easy to transport – handlebars detach easily with a tool.

Cons:

  • The handbrake by itself can be inadequate – so teach your child to steer out of harms way along with braking.
  • Your child needs to be mature enough to understand the road laws in your area to use this toy.

Electric scooters for kids are a fast and simple way to get around.  The Razor E100 Electric Scooter is a nice tradeoff of speed and handling for a 12 year old rider.  You’ll get a scooter, battery and battery charger all included in the box.  Assembly is minimal – just charge up the scooter overnight and go.

Since this scooter can go as fast as 10 mph, it’s a good idea to find a protected area for your boy to practice.  It’s not quite like riding a bike – it will take a little while to master.  Check your local laws to see if it’s legal to ride on the street near the curb or on the sidewalk.  Different towns have different rules – and unless you want to give your kid an introduction to the legal  system at this age, it’s better to find out ahead of time!

The build is solid.  Younger and smaller riders will be able to easily fit both feet side-by-side on the base.  Length or riding time will depend on how many hills you ride, how much your child weighs, and how hard they ride – but 30 – 50 mins seems to be about average before needing a charge.

Pros:

  • Worry-free guarantee means you don’t need to worry about giving your 12 year old a mini-computer that he likely will end up finding a way to break.
  • Great for trips, plane rides, or other times a child needs to entertain themselves without being able to move around.
  • Included subscription includes a wide variety of children’s books to read – it’s not all fun and games!

Cons:

  • If you haven’t already bought into the Amazon “Co-Prosperity Sphere” of content, you’ll need to – it’s not worth much without the content Amazon provides.
  • Amazon parental controls take a little time to learn how to use effectively.

Want to get your 12 year old a tablet, but afraid of quickly they might break it? The Fire 7 Kids Edition is a great tablet for you.
You get a powerful 7-inch tablet in a kid-proof stand – made for little boys hands to be able to grasp easily.  The included year of Amazon Free Time provides access to age-appropriate apps, games, books and content from names you know, like PBS Kids, Disney and Nickelodeon.  Parental controls leave you in charge of what your 12 year old watches.

And since kids will be kids…if he ends up breaking this Kindle during the first two years by dropping, stomping, spilling, throwing or the multitude of other ways kids break toys, you can simply return it to Amazon to get a replacement.  That’s the worry-free guarantee.

These devices come with 16GB of internal storage, but you’ll likely want to invest in an SD card to give you some more space to save content for your child.  Prices on flash memory have dropped so much you’ll be amazed how much storage you’ll be able to get for cheap.

Pros:

  • It has everything to help put your kid into an imaginary world of fun, quickly.
  • Can handle quite a bit of normal-play punishment.
  • Some people never outgrow Star Wars – this toy could last for many years of play as your child grows.

Cons:

  • You know how Disney was able to afford to buy the Star Wars franchise? Take a look at the price tag.
  • Your child will need at least two of these to play with others.

The only way your little Star Wars fan could have more fun with this toy would be if it were made of plasma, not plastic. It has everything you’d expect – the lights, sounds and feel of a high-quality Disney toy.

It can handle not only imaginary play, but also some real-world swordplay as well. It’s not indestructible – if kids try to break these, they certainly can. But it will hold up well under the normal rigors of daily play.

Helps To Develop: “Imagination, Creative Expression, Social relationships”

Pros:

  • The included cloak is an EXACT replica of the movie prop on display in the official Warner Bros studio tour in London.
  • It’s going to be THE GIFT for Harry Potter fans in 2020.
  • The cloak, standalone, is of nice construction.  The added invisibility effect is a nice addition!

Cons:

  • Phone must be still in the tripod to get the “invisible” effect to work.
  • Deluxe version is nice and completely true to the movie, but can be a bit pricey.  The standard version doesn’t include the tripod either.

What kid hasn’t at some point wanted to be invisible?  I know I thought the Invisibility Cloak from the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone would have awesome to own.  And now you can!

This 2020 Toy of the Year finalist is an exciting augmented reality toy.  This official Warner Bros. Invisibility cloak costume perfectly replicates the cloak from the Harry Potter series’ magical properties.

How does it work? It works with an associated phone app – so you can save – and share – your invisible scenes.  It’s easy to save stills or videos to your devices’ camera roll for later viewing fun.  If you or your children haven’t played with a “green screen” before, you are in for a treat.

In addition to the A-R aspect of this gift, it’s also a great Harry Potter toy and collector item on it’s own. If your 12 year old boy is into Harry Potter dress up or Cosplay, he’ll appreciate this gift!

Pros:

  • Great functionality in a small package.
  • 12 year old boys will love playing the role of director with the built-in cameras.
  • A lot cheaper than a Fitbit or Apple Watch!

Cons:

  • Heavy video usage can drain the battery in less than a day – not great if you rely on it primarily for a watch.
  • Colorful design might seem childish to tween-aged children.

This smartwatch is really a mini-smartphone – without internet access or GPS. Why do I say that? It has 2 cameras, a microphone, games built-in, and can function as a pedometer. That’s a lot of features in a little package!

Parents and kids can download the pictures and videos to a PC where they can be kept or viewed by all. It’s very intuitive to use – and while not waterproof it is “splash proof” so the occasional spill or drop should brick the watch. It’s a great toy if you think your child feels left out not having a “smart” device.

Helps To Develop: “Exploration, Role Playing, Creative Expression”

Pros:

  • The cards are really creative – from Super Fertile Unicorn to Fat Unicron, you never know what you’ll get.
  • There’s enough strategy in this game – but not too much – that’s a great introduction to more detailed strategy card games.
  • Only takes 3-4 rounds before you completely understand how the game works.
  • High replay value – and can pick up and finish a game in under an hour.

Cons:

  • This game is the opposite of a cooperative game – if you don’t like having loved ones sabotaging your plans, this isn’t the game for you.
  • Best played with 4 or more players.

Unstable Unicorns is still one fo the Top 50 most backed projects on Kickstarter, and for good reason.  This card game is quick to learn and play, but it’s not easy to master.  You are trying to build your Unicorn army to full-strength – but so is everyone else at the table.  Note: these unicorns aren’t warm and fuzzy – think Pegasus not My Little Pony.

Skill is important, but there is a lot of unpredictability due to the draw of the card deck which means anyone has a chance to win a particular game.  Detailed instructions are available online – they are better than the ones in the box and will get you up and playing in no time.

Pros:

Cons:

Codey Rocky is a GREAT toy for learning how to code. 12 year old programmers can use the associated app to get up and running quickly. There’s plenty to do with this robot without moving on from just app-based play. Your inquisitive boy can move and play with the robot really quickly in this mode.

Once the Codey Rocky is attached to your PC you can use an easy-to-learn block-based language to program the robot.  If this is too limiting, you can also use the popular programming language python to expand your choice enormously. This should give your 12 year old years of play as your child moves up the programming skill curve.

Helps To Develop: “STEM, Thinking Skills, Exploration”

Pros:

  • Easy to control and get into the air – but still helps to build patience.
  • Flight control builds hand-eye coordination to keep the kite soaring in the air.
  • You need to get outside to use this toy – and 12 year old boy will!

Cons:

  • You’ll need to help younger children with assembly.
  • You need some space and decent weather to play with this toy.

Good kites are under-rated toys. There’s something hard-wired in most boys that makes he want to fly a kite on a warm, sunny day. This kite makes that easy enough for 12 year olds.

The design makes it surprisingly easy to get – and stay -airborne. It won’t entertain your children for multiple hours at a time, but they will continue to come back to this toy as they grow through the years. The colorful pattern will bring a smile to both you and your child’s face.

Pros:

  • Has enough features to be useful for beginners and advanced users alike.
  • MIDI controller will grow with your child throughout the years.
  • Reasonable price for all the features available.
  • Portable so your kid can take it anywhere.

Cons:

  • There is a learning curve to use any MIDI device. Make sure your child has a passion for music before buying.
  • As with all MIDI controllers, you need a computer to operate.
  • Older models had keyboard quality issues – seems to have been addressed in the MK2.

This popular MIDI controller is great starting point for the beginner – but can be used by experts as well. It’s not plug-n-play – THERE IS A LEARNING CURVE – but there are tutorials available online to help speed that process. Once that curve is overcome, this musical device will provide hours of creative fun.  Your child will be sampling and creating music for years to come will the Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII.

I’d be a little leery buying this for any child under 10 – and even at that age, expect to learn how to use it yourself in order to get this toy up and running.  Your aspiring DJ will be happy you bought this gift this holiday season!

Our Process For Selecting The Best Toys And Gifts For 12 year old boys

We spend weeks writing all of our toy review and gift guides. We know you rely on our input, and we take that trust seriously.   Our writers and editors have spent approximately 26 hours researching and testing the most popular toys for 12 year old boys that you can find on the market in September 2020. 

All of this time and resources are spent to bring this toy guide to you – we’ve put in the time to make sure our recommendations are ones you can trust.

We also update these lists daily.  That’s because we don’t want to provide you with toys that are no longer in-stock – a gift you can’t buy isn’t worth much to you, no matter how cool it might be.  We have reviewed many more toys than we list in this guide – and many of them are good but not quite as great as the ones that made the cut. 

As toys move in and out of stock, the list will change.  We want this list to help you get the best toys you can for your 12 year old this Holiday season.

Frequently Asked Questions About Toys for Twelve-Year-Old Boys

How do I select the best gift for twelve-year-old boys?

Twelve-year-old boys and girls aren’t teenagers yet, but they aren’t kiddies either; they are preteen, on the verge of becoming a teenager. Buying the best gift for a twelve-year-old boy may be challenging. He has outgrown the childish toys, but he is still a child growing up.

Toys that stimulated him a year or two ago are now boring to your twelve-year-old boy. His mental skills have outgrown the toy. He needs more significant challenges to occupy his mind, stimulate his intelligence, and keep him focused. His ability to concentrate requires a toy that holds his attention for a while.

One of the best toys for twelve-year-old boys are sports and hobby toys. If you know what kind of sports he likes or what his hobbies are, you can’t go wrong in buying him a gift related to sports or hobbies. Boys at this age may have specific likes and dislikes regarding brands, number of pieces, size of parts, and type of toys. Keep it in mind when buying a gift for a twelve-year-old. If he likes simplistic, don’t buy him toys with lots of pieces, and vice versa.

How important is a particular brand when buying a toy for a twelve-year-old?

Twelve-year-old boys and girls are socially conscious. It’s important to them what is trendy according to their group of friends and peers. If a specific brand in a toy is what ‘everyone’ has, then it will help build his confidence to have the same brand toy. If it is an expensive brand and your budget doesn’t allow for it, explain it to your son why he shouldn’t expect that brand as a gift.

Sometimes the child prefers a specific brand in a toy. At twelve years old, getting the boy the brand he likes is important. It’s not necessarily the most expensive or best brand he prefers, but in his mind, it is the best. He will appreciate the gift more if it’s the brand he likes, even if another brand is more expensive or better.

It seems as if my twelve-year-old son is breaking more toys now than when he was a toddler. Should I be worried?

Your twelve-year-old son could be breaking toys for two main reasons. He is playing rougher with his toys as a tween-almost-teen. Some toys aren’t durable or sturdy enough to withstand his way of playing. It’s normal for twelve-year-old boys, so parents need not worry.

The second reason why your twelve-year-old tween is breaking toys more often than previously is because he is curious. Boys like to take things apart to see how it works. Putting the toys back together isn’t always as successful. So, the toy ‘breaks.’ If your son likes to take things apart and reasonably reassembles the item, perhaps a STEM engineering toy may be the best gift for your twelve-year-old. STEM toys may satisfy his curiosity. Engineering and technical toys may teach him how things work and inspire his creativity in building things.

Investing in toys for twelve-year-old boys that are designed to be taken apart and reassembled could be the best gift idea. Science experiments and other creative building toys may also fascinate your curious child.

My twelve-year-old son is forever missing a toy. The toys disappear into thin air, it seems. What’s going on?

The good news is that you probably don’t have to worry about your son’s social life. Disappearing toys could indicate that his social life is thriving; he has friends and isn’t a loner. As a parent, you don’t have to worry too much about the disappearing aspect, either. As fast as toys disappear, other toys may appear.

Twelve-year-old boys like to exchange things, including their best toys. They also tend to lend or give their toys away to impress a new friend or because their best friend likes the new toy. With the toy circulation of exchanging, giving away, and receiving toys, your son probably doesn’t know what happened to the specific toy you’re referring to. He isn’t lying to you or hiding the toy; he honestly doesn’t know which friend is currently playing with it.

Parents may control lending and giving away toys but shouldn’t interfere too much. It may help your son’s development if you accept his decisions. It shows you trust your twelve-year-old boy to make the right decisions; your approval builds his confidence. By giving to others, your son learns the benefits of being generous.

Why isn’t my twelve-year-old son playing with the toy he wanted?

Your tween boy has become fussy, which may come across as demanding. He knows what he likes and doesn’t like. Friends, however, may influence his choices and have him change his mind. He may have asked for a specific toy and was very happy when you bought the toy for him. Suddenly he changed his mind, and he doesn’t want to play with the toy anymore. He did like the toy but stopped playing with it when he found out that his friends don’t like it.

Observe the toy your son likes to play with and buy him more of the same kind of toy. He will appreciate it, and you will be giving him a toy he wants, and his friends will approve too.

 Should I limit screen time and stop buying him video games?

Some boys prefer playing video games to kicking a ball or flying a kite. There’s nothing wrong with it. Kids have different interests and hobbies. Screen time isn’t an issue if it balances with time spent outside, doing homework, social activities, and not interfering with sleep. If you think your son is spending too much time in front of the television or playing video games, limit his screen time. You may specify how long and when he can have screen time.

If video games are the only kind of gifts your son wants, he could end up playing games all day. A twelve-year-old boy is still growing and developing and needs physical activity and other stimulation besides playing games. He may not agree, but as a parent, you know what he needs best. One way of enticing him to play outdoors is to buy him toys that coincide with the type of video games he likes to play. For example, buy him a nerf gun or archery set if he likes shooter games. Go-karting, bike riding or skateboarding could entice him to develop his tricks or race against friends.