Whether you’re shopping for a birthday or the holidays, the most difficult person on your gift list is often an older kid. It can be a real challenge to find just the right item when they’re too big for the trucks, trains, and balls they used to love, but not quite old enough to give you any truly helpful hints of what they would like. And a preteen boy? Now you’ve moved into the Mt. Everest of gift-giving challenges.
Get ready to be spared hours of searching, clicking, and crossing your fingers and toes that you’ve found something he’ll love. We’ve done the research for you, reviewed dozens of gifts suitable for the 12-year-old boy in your life, and identified the best of the best. Features we considered include if it’s suitable for outdoors, whether it’s for just or can also be used or played with friends and family, and whether it uses technology.
Not Parent Approved – A Card Game stood out as our clear winner. Set up in the style of popular card games like Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples, it allows players to pick the best or craziest answer to a question. We loved it because it gives kids the chance to be goofy and gross, but still not cross any lines into becoming offensive. Despite the title, parents are welcome to play – if your kid will let you!
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated Gifts Ideas for 12-Year-Old Boys
|Not Parent Approved - A Card Game
|Best Budget Buy
|Best Outdoor Gift
|Giant Wooden Toppling Tower
|Best Toy Gift
|LEGO New York City Skyline
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Our Top Pick: Not Parent Approved – A Card Game
What we loved most about Not Parent Approved – A Card Game was that it allows kids to have fun on their level. They can make the game as gross or as silly or as fun as they want, depending on how they choose to play, and maybe the people with whom they’re playing the game. We suspect that most of them will choose to push the boundary right up to the line of crass, but the game won’t let them cross the line. And the laughter and connection your favorite 12-year-old will feel with others playing the game will be worth a little gross humor.
Since it’s a card game in a box, it’s easy for them to take to a friend’s house or you to take to a relative’s house for a rousing and fun game after a holiday dinner. Adults can play with kids, making this a unique game that a lot of the family can play together. Finally – a gift that will get their faces out of the screens and back to the table for something entertaining that you can all do together.
Not Parent Approved – A Card Game Key Features:
- Hilarious for kids and adults to play together
- Easy to take places
- Age-appropriate humor
Our Runner Up Pick: Nintendo Switch
When the inventors of Nintendo Switch created the device, it’s like they were trying to check off every box of all the things that video game lovers want in one piece of equipment. Want to be able to play it at home on your TV? Check. Want to be able to play it as a handheld device? Check. Want to be able to play it by yourself? Check. Want to be able to play with friends? Check. Want access to a large library of games that you can play on it? One more check.
With more than 6,500 reviews and an average 4.5-star rating on Amazon, this is one of the most highly rated gaming systems on the market. Being able to play it anytime and anywhere makes it the perfect companion piece to any preteen boy’s gaming collection. Parents can still rest easy though, because the Nintendo Switch comes with parental controls to monitor social media activity and restrict access to games with certain ratings, all controlled via a free app for your phone.
Nintendo Switch Key Features:
- Can play with two people or by yourself
- Can play anywhere as a handheld device or at home on your TV
- Lots of games to choose from
- Parental controls
Best Budget Pick: Elecder Headphones
Anyone who spends more than 30 seconds around a youth these days knows that they constantly have headphones on. And while most of them think they want the trendiest ones on the market, those of us looking to purchase headphones as a gift may not be ready to pay the hefty price tag that comes with them.
These Elecder Headphones are the answer. They offer heavy bass sound to make kids who love the driving beat happy listeners. They’re lightweight with a long and durable cord that goes almost five feet and doesn’t tangle. The earpieces fold up for easy toting and are padded to make listening all day (because you know they will) a comfortable experience. And they come in seven different colors so that kids can coordinate with their favorite team or school colors.
The bottom line? These headphones are made to withstand being tossed into a school backpack while still providing a great sound.
Elecder Headphones Key Features:
- Comfortable earpieces
- Great sound
Best Outdoor Gift for 12-Year-Old Boys: Giant Wooden Toppling Tower
It’s hard to drag preteens away from their screens, but this game just might do the trick.
The Giant Wooden Toppling Tower is easy to set up and tear down, easy to tote around, and totally addicting to play. It’s just like the table game he loved to play when he was little, but taken to the extreme as only preteen boys can truly appreciate. This set stacks five feet tall for the kind of hardcore game experience kids his age love. The wooden blocks are stacked in rows and the goal is to keep it from falling down as each player takes turns pulling out one block and placing it on the top of the tower. The one who pulls out a block that causes the tower to topple loses.
It comes in a bag that makes it easy to tote to outdoor parties, vacations, camping sites, or a friend’s house so that you can entice your preteen away from the screen anywhere you go.
Giant Wooden Toppling Tower Key Features:
- Tall tower (higher than similar tower games)
- Easy tote bag for pieces
- Great quality
Best Toy Gift for 12-Year-Old Boys: LEGO New York City Skyline
Many boys grew up putting LEGO sets together. If your 12-year-old still loves putting sets together but needs a challenge to take him beyond the superhero or LEGO City sets he built when he was younger, let us introduce you to the LEGO New York City Skyline.
Five structures make up the NYC skyline in this set: the Flatiron Building, One World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building. They’re iconic and the boy you’re gifting this to will love to see them come to life as he constructs them. At 598 pieces, it’s not the largest LEGO set on the market, but don’t let that fool you – it still takes skills to build! The building are each only one or two colors, which adds a little challenge to make sure each piece is in the right place in each building.
This set is a great bridge between the smaller sets of their younger years and the even more complicated pieces (like the Star Wars Death Star or the Harry Potter Castle) that are even harder.
LEGO New York City Skyline Key Features:
- Iconic NYC buildings
- Challenge to build
- Solid LEGO construction
Who Should Buy a Gift for a 12-Year-Old Boy?
The people that are buying these gifts are those who know a 12-year-old boy and have a special occasion to give him a gift, like a birthday, holiday, or even graduation from middle school.
Important Features to Consider
A gift for a 12-year-old boy should consider several different criteria specific to that boy. Here’s what to consider when selecting a gift for the tween young man in your life:
- Hobbies. What does he like to do? How does he spend his free time?
- Style. If you’re considering clothes, what kind of clothes does he wear most often? Does he like specific brands?
- Likes & Dislikes. Does he love to read or hate to read? Does he love to listen to music or hate it? Does he love a good game or would he rather do anything but play one? Does he live for video games or is he ambivalent about them?
- Trends. Is there a gadget or game that is all the rage right now? Is there something trendy you know he doesn’t have but would love?
Frequently Asked Questions
How much should you spend on a gift for a 12-year-old boy?
As with kids of any age, there are gifts at both ends of the price spectrum and everywhere in between. How much you should spend depends mostly on how well you know the child. Generally, the better you know the child, the higher the price of the gift.
For instance, if this child is your son or grandson, you’ll likely be spending a lot more on a gift for him, usually over $100. If you’re buying a gift for another relative that you’re not as close to, the range may be more like $50-$100. If you’re buying a gift for a child whose birthday party your kid was invited to, you’ll probably be spending less than $50.
What can I get a 12-year-old boy for his birthday?
Birthdays are big occasions, and right around the age of 12 is when kids often stop having birthday parties with their friends. They’re also entering that awkward stage of growing up when they often lose confidence and feel insecure. When a boy turns 12, it’s a great time to go big for his birthday to show your love and reinforce how important he is to you.
What you gift depends on how well you know the boy. We’ve got you started with some fantastic ideas on this list, but you can also think a little outside box too. If he has a favorite band, 12 is a great age to go to his first concert. Does he love to see movies? Consider getting him a big gift card to a local movie theater so he can go to see films several times during the year. Does he have a favorite professional sports team? Give him tickets to a game. If you really want to make a big impact, think about places he has always wanted to go and take him there for a weekend getaway.
What should I get my 12-year-old brother?
The same gift-giving principles apply here, although we assume that the budget will be a little bit lower given that you’re siblings. We’ve recommended some great products that are under $50 (and even some under $25!) that might work for your brother.
Otherwise, consider what you know about him – his hobbies, what he loves, how he spends his time. Take that information and find a gift that he would love based on what you know. If you find something that you think your brother will love but that is out of your budget, consider asking a parent, grandparent, or other relative to go in on it with you.
How can I choose the right gift for a 12-year-old boy?
You can be sure you’re choosing the right gift by considering the important features that we listed above. The most critical thing to think about before you purchase a gift is to make sure you’re getting one that fits with what you know about the boy. If you choose something that’s his style, fits with his hobbies, or is something that he loves, you’ll be making a great choice.
Other Gifts for 12-Year-Old Boys We Reviewed
We looked at 20 other gifts for 12-year-old boys. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best gifts list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for a 12-year-old boy. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.
- Game Gifts for 12-Year-Old Boys
- Outdoor Gifts for 12-Year-Old Boys
- Tech Gifts for 12-Year-Old-Boys
- Toy Gifts for 12-Year-Old Boys
Game Gifts for 12-Year-Old Boys
You get a category and you have five seconds to say three things that fit into that category. Talking and thinking fast are definite bonuses in this game!
- Unique timer that makes a fun sound while it counts down the five seconds
- Fresh cards with new categories so even people who have played it before can play again and again
- Can involve a large number of players
The “grab it, get it, pass it” game that has players trying to get teammates guessing the word or phrase on their screen before time runs out!
- Thousands of words and phrases mean you won’t run out of new material
- Built-in timer
- Electronic device, which appeals to 12 year olds
Put the headphones on and let the lip-syncing begin! Players have to guess what your partner is saying just by reading their lips.
- Hilarious phrases
- Comfortable, adjustable headphones
- Different ways to play
Is the 12-year-old you know obsessed with football? Try this game, which allows them to strategize plays and plan winning drives down the field!
- All 32 NFL teams are included so you can play with your favorite
- Magnetized end zones
- Real football plays
A great gift for the boy who loves to shoot hoops while watching the pros play games on TV!
- Multiple height settings
- Infrared sensors for accurate scoring
- Seven balls included
Outdoor Gifts for 12-Year-Old Boys
Laser tag designed to be played both inside and out, with a target range up to 150 feet.
- Up to four teams can play at the same time
- Completely safe to use
- Includes target vests, night-vision flashlight, and voice-guided directions
It was never so much fun to play outside! Your 12-year-old can now play this beloved outdoors game long after it gets dark. If he loves to be outdoors, he’ll love playing glow-in-the-dark Capture the Flag!
- 25 light-up game pieces
- More than 12 hours of batteries included
- Play with up to 20 people
For the boy who loved to ride his bike but is now longing for a little bit more extreme adventure.
- Battery powered
- Speeds up to 14 miles per hour
- Max rider weight of 140 pounds
A little bit like volleyball but with the net on the ground, Spikeball has become a wildly popular outdoor game. Play happens with teams of two or more. A team hits the ball into the net and when it bounces up, the other team has no more than three hits to bounce it back onto the next.
- Easy to set up and tear down, and comes with a bag to take it wherever you want to play
- Lifetime warranty
- Durable construction means you can play it just about anywhere!
With its LED lights coordinated to music played through Bluetooth, this is not your average hoverboard.
- LED lights and music
- Weight capacity up to 165 pounds
- Advanced mainboard program to ensure rider stability
Tech Gifts for 12-Year-Old Boys
Wireless earbuds are all the rage now, so help your tween boy fit right into the crowd with this great tech gift.
- Upgraded paring technology
- 35 hours of battery life (7 hours of playing time)
- Comes in a portable recharging case
Construct your own robot with the LEGOs, and then code it to follow simple commands to impress your friends and family.
- Can build four different creature robots with this one set, not including the robot
- Tablet required, but it’s compatible with select iPad, Kindle, Android, and Windows devices
- Great for boys who have an interest in coding and want to get a taste of it
One terabyte of storage and brilliant HDR graphics allows you to play any game you want, any time you want to play with brilliant images.
- Can play offline by yourself or online with other players
- Slimmer and more lightweight model
- Controllers charge when you’re not playing
Make regular building bricks come alive with these snap circuit pieces that add lights, sound, and movement to their creations.
- Comes with an idea book containing 20 different projects you can build with this one kit
- 140 building blocks, 75 bric-to-snap adapters, and 20 snap circuit component parts
- Encourages an interest in STEM
Your 12 year old can use the remote control and his own hand gestures to control the movements of this robot.
- Available in two different colors (red and blue)
- 60 minutes of playing time before it needs to be charged again
- Robot moves forward and backward, and does dance moves!
Toy Gifts for 12-Year-Old Boys
With fantastic sound and great built-in performance features like pre-loaded songs, percussion beats, and different rhythms, this piano will have your tween sounding like a professional in a short period of time!
- Includes keyboard, stool, microphone, and headset
- Ability to record and playback
- Deluxe sound effects and features
Does your preteen boy dream of being a famous musician? This set gives your wannabe-electric guitar player a great start with the instrument.
- Package includes guitar, amp, pickups, and cables
- Free downloadable guitar lessons
- Also comes with strap, easy-to-carry bag, and picks
Drones are a hot toy. Give your favorite 12-year-old boy one that’s a step above what his friends have, because this one can fly at night!
- Two-speed mode when flying
- Ability to perform 3D Flip and Roll
- Glows in the dark
Build three cool machines with one kit. Each can launch a projectile up to 15 feet!
- Comes with 15 projectiles and 18 paper targets
- 100% satisfaction guarantee
- No special tools needed to build machines
This all-terrain remote control car goes where others have only dreamed of going.
- Travels up to nine miles an hour
- Waterproof with a great drainage system so it goes on land and in the water
- Comes with two rechargeable batteries and a screwdriver