Teens and tweens are notoriously hard to please, which can make gift-giving a little tricky. Luckily, we've rounded up all the season's hottest gifts for the over-11 set with some help from independent analyst and toy historian Christopher Byrne, aka The Toy Guy.
"One of the things that’s so important about teens (and has been for many years) is the social aspect of their lives," says Byrne. Making, sharing, connecting, and building community are important aspects to consider when choosing a gift. Today's adolescents still enjoy the old-school activity of playing board games as a way to bond with friends, for instance. The new Dungeons, Dice & Danger game is a great one. Or consider the JBL Flip 6 portable speaker that just begs for a dance party.
"This is a time of life when they may be trying on different identities, discovering who they are separate from their parents and as individuals in a peer group," Byrne says of the post-elementary school age. "Technology has made this possible, so things that can be shared either in-person or virtually are great." The Kodak Step Slim Mobile Photo Printer, for instance, lets teens take photos from their cell phones and print them out to share with friends. And the RUKUSfx music mixer allows for music and video creation and sharing.
A few carefully selected gifts are better than a whole pile. "Don’t overload kids with presents," cautions Byrne. You'll risk giving kids so much that they can’t appreciate what they get. And don't stress! "The holidays should be about more than scoring a specific toy," he says. And to quote the kids: "That’s so 90s."
Not only does the RUKUSfx mix music, it has an LED light show and over 80 sound effects. And of course, there's a built-in microphone for vocals. "After playing with it for a while, it is so much more than it might appear at first glance," says Byrne. "There’s a lot you can do with it, plus you can record and share what you do, and it’s a natural [activity] for taking videos and sharing those."
If the tween or teen in your life is into jewelry, consider a unique pair of earrings like these dainty gold studs. Also available in sterling silver, you get one crescent moon and one lightning bolt. "I love these studs!" writes one reviewer. "They are darling and just the right amount of edge. I’ve been wearing them almost every day." 93% of reviewers gave this pair 5 stars — those are good odds that the teen in your life will love them, too!
Byrne recommends Vex building kits for kids who are into building and engineering. This particular kit contains over 160 pieces that can be turned into a working catapult to launch the 3 included balls. There's also an alternate build, which means more bang for your buck. One Amazon reviewer writes of her son: "He loves the science behind how the motors work and honestly they work quite well."
Funko Pop makes big-headed products for just about every pop culture franchise, including figurines from teen favorites like the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, Marvel movies, TV's Stranger Things, Disney films, and so much more.
These are popular with teenagers for their collectability, something Byrne says is great to consider when buying gifts. "This is the age when kids start collecting," he says. "The transition from play to collecting is an important one at this time of life. It really is a kind of rite of passage."
Sure it has crystal-clear sound and deep bass, but the best thing about this speaker is its rugged portability. Plus it's Bluetooth connected and comes in 11 colors. "I've had several portable speakers over the years, and this is by far the best FOR THE MONEY," writes one Amazon customer. "I would more than likely buy it again because it fits easily into my backpack when I travel."
Help creative teens express themself with a high-quality art set that includes six black markers and 2 sepia-tone ones. "As a beginning anime artist, I was in search of a way to darken the lines in my drawings and lessen the number of pencil smudges in them," writes an Amazon reviewer. "Every marker within the packet was well worth the money."
This kit contains everything needed to make 8 delicious services on bubble tea. Inside the box are Chewy Tapioca Pearls, instructions, Royal Milk loose leaf tea, and 2 reusable Fat Straws. Teens will love customizing their own boba concoctions and sharing with friends. Bonus: all the ingredients are vegan in case your teen has dietary restrictions.
This cool BD-1 measures over 12.5 inches tall when built. The exploration droid includes authentic details that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order fans love. "The build was great, thoroughly enjoyed it," says one Lego fan. "The end model is brilliant with the various movement it has and poses it can be set into." The set includes over 1,000 pieces, enough to keep them off of their phone for a couple of hours.
Ramen —especially instant ramen — is a staple of youth. Celebrate your teen's love for yummy, convenient Cup Noodles with this fun earbud protective case. Compatible with Apple Airpods, we think this earbud case will get some laughs. But more importantly, it'll keep your ramen-obsessed teen's earbuds safe and sound.
No remote control is needed here. Just toss this drone to launch it, guide it with hand movement and "teach" tricks, then flip it upside down to power off. Rechargeable battery included. 81% of Target buyers give the Sky Viper Force Hover Sphere 5 stars.
Show jaded kids that you’re still cool, and gift this limited-edition Gloss Bomb set. Three full-size, universally flattering lip gloss shades are included. Each gloss can also be individually gifted, so generous teens can share with friends. “Yes!! This set is so worth it!” writes one Sephora reviewer.
These new Nerf Blasters take laser tag up a notch with the ability to play in the dark — The Laser Vision option illuminates enemy targets. The blasters have a range of up to 300 feet and battery life that will provide up to 4 hours of play.
For teens who look to the stars for guidance, this is a really fun gift. The pictured June 4 candle features an orchid, sandalwood, and lemon scent, but each date features a unique “custom scent to match your energy.” The all-natural soy and coconut wax jar candle has a burn time of 60-80 hours. “It’s crazy that they were able to nail it and capture a scent truly made for me,” writes one Amazon reviewer. “I’m obsessed with it and so are all of my friends so I will definitely be gifting it to everyone I know.”
Up to four players (yes, you can even play solo!) explore four different levels of this board game, including Annoyed Animals, Defiant Dinosaurs, Puzzled Pyramid, and Clumsy Cultists. Get through by searching dungeons, battling monsters, and scoring treasure. “Easy to learn and pick up,” writes one Amazon reviewer. “It’s fun and I recommend to anyone who likes the genre or are looking to try a roll n write for the first time.
Take Gen Xers back to your own teen years with actual paper photos. The sticky-backed photos printed from this wireless compact printer are smudge-proof, waterproof, and tear-resistant — perfect to decorate bedrooms, lockers, mirrors, and more. Simply connect to the printer via Bluetooth and use the Kodak Step Prints app to print vibrant photos.
This inexpensive jewelry option resembles one worn by rapper and style icon Bad Bunny. “This necklace is so cute and great quality,” writes one Amazon reviewer. “Perfect dupe for the popular expensive brand.” The gold-tone choker features beads and faux pearls on a 14.1-inch chain (it has a 2.7-inch extender for a flexible fit).
This bold pullover is made from 24% recycled materials, which is a bonus for green-minded teens. The soft fleece fabric will keep your kiddo cozy this winter, and they’ll love the current style.
“Don’t forget video games,” says Byrne of the ultimate teenage gift. The Xbox Series S is a great price for a powerful system, and gaming teens will love it. “This is the MOST AWESOME THING I'VE EVER BOUGHT,” says one Walmart reviewer. Convincing words!
The magical Sorting Hat chooses your Hogwart’s house with the touch of a button and awards jelly beans accordingly. Will you get Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, or Ravenclaw? A 1-ounce bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans (in 4 flavors) is included with this set. The House Points dispenser makes a great gift for middle school Potterheads.
“I love the Aerobie football,” says Byrne. “It’s easy to throw and creates social interaction.” The fins are adjustable for right and left-handed throwers, and you can calibrate the spin rate. There’s even a hashtag to follow — #sonicfinchallenge – to participate in social media challenges. A great gift for the sporty teen.
“Representation is very important for teens,” says Byrne of these Fresh Fierce Collection dolls from World of EPI. There are 3 poseable 11.5-inch dolls inspired by Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever movie. Black Panther fans will want to collect Nakia, Okoye, and Shuri (pictured).
A built-in LED activator charges the included glow-in-the-dark Gellets for a light-up nighttime experience. Don’t worry parents, the impact is just enough to register a hit, but not enough to injure. And the Gellets dissolve on impact, providing mess-free play. The set includes the StarFire blaster and accessories, plus a USB C charging cable, barrel removal tool, and safety glasses.
We all know that tweens and teens lose things a lot. That's why the manageable price of these earbuds makes them a practical — and fun — gift. JLab’s new Go Air Sport earbuds have 32+ hour Bluetooth playtime, multiple sound settings, convenient touch controls, and of course a charging case. You’ll get the charging case with an integrated charging cable, 3 sets of gel tips for a perfect fit, and a 2-year warranty. Available in 6 colors including sky blue (pictured), black, green, neon yellow, sand, and teal. “These are the best earbuds I've owned,” writes one of over 2,000 Amazon reviewers. “My favorite feature is that they stay in securely no matter what. They're comfortable to wear, too.”
Middle-school-aged kids who are into DIY jewelry trends will love all the ways to craft with this set. Materials are included for Heishi Craze, Just Bead It, It’s Elastic!, Friends Forever and Link Em’ Up bracelets. The rotating tower keeps everything organized and the trays can be removed to bring anywhere.
Musicians in the making will love practicing the drums on this cool gift: the Roll Up Drum Pad features 10 different drum sounds, foot pedals, drum sticks, record and playback options, and more. Plus it rolls right up for easy transport. Get the party started!
The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.