Best Toys & Gifts for 12 Year Old Boys (a VERY picky list)

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on April 18th, 2023

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Are you clenching your teeth as you browse the internet, searching for that gift that will evoke excitement instead of eye rolls from your twelve-year-old? While we haven’t officially crunched the numbers, we can safely estimate that you are one of, oh let’s say, millions of adults in the same position. It turns out that shopping for a tween is just one of those universally tricky experiences. Luckily for you, we are total nerds, and great presents are some of our favorite things to research. Here are ten gift ideas for 12 year old boys that will allow you to relax your jaw and make some great memories with your special little man.

Our top picks of gift ideas for 12 year old boys


Our opinion

Is your boy so ready to be a famous director that he has one foot out the door to Los Angeles? Well, we might just have found a gift that will quell that wanderlust for a few more years. This Minecraft Stop-Animation Kit (check price on Amazon) includes one stage and several backdrops where he can lay his scene with the included mini-figures and props. Just remember, access to a smartphone is a must with this toy, as there is a free app he will need to download in order to film and edit his saga.

Why He’ll Love It: Whether he is a Minecraft fan, a film fan, or both, he will love creating his own stories and putting them on camera.


Our opinion

Anyone who lives with a twelve-year-old boy can attest to the fact that their need for speed is real. This Razor Dune Buggy (check price on Amazon) will surely give him some thrills, but don’t worry; the 9 MPH speed limit isn’t quite fast enough to mandate you having a cardiologist on your speed dial. It also has a bucket seat with a safety belt, a handbrake, a durable steel frame, a rear suspension system, and can support kids who weigh up to 120 lbs. All of these components make for a comfortable and safe ride, so your heart can rest easy. That said, it feels fast, and that’s why it’s our top pick motorized ride-on toy for kids over ten.

Why He’ll Love It: This dune buggy will bring countless memories of great outdoor fun. We can pretty much guarantee that this is a gift he will one day tell his own kids about.


Our opinion

Does your boy give you odd looks when you regale him with stories of photographs being actual, physical things you could display and not just images on a screen? Well, clearly it’s time to clue him into the fun we used to have with our pictures! The PIC0300 (check price on Amazon) works just like the Polaroids of old, with a few modern twists. The included flash makes lower light photos possible, and there are four settings to make sure your boy gets the best shots in any lighting condition. Although the photos are only the size of business cards, he is sure to find lots of innovative ways to display them.

Why He’ll Love It: Whether he is into selfies, scenic shots, or taking photos with his buddies, he will love the old-school-meets-modern-tech feel of this camera.


Our opinion

In this day and age, coding is an extremely valuable skill. In fact, some people even consider learning it to be as important as learning other languages. So if your boy loves tinkering with computers, it’s certainly something you want to encourage. With over sixty included projects, along with step-by-step instructions, this coding activity set (check price on Amazon) works with Windows, Mac, and Chromebook computers.

Why He’ll Love It: As he works through each project, he will have the gratification of seeing his hard work manifest itself in front of his eyes. Plus, it’s a pretty great skill to use to impress relatives, teachers, and friends.


Our opinion

The Sphero app-controlled robot ball (check price on Amazonis a game changer. This is definitely not an ordinary ball. He can create obstacle courses with his friends by drawing a track with the app. The ball will replicate the course design in real life. It has a Bluetooth connection up to one hundred feet. He can reinvent classic board games with the app!

Why He’ll Love It: This ball has a high-tech version of hot potato that is sure to get a laugh out of friends and family.


Our opinion

Are you living with next Frank Lloyd Wright? Or maybe you know a special boy who is fascinated by building models? If either of these is the case, your tween will get endless entertainment out of this LEGO NYC kit (check price on Amazon). With 598 pieces, your boy can build models of the Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center, Flatiron Building, and the Empire State Building. That’s a pretty impressive skyline for him to display in his room.

Why He’ll Love It: There’s nothing quite as satisfying as being able to show your hard work off to the world, and LEGO is a brand that lets your tween do just that.


Our opinion

The Boon Glo Night Light (check price on Amazon) proves that no one is ever too old for some extra light in life. Never!

Okay, so the picture shows a 2-year-old, but trust us, this is a perfect gift for a 12-year-old, too. When Boon made these nightlights they didn’t anticipate them becoming a smash hit with tween and teens. But this is just what’s happened.

The removable balls are glow with a moody multicolored light and are safe to carry from room to room. The light will gently fade 30 minutes after activated. He will never stub his toe again or break a glass when getting water.

Why He’ll Love It: The night light will make it easier for him to drink out of the milk carton in the middle of the night.


Our opinion

We adults all have our favorite spots to rest. A comfy recliner, a plush sofa, a warm bed with a tub of ice cream. Hey, we’ve all been there; parenting is tricky. But being a kid can be kind of tricky, too, so maybe it’s time to find your little man his own relaxation retreat.

The UltimaX Beans in this Big Joe Bean Bag Chair (check price on Amazon) are secured with double stitching and zippers, so you won’t have to worry about anything escaping its fabric confines. Available in three colors, they are soft, lightweight, and can be moved from room to room with ease. Now if only our beds were that portable…

Why He’ll Love It: A supportive backrest means that he can comfortably sit while reading, playing video games, or just chilling with his buddies. Just remind him to call dibs on this cozy chair when he as company over!


Our opinion

Here’s a great way for your boy to have his own vehicle without needing a helmet, keys, or even a seatbelt. With a front and rear suspension system, triple motor feature, and huge tires, this remote controlled car (check price on Amazon) can conquer outdoor terrain with ease. It is easy to steer and runs on AA and AAA batteries.

Why He’ll Love It: It rolls right over rugged surfaces, so he can drive it almost anywhere outside. Plus, with the tri-channel transmitter, his friends can race their cars together without the signals getting crossed. So, who’s up for some Mini Nascar racing?


Our opinion

Trust us; the struggle is real for your boy when he is involved in a Nerf war with his pals. If he needs to up his weaponry, this Nerf Elite Hyperfire Blaster (check price on Amazon) present will win you some serious points with your tween. When your kiddo needs to make a precision shot, he can pull the trigger to loose a single dart. If he is in a situation that calls for a little more firepower, he can hold down the trigger and rapid-fire five darts every second. With a 90 foot range, he is sure to emerge the champion of any battle.

Why He’ll Love It: To the victor go the spoils, and with this Nerf blaster, your boy will be certainly be collecting his share.


Our opinion

If your young man loves games, especially those that involve a little luck and a lot of strategy, Catan is something that just might help keep Family Game Night alive. As an award-winning product, you can bank on the fact that Catan (check price on Amazon) has tons of replay value and engages people of all ages. This game is perfect for sleepovers, rainy days, holiday gatherings, or even camping trips.

Why He’ll Love It: The rounds are short, around sixty minutes, so he won’t ever lose interest and walk away mid-play. Plus, each time he breaks out Catan, there is a different experience to be had.


Our opinion

Your tween doesn’t have to be an expert in engineering to enjoy this activity; it’s perfect for beginners looking to learn. There is plenty of open-ended play to be had, but the Tinkering Labs Electric Motors Stem Kit (check price on Amazon) also comes with Challenge Cards. These cards offer suggestions, such as ‘Invent a tool that can cut paper’, without giving step-by-step directions. Everything needed for your boy to conquer the cards’ objects, as well as to make his own unique inventions, comes included with this set.

Why He’ll Love It: Whether he is creating on his own or with a group, he will be able to construct virtually anything he wants. Well, almost anything; little siblings can rest easy knowing that, despite what he may say, he cannot build their replacement.


Our opinion

Extreme Jenga (check price on Amazon) is an amazing way to play a board game and be active. This will make an epic family game night. Who will have the advantage? The shorter stable players or the tall strategic players. This giant hardwood Jenga game starts at 2 feet and can soar over 5 feet. It comes with sports tournament charts to make these epic competitive battles. Come one, come all to the giant Jenga challenge!

Why He’ll Love It: They are huge blocks and he can create other fun and challenging games with his friends.


Our opinion

PlayStation virtual reality lets your gamer infiltrate his favorite games. Sony PlayStation VR (check price on Amazon) comes with a headset, headphones, demo disk, and essential cords. You can plug this into your system to experience a completely new video game experience. The vivid images and 3D audio will have you feeling like you are in a different world.

Why He’ll Love It: Your kiddo will love showing his friends his new virtual reality system. This headset is perfect for gaming and watching videos.


Our opinion

Bad boy, bad boy, whatcha gonna do? This book (check price on Amazon) answers that question and more! The text is easy to read and rather silly. This book answers that question and more! The text is easy to read and very silly. Your 12-year-old will love learning how to find treasure and how much it would cost to buy the world’s most expensive cars.

Why He’ll Love It: He’ll love immersing himself in a world of ridiculous hypotheticals. This book contains answers to life’s most riddling questions. What more could a 12-year-old want?


Our opinion

Your budding engineer will love this DIY engine-making kit (check price on Amazon). It’s essentially a 100-piece puzzle with a realistic-sounding ignition and light-up spark plugs. The instruction manual is super detailed and easy to read. When the engine is complete, it will make real engine sounds.

Why He’ll Love It: When he is finished, he will be able to explain how internal combustion engines work. He may even use his newfound skills to do a little mechanical work. Make sure you specify that your car is off limits.


Our opinion

The Altair 818 Hornet Beginner Drone (check price on Amazon) drone offers 30 minutes of flying time. It is also equipped with a high-definition camera. As such, it is easy to capture videos of each flight. Kids find it easy to stabilize and direct the 818 in midair. There are very few camera drones that come in at such as low price.

Why He’ll Love It: He will be thrilled to record videos from a birds-eye view. Not to mention, he’ll find that the 818 is super easy to launch and control.


Our opinion

Despite most parents pleas for peace, most little boys love playing with weapons. Fortunately, the Marky Sparky Faux Bow (check price on Amazon) are safe for young ones to use. They are also capable of being propelled over 100 feet.

Why He’ll Love It: He will love stacking his bow tip quiver with extra arrows. However, he probably won’t enjoy making the long trip to retrieve his toy.


Our opinion

This amazing Boys’ Book Of Survival (check price on Amazon) provides tips for surviving everything from school dances to snake bites. The author, Guy Campbell, provides instructions for surviving “anything, anywhere.” The author’s underlying message is to use common sense. Still, these clever tips might help your kiddo get out of an adverse situation.

Why He’ll Love It: Your little dude will love flexing his survival skills. He may even score some helpful tips on the chapter about surviving a shopping trip with mom.


Our opinion

The SCUF Vantage 2 Controller (check price on Amazon) lets your kiddo tailor his gaming experience by altering his controller. The controller has a traditional paddle design with a textured nonslip grip for improved comfort and control. The remote comes with a large collection of customizable parts. Your kiddo can use the parts to remap the paddle’s front, rear, and sides. He can even change the height and shape of his thumbsticks.

Why He’ll Love It: Your kiddo will be thrilled to customize his new PS4 controller using the 60 removable magnetic faceplates and interchangeable parts. The SCUF Vantage 2 is engineered for performance-oriented gaming.

What to expect from your 12 year old boy

If puberty hasn’t already begun to rear its acne prone face, it is with great regret that we inform you that it is coming very soon. As such, you might notice your boy being a little moodier and becoming a little more distant. It is the beginning of a period of his life where he may scoff at the idea of family time, instead preferring to hang out with his buddies.

Just remember, puberty will pass and your boy still loves you, even when he pushes you away.

While every child grows at different rates, here are some milestones to keep an eye out for:

Body, hand and finger skills

  • Eyes mature, both sizewise and in functionality;
  • Intermittent growth spurts may cause temporary clumsiness;
  • Small muscles continue development

Emotional development

  • Often thinks in black and white terms;
  • Difficulty accepting praise from authority figures;
  • May have self-esteem issues due to the physical effects of puberty;
  • Growing interest in girls

Cognitive development

  • Engages in more abstract thinking;
  • Planning ahead becomes easier;
  • Has a need to be considered an adult;
  • Needs to sleep for longer periods of time to recharge

Wrapping up

Never will gift giving be as hard as it is during the next few years. As your boy begins to round the corner into adulthood, he wants to feel respected as the unique person he is while still needing to express himself and expand his mind through play. Finding activities and toys for 12 year old boys that meet these needs can often seem like an uphill battle. Just remember to look for things that speak to his interests, games that can be done in groups, and gifts that make learning fun.

And always remember that, even as he strives to become a dignified, responsible man, no one ever has to outgrow their love of a little playtime.

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on April 18th, 2023

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Gifts toys 12-year-old boys