And buying a gift for them makes your heart quake with terror.
Fear not, gentle friends. Tweens are not another species. They are just changing. (My daughter is so tired of me saying that.) I believe it is possible to get them a gift for Christmas that won't get returned. (Hi! I'm Kelly! I'm hopelessly optimistic!)
This list was put together with help from my own 11-year-old daughter and a dear friend who has three boys between the ages of 12 and 16. Experience breeds confidence, yes? And talking to real tweens (and teens) about what they want means it's credible.
One note before we begin: My friend and I have ulterior motives with these gifts. We don't just want to delight the tweens in our life; we want to draw them in, to build relationships with them and get to know them. So we've weighted gifts that allow us to scheme for quality time.
Shall we start with the boys?
1. Army Surplus
Your local army surplus store is tween boy heaven.
Not only do they have all kinds of trinkets and gear, like customizable dog tags, Navy SEAL iron-on patches, compasses, camo hats and flight jackets, but they have male-friendly storage containers, also known as retired ammo boxes. My friend says her boys use those beat-up metal boxes to store everything from Legos to books to video games at her house. Genius gift. Cool and practical. (If you can't find an army surplus store near you - maybe you live in Berkley? - you can always shop online.)
2. Airsoft Gear
If you are a pacifist, look away. LOOK AWAY! But if you are the parent or relative of a tween boy, you probably already know what I'm going to say: Airsoft is hugely popular with boys between the ages of 9 and 19. For the uninitiated: it's basically a BB gun that shoots tiny plastic beads. Boys will spend hours chasing each other through the woods seeking nothing more than the thrill of putting the hurt on their friend or sibling. You can find Airsoft gear at your local sporting goods store or, again, online.
3. Fan Gear
Think outside of the pro sports team box here. What about a local minor league baseball team? Or a sport that doesn't get as much attention in your area? Or - my favorite - what about gear for the high school they'll someday attend? Talk about a great way to build up your community.
This ties directly back to scheming to get quality time. Instead of a gift that might break in a week or get returned the next day, buy tickets to an upcoming game, be it pro, semi or high school. Buy passes for that movie that you know he wants to see and go with him. (Hint: The Hobbit opens December 14.) Hit up some balls at a batting cage. Sprain your ankle at an indoor trampoline park. Give him a gift card to his favorite store - but then promise to take him on that shopping trip and go for burgers and fries afterwards. Experiences are priceless to tweens, and your investment in that relationship is the real gift.
BONUS: Stocking Stuffers for Tween Boys
- portable iPod speakers
- iTunes gift card
- handheld video games like this Simon Electronic Carabiner
- action-oriented games like Bop It
On to the girls. A quick note. These ideas - and more - were originally published in my Gift Guide for Tween Girls. You can always check that out if these highlights don't strike your fancy.
1. Digital Camera
This is what we got Natalie for her birthday this year: a purple (color is critical to tween girls) Kodak EasyShare Mini Digital Camera.
It's been a great gift; the EasyShare is user-friendly, small, lightweight and not pricey. But really, any camera similar to it would work.
2. Scrapbook Kit
If the tween girl in your life already has a camera, the logical next step is to record those memories. My daughter loves crafts, ao a physical scrapbook would be the easiest entry point.
Try something like the American Girl Crafts Super Scrapbook Kit. (All of the American Girl Crafts are high quality, I've found.) Or, if the girl you're buying for isn't into stickers and glue, you could always move directly to digital scrapbooking. Getting her a gift card to an online photo site like Shutterfly or Snapfish would let her create a photo book of her best friends, her summer adventures or even her Christmas break.
3. Funky Furniture
A few years ago, Natalie was given a (purple) chair for her birthday. It's similar to this hang-a-round chair at Pottery Barn Teens.
It's round and cozy and foldable, so it's easy to move or store. It's the perfect place to curl up on a rainy Saturday and read a book or three. (Or a great place to keep your Shriveled Balloon Collection, which is what Natalie's chair is doing right now. Keeping it real, folks.) Pottery Barn's chair is obviously a tad high on the price spectrum, but you can find all sorts of fun chairs or beanbags at Target, Wal-Mart or Ikea. I would never have thought of giving furniture as a gift, but done right, it can be practical and cool.
4. Activity for Two
Find an activity your girl loves - or something that will challenge her to learn something new. Social media sites like Groupon and Living Social can be fun for this; they offer great deals on services or experiences you might not have considered. What about an afternoon of paddle boarding? Or rock climbing lessons? Tickets to a Circque de Soleil show? Take her to tea. Go get a pedicure. Go on a sleigh ride. Give her a gift card and then take her shopping for some new boots. Again, the time you spend together will be the real gift - for both of you.
BONUS: Stocking Stuffers for Tween Girls
- fun tights
- lipgloss, nail polish, bubble bath
- Gussy Sews hair accessories or seasonal zipped pouch
- small Starbucks tumbler
- fuzzy socks or slippers
- Perfectly Unique, a fun and fresh look at aligning our body image with God's view of us, by the irrepressible and talented Annie Downs
Looking for more gift ideas? Have I got a deal for you! Some of my favorite blogging friends are posting gift guides today, each with its own flavor and speciality. Take a gander.
Sarah Bessey : Sarah's Favourite Things
Sorta Crunchy : Natural and Eco-Friendly Gifts for Family and Friends
The BlahBlahBlahger : Gifts for Wine Lovers
O My Family : Gifts for Toddlers
Joy In This Journey : Healthy Gifts
Kelly Sauer : Gifts for the Photographer