The Best Gifts for 11-Year-Olds

Like the bassist in Spinal Tap, your kid has turned it up to 11. Finding age-appropriate gifts for 11-year-old boys and girl can be one long, compounded exercise in frustration — while toddlers are engaged by problem-solving of almost any kind, older kids have their own well-developed interests to consider. The best toys for 11-year-olds, who are caught in that sometimes-tricky spot between little kid and adolescent, should acknowledge that they’re morphing into independent people with their own pursuits and developing social lives.

That makes finding the right gift a challenge — in part because the best birthday gift ideas will be dependent on the specific interests of the 11-year-old in question. Some cling to childhood and some blossom quite suddenly into full tweendom. Most, however, swing wildly back and forth between mature and immature behaviors — and remain more than happy to play with a good toy.

Related: Gift Ideas for 10-Year-Olds

Our favorite toys for 11-year-olds encourage the development of their critical thinking and social skills. Yes, devices are fine. It’s the way of the world. But sometimes (okay, as often as possible), it’s a good idea to leave the devices behind and get kids out in the world and doing something that involves real-world interactions with actual people. Here are the coolest, most developmentally appropriate toys and gifts that the 11-year-old in your life will love.

The Best Toys for 11-Year-Olds

Robotics sounds boring. It's not. And there's no better way to prove that than with this kit, which has tweens building and programming robots. They use sensors, motors, a core controller, and hundreds of snap-together building pieces to assemble ten different robots. And then, they make the robots do their bidding using an app.

If you're struggling to get your tween to look up from her phone, this kit should do the trick. Kids hand-draw whatever they want, and then turn the drawings into video games. How? They snap a pic of the drawing, and then play an animated version of it on a phone or tablet.

Need to get your tween off the phone AND out of the damn house? This should do the trick. It's a skateboard that is cut to resemble a real surfboard, also mimics the feel of surfing. It supports riders up to 220 pounds.

Weighing less than five cans of soup, this travel telescope turns anyone into an astronomer. It has high-quality, fully-coated glass optics, a powerful 70mm objective lens, a lightweight frame, and a custom backpack. It comes with two high-quality eyepieces (20mm and 10mm) that provide low- and high-power views of celestial objects at night and terrestrial objects during the day. So kids can see stars and birds and so much else, oh my.

We truly do not care how mature your tween thinks she is. Because once you turn your yard into a massive foam party, all bets are off. This insane thing is also easy to use: Assemble the stand, connect the hose, and it gets to work. Each refill bottle provides about two hours of foamy good times.

Every great foam party deserves great tunes, and this little speaker delivers. It's IPX7 waterproof, has 10 hours of playtime, and connects to backpacks via the handy carabiner.

A quippy phrase. An inspiring quote. Or just their name. This lightbox is USB-powered and lets tweens create their own personalized DIY signs.

Imagine being an alien stranded on Earth, so you must find your ship before it's destroyed. And you do so by using your mad alien skills to solve puzzles, break in and find it without being a prisoner of Area 51. Yeah, it's as cool as it sounds.

NatGeo's kits are best in class. This one is no exception. Kids choose between 45 experiments and learn to build and erupt a volcano, create a geyser, launch a rocket, and cause crazy chemical reactions. Everything can be done using household items.

Through screen-free coding charms, kids learn about algorithms, encryption, puzzling, sequencing, and variables. How, you might wonder? By making 10 keychain charms. They choose from 18 designs, and code 15 keychains using fuse beads. The kit includes 2,000 fuse beads, a pegboard, a tweezer, reusable iron sheets, 15 key chain clips, and 15 oval hooks.

If your tween is crochet-curious, this is the best kit to get. It's cute, accessible, and not remotely intimidating. Choose whatever critter they want to create, and they get to work; the kit includes a pre-started crochet piece, yarn, stuffing, a tapestry needle, and anything else they need to get this done.

First, you build a truly eery dollhouse. And then, you must escape from it. The clues are challenging. The secret items are, well, puzzling. And there's a handy solution wheel. It's a mental workout and a great group activity.

At this age, tweens start to journal and this kit lets them do it on their own terms. They get a 70-sheet spiral journal to include, plus stickers, gems, glitter frames and magnetic bookmarks to personalize it.

Sick of nagging your tween to clean the room? And is your tween sick of your nagging? Solve the issue (or at least try to resolve it) with this magical reusable white board. You simply attach the film to an actual, regular white board. Write on the film. Then, digitize whatever is written. And erase and reuse. It's a nice and fun way to open communication channels, and it's a smarter way for your tween to get a message across: Stay out of my room.

This epically cool blaster has an easy-load magazine, trigger lock, tactical rail, and ready indicator. It looks just like the one toted by bounty hunter Boba Fett, and comes with a wearable fabric Boba Fett insignia patch.

If your kid dreams of one day working for Pixar...well, this kit should get him or her started. They can use anything they have on hand to create animated films, be it Legos, paper, clay, blocks, what have you. And the kit includes an HD USB camera with microphone, a mini stage with background and 'green screen'; and stop motion software with time-lapse features, sound effects and backdrops. And, scene.

There's a lot to love about this combination logic game, marble run, and STEM toy. Marbles, STEM, and higher order thinking? What else could a toy have? The 60 challenges included in this package mean there are hours of fun and learning to be had, as kids begin with simple tasks that get progressively harder, all using simple components (towers, a target piece, a grid, and three marbles).

This ridiculously awesome 910-piece set of bricks turn into buildable, posable tyrannosaurus rex, triceratops and pteranodon skeleton models with displays stands. Fitting for any budding paleontologist.

Kids can program this app-enabled robot ball to roll along whatever path they set for it. The possibilities are infinite: turning through a maze, pushing a toy sailboat across the bath, accelerating across a homemade bridge... This is a true STEM toy that teaches logic, coding, and robotics, first by using easy-to-learn coding blocks that build toward writing original JavaScript code.

These metal letters light up, and they add a totally industrial-cool vibe to any room. Get one letter. Or get enough to spell out a name or a word. Each one is nearly 10 inches tall.

Kids can turn any sunny space into their own experimental darkroom by making sun prints of flowers, action figures... you name it. Sunlight exposes the specially treated paper, creating a perfect silhouette of any object laid on the paper. This kit comes with 15 8x12-inch sheets, which adds up to hours and hours of outdoor fun for restless kids this summer.

It's a bird that's a drone. Or a drone that's a bird. A simple remote is used to control the creature, and it has autonomous obstacle recognition and will automatically turn around six feet away from a wall. Disaster averted.

Back before we had the Oculus or the Xbox or the Switch, we had the basic Nintendo set, in all its glory. The thing made history and retains a true retro flair. And it comes to life with this 2,646-piece model, which is an '80s-style TV displaying the classic Super Mario game.

This extremely popular electronics exploration kit comes with everything kids need to learn about electricity and circuits. In terms of play time for the price, this toy is an excellent value. It's also just a really clever toy, with components labeled as they would be in a physics textbook's circuit diagrams and the ability to add even more to the more than 30 included modules. That includes working models of a photo sensor, a flashing light, and a siren with an adjustable volume. Best of all, these click together and the instructions are easy to follow.

Speaking of lights, these change colors, are remote-controlled, and have clips so your tween can hang photos and other stuff that means something.

Aspiring engineers can learn all about structural integrity and problem-solving when they build their own bridges, learning along the way how bridges are designed to provide massive weight support over great distances. Kids get the tools needed to build nine working models of bridges, including a beam bridge, arch bridge, truss bridge, cable-stayed bridge, and suspension bridge.

Kids can channel their inner vikings with this indoor axe-throwing game. The foam axes attach to the target, but won't damage furniture or walls. It's a great way for kids to work off some energy when stuck indoors.

This sweet wall-mounted pinboard is a perfect place for your tween to display photos of friends, mementos, and other stuff that means something to him or her.

If your kid needs regular earbuds, these come in cool colors and have 24 hours of battery life. They have built-in Tile tech, so they won't go missing, and they're IP55 sweat, water and dust resistant.

The Rubik's cube remains ever-popular, but it's something that you used to only be able to play on your own, so it's gets tiresome. Not anymore. With this app-enabled Rubik’s cube, kids solve it, solve it some more, level up, keep solving it, and connect with an entire community of fellow gamers. It has 60 hours of play time on a single charge, so it keeps them busy for days, not hours.

Kids this age really focus on room decor, and this cuddly little pillow is a perfect accent. It might even encourage your tween to make her bed.

This fun, colorful camera proves that sometimes, old-school snaps are still the best. It's point and shoot, and can shoot a photo while also printing an existing shot. It has a light sensor that will automatically turn on the flash in low-light settings; the camera prints 2 x 3 inch photos using zero-ink paper that's tear-proof.

Pick the controller for whatever type of device you have (Android, or Apple) and let your kid do the rest. It's ergonomic, easy to use, intuitive, and has zero latency because it connects directly to your device’s charging port.

Kids are natural scientists, whose primary job is to try to understand the world around them — but only a microscope lets them dive into the teeming wilderness of an invisible realm they'll never tire of exploring. This dual-scope microscope, from the makers of real scientific tools, lets kids zoom in on either prepared slides or solid objects, such as insect wings or coins, and study them at 400X magnification. The microscope is lightweight and can be used both inside in the “lab” and outside mid-adventure.

A great toy means kids never run out of ideas, or get bored. Like this toy, which lets kids build and rebuild endless robotic creations with a single kit. The Electric Motors Catalyst gives kids an introduction to electronics, but it's also ceaselessly generative: Kids can use their hands to build anything they can think up by using the motors, wires, and battery pack, without limit or instruction.

Either your kid already has a phone, or is constantly using yours to take pictures. Let them print them up fast and easy with this handy Fujifilm printer. Kids can easily edit and print photos from your (or their) smartphone.

So your kid is into her or his Switch? Yup, we get it. Now, in a brilliant mashup of gaming and remote control cars, they can run an actual Mario Kart at home. They customize the course using whatever is around, be it pillows or plants or pots or pans. And the course comes to life in different in-game environments like jungles and snowscapes.

Not only is this Bluetooth speaker water-resistant, which is pretty obvious. But it can be immersed in up to three feet of water and come out swinging. Your tween will love it and might even be encouraged to bathe. More often.

A sleek metallic backpack never gets old. This one fits a 13 inch laptop, folders and books, and a lunchbox. Plus, it has a front pocket perfect for pens, pencils, wallet, keys, and personal items, and a side pocket for a water bottle. But all that aside, it just looks damn cool.

Traditionally, this symbol wards off bad vibes. Something anyone can appreciate. These earrings are made from either external 14K gold or rhodium plated with internal sterling silver. Because each stud is sold individually, you can mix and match.

It's charm school. No, really. Kids get 249 charms, as well as pins and pencils, to create three chain bracelets, 16 stretch bracelets, six pencil toppers, three pins, and a chain necklace. It's crafting and design, next level.

Tweens love anything personalized. And this case delivers. Made from bio-degradable PU, it has an anti-sleep function and camera fold. Choose from a slew of fonts and colors to add nicknames, monograms, and words to make each case utterly unique. Like your kid.

Kids who have maybe possibly outgrown Legos will dig these intricate building blocks. They're from designer James Paulius and the challenge isn't just to create a livable space, but to do so without having everything come tumbling down.

One of the coolest guitars we've ever doth seen, this one is a real six-string and has a corresponding app that helps teach tweens to play, for real. The body is made of basswood and the strings are made of steel.

By age 11, kids are really starting to take care of their skin, and create a skin care regimen. This unthreatening and colorful set makes it easy to set up a routine that can last a lifetime. There's a papaya-based cleanser, lemon honey AHA pads, and a cooling gel moisturizer. This particular brand stands out because it excludes 1,300+ dubious ingredients banned by the EU from its products.

Bubble tea is divine. And this kit lets kids make their own. There are two flavors of tea — classic black and rooibos chai — as well as tapioca pearls, and two reusable stainless steel straws. Just add milk.

Gamers, rejoice: This exceptionally comfortable headset, with passive noise cancellation, has immersive sound, a detachable, noise-cancelling microphone, and is compatible with the PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices.

From the classic Ravensburger line of GraviTrax toys, a starter set to get the uninitiated on the right track. Modular and interactive, without using a single electron of plug-in power, gravity does all the work here, once kids and parents have designed and built their own elaborate marble runs. Lets kids explore physics, kinetics, and magnetism while racing marbles and having fun trying to engineer faster and wilder tracks. More than 100 pieces and 18 different construction elements, so there's plenty to keep enterprising kids busy.

What 11-year-old doesn't want to command an army of insects to crawl all over and conquer their opponent's hive? A boardless board game that kids can take anywhere — fit together tough, octagonal tiles emblazoned with soldier ants, grasshoppers, spiders, and beetles to capture your opponent's queen bee. This is basically bug chess, a great strategy-building game for tweens that's also indestructible. Perfect for road trips and family vacations. Kids can build up their swarm with expansion sets.

STEM toys like this one teach your kids about robotics by way of vibrant mythical fire-breathing beasts. The UBTECH JIMU Robot comes with a corresponding app that allows kids to follow directions to create a buildable, codable robot or invent their own. They use the Blockly coding platform to code this epic creature. It's the STEM version of 'Game of Thrones.'

Devices are great. Devices are fine. But an old-school high-quality art set? That's divine. Little else builds creativity like putting pens and pencils to paper. Kids can do that and much more with this set, which includes 24 colored pencils, 24 oil pastels, 24 watercolor cakes, 60 wax crayons, three mixing trays, two drawing pencils, two paintbrushes, sharpener, ruler, eraser, plus multiple drawing pads.

Turn a pretend spa day into a secret science project. This kit will please even a picky tween. Kids use the kit to create DIY bath and body treatments, from a refreshing facial mask to soothing mermaid shimmer gel and relaxing bubble bath bonbons. The recipes are simple and mostly call for ingredients you have around the house. A great lesson in making things from scratch and seeing how ingredients come together.

This swing is quick-drying, perfect for pile-ons, and able to support 150 pounds of human. .

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