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Best Gifts for 11-Year-Olds

Make your new tween happy with a birthday gift that's fun, interesting, and, dare we say, cool.

Like the amplifiers from Spinal Tap, your kid has reached 11. Elementary school is drawing to a close, but the difficulties of adolescence are hopefully still a bit further away. The best toys for 11-year-olds acknowledge that they’re morphing into independent people who are developing more intricate and important social lives. That means birthday gift ideas are tricky; we’re here to help you find the best gifts, even for 11-year-old girls and boys who have everything.

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 other people.

Here are some of our favorite birthday gift ideas — toys and products chosen for their potential to help kids develop mentally and socially.

There's a lot to love about this combination logic game, marble run, and STEM toy.

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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).

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.

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You’ll never use one of those tired drugstore printing stations again. With this photo printer, kids send their best photos from the app to SP-2 via wifi connection. They can also print Images from Instagram and Facebook accounts.

And now, an even cooler way to draw. This time, you click to extrude heated plastic which hardens fast, allowing kids to draw in 3D, freehand, or over stencils.

This is one hell of a 3D pen. It gives you an ultra-smooth and enhanced doodling experience. It’s faster and more durable than its predecessors for art you can make however you want.

Yes, slime feels gross. Yes, slime is messy. Do kids love slime? Of course they do.

In case this somehow passed you by, kids love slime. And this NatGeo set includes eight varieties of slime and putty including premade magnetic putty, fluffy slime, glow-in-the-dark putty, liquid slime, color-changing putty, snotty slime, bouncing putty, plus storage tins. 

Aspiring engineers can learn all about structural integrity when they build bridges Bridges and figure out how they're designed to provide massive weight support.

Kids get the tools needed to build nine working models, including a beam bridge, arch bridge, truss bridge, cable-stayed bridge, and suspension bridge.

This fairly genius Lego kit includes 847 pieces that kids can build and rebuild into five cool multifunctional robot models. Kids can tinker and tinker and tinker some more.

Kids this age can build and code Vernie the robot to get him to dance, rock out on the Guitar4000, hang out with Frankie the Cat, interact with the Autobuilder, or explore a new discovery with the M.T.R.4. You need the app to make the robot work. 

This textile-themed game combines strategic thinking with quick gameplay to create a fun experience for kids and adults alike.

One to four players can play this game, so it’s great for family game nights and solo gameplay alike. And with games lasting just 30 minutes, there’s minimal risk of kids getting bored with the game as they might in those more complex games that are designed to last hours.

The rules are simple. You squish the mini Playfoam into one of two flexible, non-stick, silicone molds, then press to pop and play.

Before you ask, the Playfoam won’t trash your rugs or furniture. The goal here is to create Playfoam accessories and have others guess what you made. That makes for good fun with a hands-on toy.

This robotic arm can be built and wired without a soldering iron, and once it's done there's a wired remote they can use to rotate, raise and lower, and pinch it.

This toy is right in the sweet spot. The build process is more intensive than building toys like K’Nex without being so difficult that kids will get discouraged. And once it’s done, your kid has an awesome robotic arm and, once they use it to pick up and move something, a real sense of satisfaction.

A boardless board game that kids can take anywhere — lock together tough, octagonal tiles emblazoned with soldier ants, grasshoppers, spiders, and beetles to capture your opponent's queen bee.

What 11-year-old doesn’t want to command an army of insects to crawl all over and conquer their opponent’s hive? 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.

Turn a pretend spa day into a secret science project. Kids use the kit to create DIY bath and body treatments.

Kids use the kit to make a refreshing facial mask, soothing Mermaid Shimmer Gel and relaxing Bubble Bath Bonbons. You can use simple recipes, plus stuff you have around the house. A great lesson in making things from scratch and seeing how ingredients come together.

Kids love baking. And if you don't mind the cleanup, get this kit and create a delicious constellation of tiny cupcakes.

This baking kit includes everything you need to make 20 irresistible mini cupcakes. We’re talking spatula, pastry brush, mixing spoon, 12 silicone mini baking cups, a metal baking tray, and four recipe cards. The brand makes a slew of different kits for every taste. Baking is messy, so don’t be uptight about it.

We love Klutz sets because they're self-contained, they're fun, and they teach you a ton of stuff. Like this crystal-growing kit, which 11-year-olds can then turn into jewelry.

Kids grow crystals, which is a pretty cool experiment in and of itself. And once you have crystals, you use them to make your own jewelry. You can showcase your crystal creations as necklaces, rings, and a pair of earrings. It’s open-ended creativity at its best.

This comprehensive set comes with everything kids need to stage epic robot battles with their friends.

A variety of weapons, armor, and wheels come with this set, so kids can strategize and assemble the bot they think has the best chance of winning in the arena. Once the bots are ready to go, kids can have epic remote-controlled battles with their friends.

This extremely popular electronics exploration kit comes with everything kids need to learn about electricity and circuits along with a 4.8-star average rating over nearly 6,000 (!) reviews.

For not that much cash you get a kit with over 100 different projects for kids to do, so 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.

This toy has all the fun of a Nerf blaster without the tedium of manual loading.

Speed-Load technology means you don’t have to slide darts in one-by-one. Instead, simply slide them into the 30round drum and it will load them automatically, even while firing. The blaster is also motorized, so kids don’t have to worry about pumping their blaster.

One of our favorite Lego sets is the Goldilocks of the toy's Star Wars line: complicated enough to be challenging but not so crazy that you'll need to take out a loan to buy it.

It’s the freaking Millennium Falcon, so whether you’ve raised your kid right and they love the original trilogy or are more into Solo, this kit should appeal. It’s 1,414 pieces are enough for a lot of build time with enough nooks and crannies to stay interesting for a while.

Science class has never been so delicious. Kids make chewy jelly candies, crystal rock candy, chocolates, lollipops, plus they test for sugar, and see how everything dissolves.

Yes, all kids love dessert. Now they get to make their own and see how it gets made. The edible candy kitchen science kit is filled with over 40 experiments, and kids can see how the garbage they consume (sorry, we meant chocolate) actually comes into being.

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. 

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