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.
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The Best Tech Toys for 11-Year-Olds
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.
You probably held out as long as you could, but your kid now has a phone. So he or she needs earbuds. But kids misplace everything, and these come with built-in Tile technology so you'll know where they are. Plus, they have 24 hours of battery life.
Part STEM challenge, part classic brain-twister, this smart cube lets players learn how to solve the cube via the app, and track their electronic cube progress. They get stats to help them improve their solve times, and they can battle it out with other gamers online. The cube levels up as the player improves his or her performance. Meaning, a toy that never gets old (or boring).
Ryze makes very expensive drones. But here's a beginner one that's great for kids. First off, it shoots incredible photos and videos and has a maximum flight time of 13 minutes. Kids can share videos to social media from their smartphones. Its two antennas make video transmission extra stable. And it performs a ton of tricks.
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.
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.
The Best Creative Toys for 11-Year-Olds
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.
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.
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.
If your 11-year-old can focus and follow basic directions, he or she can easily use this creator pen to make 3D drawings that jump off the page. It's insanely easy to use: Just plug it in, insert the plastic, wait for the pen to heat up, and start extruding. The plastic does get warm, but we're confident kids in fifth grade can understand that concept.
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.
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.
The Best STEM Toys for 11-Year-Olds
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
It may be a minute before self-driving cars are a reality for humans, but meanwhile, this utterly amazing robot car fills in the gap. Kids learn all about artificial intelligence (AI) by training Zumi to navigate any environment; the more she learns, the more adept she becomes at finding her way around. The very clear lesson platform walks kids through writing code. Oh and this cute little vehicle has a built-in 720p camera for object tracking and facial detection. There's a 60 minute battery life per charge.
An innovative blend of STEM and design, these stickers light up when placed on a surface. How? It's thanks to the use of conductive tape to draw circuits on paper. Kids get a STEM lesson as they craft, and the stickers can be used on a slew of different surfaces: Paper, fabric, plastic, what have you.
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.
The Best Active Toys for 11-Year-Olds
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.
You can buy your average rocket launcher, the one you see in every park in every neighborhood. Or you can up the ante with this one. Each foam-tipped rocket is equipped with LED lights, which can be turned on and off. So you get a nighttime light show. And kids learn about the physics of motion and aerodynamics.
The Best Homegoods and Apparel for 11-Year-Olds
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.
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.
The Best Indoor Games for 11-Year-Olds
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.
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.
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