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The Absolute 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 bassist in Spinal Tap, your kid has turned it up to 11. That means it’s time to get some Christmas gifts that are age-appropriate. 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 and developing social lives. That makes gift ideas tricky and dependent on the specific interests of the 11-year-old in question. Some cling to childhood (check out these gift ideas for 10-year-olds as well) and some blossom quite suddenly into tweendom (check out gift ideas for 12-year-olds). Most, however, swing wildly back and forth between mature and immature behaviors — and remain more than happy to play with a good toy.

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 the developmentally appropriate toys and products that the 11-year-old in your life will most enjoy.

Best Toys for 11-Year-Olds

For the little gamer.

When the Nintendo Switch initially dropped, many shuddered at the price tag and wrote off the new console as prohibitively expensive. The Nintendo Switch Lite, almost $100 cheaper than the initial Switch, changes the game. It’s not as nice: the controllers can’t be detached and it can’t dock with the television. But it’s got a way longer battery life and is more durable, a positive for the clumsy gamer in your life.

STEM toys like this one teach your kids about robotics by way of vibrant mythical fire-breathing beasts.

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Got a kid who likes fantasy? 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. 

This featherlight flyer will satisfy your kid's craving for a drone, minus the camera and noise.

Yes, kids like drones. But drones are loud and expensive and sometimes prohibited. That’s why the Blade Nano is so great. It’s a lightweight, inexpensive alternative that can also be used safely indoors. Kids will love learning how to take off, land and perform cool mid-air moves, and the battery gets re-juiced with the USB charger. Despite its size, the Blade Nano is surprisingly durable, and extra rotor blades are included in case of crash landings, which is perfect for budding drone enthusiasts.

Kids can have a chemistry lesson without even knowing it when they blend their own fragrances.

This science kit teaches kids about essential oil extraction, and how to create their own perfumes or colognes. 

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.

With the Electric Motors Catalyst, kids get an introduction to electronics. The toy is 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.

Not all puzzles are created equal. This puzzle stands head and shoulders above other, more flimsy, more boring ones.

Jixelz, a puzzle set made up of hardy, sturdy, snap-together plastic pieces, is perfect for kids, largely because at the end of the puzzle, whatever a kid creates can be cherished for much longer than a flimsy cardboard creation. It doesn’t need to be glued together or framed to be enjoyed. And, unlike other puzzles, Jixelz has open-ended play options — puzzlers can build their own fun designs with the puzzle pieces or build according to the instructions on the box.

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. Much like the EasyBake before it, the Edible Candy Food Science Chemistry Kit helps kids make their own candy 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.

Boredom? What boredom? Kids get 809 K'NEX parts, pieces, and motor to build a working rollercoaster.

This rollercoaster is perfect for the virtual thrill seekers out there. Once kids are done building the rollercoaster, they can download the app and to ride it in virtual reality or digitally build the roller coaster of their dreams (or nightmares).

Our absolute favorite coding robot to date, Cozmo expresses hundreds of emotions, recognizes kids, and remembers names. Plus, kids can use him as a spy cam.

Kids can play games with Cozmo, sure. But what’s really cool is switching him into explorer mode and guide him to places, and see what he sees on a smartphone or tablet. He’s like a Wall-E, but in real life. He’ll even greet people on command. He’s great for kids eight and up.

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).

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.

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.

It’s not breaking news that kids love slime. This NatGeo set includes eight varieties of slime and putty including pre-made 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 of bridges, 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.

This might just be the ultimate 11-year-old birthday gift. 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.

Playfoam is a toy that encourages open-ended play and cooperation between friends and family members. One major goal of the foam is to create Playfoam accessories and have others guess what you made. That makes for good fun with a hands-on toy. Major plus: the PlayFoam won’t ruin  rugs or furniture.

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.

Struggling to find gift ideas for 11-year-old girls? This kit will please even a prickly one. She and her squad can use it to make a refreshing facial mask, 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.

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 a budding baker needs 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.

Growing crystals is already pretty cool experiment in and of itself. But to take those crystals and make them into custom, handmade jewelry? Now that’s cool. With this kit, kids can can showcase their 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.

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.

This Nerf means business. The speed-Load technology means there’s no time wasted sliding darts into the blaster one-by-one. Instead, simply slide them into the 50-dart 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. Enough Said. This 1,414 piece kit are enough for a lot of build time with enough nooks and crannies to stay interesting for a while, and is sure to bring Dad on board to build, too.

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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