The Ultimate Gift Guide for Kids and T(w)eens

Jamie Davis Smith
Dec 9, 2019 · 15 min read
Boy opening gift
Boy opening gift

Gift giving season is here! If you don’t know where to start, for younger kids the old adage of “something they want, something need, something to ear, something to read” is a good place to start.

For tweens and teens who can be a little more particular knowing what’s hot and useful to them as they navigate transforming from a child into an adult can be helpful.

We have kid-and t(w)een endorsed ideas for all ages.

Something They Want:

Stomp Rocket: Get kids active even in the winter with the Dueling Rockets so that you can battle your kids to see who can shoot their rocket the highest in the air! Or, let the kids battle it out themselves. These foam rockets can be used safely indoors or outside.

Building Sets: Melissa & Doug has debuted new Magnatvity building sets that use magnets to form a variety of scenes including school, home, hospital, and more. Each set comes with play figures and kids can build each location in a variety of ways and mix-and-match sets.

Sleepy Lights: Most kids like a little light in their lives as they fall asleep. Enter Sleepy Lights that come in a variety of designs from trucks to mermaids. They appear to float in the dark and can be customized with just about any color and be set to stay on all night or be run on a timer.

Emoji-Notes: These Emoji-Note LED bases comes with a variety of styles from donuts to cellphone screen. Kids can stick the included emjois on the screen and then use the dry erase marker set that comes with the screen to put their own personal touch on their design.

SpongeBob: SpongeBob is big this year and a SpongeBob Masterpiece Meme (or the set) would make a great gift for any fan of Bikini Bottom to find under the tree.

Stuffies or a Surprise Doll: Kids and stuffies go together like peanut butter and jelly. Moosh-Moosh has been recommended by Autism Live and comes in all kinds of versions from sequins to flashlights so that kids can cuddle and read in bed. Or, surprise your child with a Na! Na! Na! Surprise 2-in-1 Fashion Doll that includes a poseable fashion doll and plush pom with a clip to attach to a purse or backpack.

Play Table: Get the toys off the floor and the crayons off your kitchen table with the addition of a pint-sized play table to the playroom. This adorable Paw Patrol set will both delight and help keep the mess contained. Matching toy storage bins and even a bed are also available and these items are available in other themes as well, including Frozen 2 and Mickey Mouse.

Mix-and-Match Stuffies: Take stuffies to the next level with Animoodles. These cute animals have magnetic arms, legs, and heads that can be removed and put on in different places to put an arm where the head should be or animal parts can be mixed-and-matched.

Dojo Battle: This battle set for two comes with swords and breastplates. The goal is to hit a button on the breastplate. The set keeps track of hits and makes a hit whenever a point is scored so kids can play without worrying about keeping score. It’s a great gift for siblings or to make playdates even more fun.

Trucks, Trucks, Trucks: If you have a young truck fan on your holiday list this iPlay, iLearn construction vehicle play set will be a huge hit. This set comes in its very own shipping container that does double duty as part of the play set and storage.

Rescue Heroes!: Rescue Hero fans will love this transforming firetruck with lights and sounds that expands to over two feet tall then folds up again into a firetruck that can on all kinds of adventures.

Pets Alive: Give your child a Zuru Pets Alive figure that has over 20 ways to interact and play so it won’t wind up forgotten once the New Year rolls around. It even comes with accessories, such as a carrot to feed the horse, and kids can teach their pet to talk by having it repeat words back. There are also larger, fuzzier versions like this cute Dancing Llama that is great for family dance parties.

Balloons: This one might be a little unusual, but the Bunch of Balloons Party Pump is a great choice for any kid who loves balloons, which is all of them. This pump can blow up 40 self-sealing balloons in under a minute and there is a helium attachment available.

Avengers Assemble!: Iron Man may have left the Marvel Cinematic Universe but his legend lives on. Any Marvel fan would be ecstatic to find this Iron Man Nerf Assembler Gear when they unwrap their gift. This unique design is worn right on the arm so kids can feel as they two possess superpowers. Of check out the gorgeous Marvel Alphablock: The Marvel Universe from A to Z to teach little ones the alphabet while introducing them to the best superheroes on the planet. Fans of the Avengers who also like DC Superhero’s will get a kick out of The Official DC Superhero Joke Book that will keep kids in stiches. Or, check out DC Superhero’s Who’s Who? by Morris Katz that is an adorably interactive way to teach kids all about secret identities.

Target Practice: This Hyperstrike Bow and Arrow set is designed with safety in mind with no sharp, pointy arrows. These soft arrows can be aimed with precise accuracy for tons of outdoor fun in the snow or sun.

PopPop Snotz: This shooter with a slightly gross theme is a gift that kids will love. This kid-friendly hammer comes with multiple pods filled with green, gooey slime that kids pop open to reveal a surprise. It’s a really fun twist on the popular hidden toy products that just about every child wants this year. Snot not your thing? These Little Shuckies Pearl Party shells are jewel-colored and can be opened to reveal a surprise in slime.

Play-Doh: Play-Doh is a classic for a reason. It’s fun to shape, great for building fine motor skills, inexpensive, and can last forever if you child remembers to put the lids on the containers! Play-Doh is fun on its own but it’s even more fun with a set like Kitchen Creations that comes with tools to make pizza and more.

Games: Fish for Fish is no ordinary table game. Instead, the fish are placed on the ground and kids try to catch them with the included, magnetic fishing poles. This fun, active game is something different kids will love playing! Or, try King of the Ring where kids try to be the last Sumo Standing. Younger kids will enjoy Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found it or Busy, Busy Airport while older kids will enjoy more challenging strategy games like Jaws or Villainous, based on Disney villains.

Star Wars: Star Wars is something kids and grown-ups can enjoy together and with a brand-new Star Wars movie being released during the holiday season, Star Wars items are bound to appear on the lists of both little and big people in your life. These Star Wars figures make a great gift as singles or a set of favorite characters. Or, for a definite crowd-pleaser grab a kid-safe lightsaber that lights up, makes sounds, and comes with access to training videos for just about $15.00.

Something to Wear:

Rain Gear: Kids can’t help but love rain gear from Western Chief. You decide whether it’s the matching Batman set with the raincoat with a cape or the Frozen 2 set with snowflakes to help pull on boots.

Clothing: Treat your child not just to something they need but to something you know they will love that’s a little special. Mori is a great choice for babies and toddlers for everything from adorable shirts to personalized sets.

Retro T-Shirts: Little people and big people alike will love the retro designed on Orange Heat t-shirts that are super-soft and super-cool. If you are lucky, your child will put on their new shirt Christmas morning to look sharp in photos.

PJs: Check out Little West for pajamas with adorable themes like ice cream and clouds (some with matching sets for Mom and Dad) and matching accessories like pillows.

Something They Need:

Snow Boots: Snow boots are a necessity for much of the country so that kids can head out and enjoy sledding and snowball sights. Kamik boots are stylish and super-warm and are available in toddler sizes on up.

Sunglasses: Get kids some shades that protect their eyes in snow and sun while keeping them looking chic. These sunglasses from Julo are not just practical but also cute!

Slippers: ​Winter means lots of time indoors trying to stay warm! These adorable slipper boots​ from Garnet Hill will delights kids with their colorful animal designs while keeping their toes toasty.

Swimwear: It may be winter but we can dream of warmer days! These adorable swimsuits from Snapper Rock will be a huge hit, especially if paired with accessories like matching flip-flops or cover-ups. And don’t worry, they have adult sizes too in matching styles.

Something to Read:

Kids Almanac: The 2020 National Geographic Kids Almanac is a fantastic way to get kids interested in learning about the world around them with up-to-the-minute facts and stats. There are even interviews with National Geographic Explorers and a kid-friendly challenge for the new year for kids who are inspired to help the environment.

A Book About Them: Dinkleboo has a great line of personalized books with themes ranging from Barbie to trucks. Books can be personalized with not just a child’s name but also skin tone, eye and hair color, and more. Or, let them write their very own Book with No Pictures with the clever My Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak that allows kids to fill-in-the-blank to create their very own tale.

Satisfy their Curiosity: National Geographic has an extensive kids’ line that answers the “why” on every child’s mind. The Little Kids First Big Book Collectors Set is a reference set just for the 4–8 crew that provides age-appropriate facts alongside the fantastic photographs you expect from National Geographic. Moving up in age, 5,000 Awesome Facts seeks to teach kids 8–12 facts about everything from dessert, underwear, amusement parks, pirates, famous criminals, marsupials, Ancient Egypt, famous landmarks, and anything else on the minds of pre-teens. Also geared towards your budding know-it-all is National Geographic Kids Why?: 1,111 Answers to Everything. The 2020 Guinness Book of World Records and Gamers Edition may give kids some outlandish ideas about what’s possible while teaching them about exceeding expectations and breaking records. Or, go a little more whimsical with The Very Short, Entirely True History of Unicorns by Sarah Laskow dives deep into the mythology surrounding unicorns and answers all of your child’s burning questions about this breathtaking creature.

An Awesome Series: Introducing a new series in a great way to introduce kids to In Zeus the Mighty Greek mythology meets cute talking animals in a great series that will introduce mythology in a way kids will love. The Best Friends Box is a great introduction to the ever-popular Diary of Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. Tweens will love The Knife in the Hall by Inc. Hasbro in which a young adult series based on the game Clue, but which takes place in a mansion that serves as a school. The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier is not just a book series but also a Netflix series about survival after the Monster Apocalypse. The boxed set of the Tales of Magic by Edward Eager packs four of the most popular books into the series into one perfect gift. This timeless tale that has been popular for over 60 years is ready to be enjoyed by a new generation. The Oregon Trail Be a Trailblazer box set by Jesse Wiley has four choose-your-own adventure books so that kids can create their own unique journey west

Just-Right Novel: Find books that will help develop a love of reading for a gift that will last a lifetime. Since a love of reading can’t be forced, it’s never a bad idea to provide kids with a selection of fiction and let them discover a new favorite. Cursed by Thomas Wheeler tells the story of an outcast heroine who discovers her power in this new take on The Sword and The Stone that will soon be a Netflix series. For kids who love graphic novels, Click and Camp by Kayla Miller that tell the story of trials and travails of the friendship between Olive and Willow.

The Best Picture Books: The Boy: His Stories and How They Came to be by Oliver Jeffers is a collection of four much-loved modern classics from the multi award-winning, internationally best-selling picture book creator including How to Catch a Star, Lost and Found, The Way Back Home Up and Down Also along with sketches and the stories behind the stories. For another Jeffers favorite check out The Fate of Fausto in which Fausto believes he owns everything and sets sail to survey what he believes is his. Goodnight Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle is the latest in the popular Little Blue Truck series and concerns a topic about which all little fans trucks can relate — the challenges of going to sleep. Speaking of sleep, parents who regularly hear “one more story” will appreciate the gift of Good Guys 5 Minute Stories so that you can agree to just one more story without pushing bedtime back too far while ensuring sweet super-hero tinged dreams. Here and Now is a great book by Julia Denos that teaches kids about the importance and slowing down and enjoying each moment.

Tweens & Teens:

Games: Tired your tween or teen using slang all time? Just embrace it with The Dude Card Game where players use all of the different ways to say Doode, Dewd,and Dude? Your kids won’t be laughing at you, they will be laughing with you. Tweens and Teens will also challenging strategy games like Jaws or Villainous, based on Disney villains.

Chill Out: Tweens and teens are dealing with a lot of changes. Encourage mindfulness with a mediation cushion from Sefte that is sophisticated enough to look at home in a teen’s room and comfy enough to serve double-duty as reading nook or place to sit while texting.

Good Skin: The teen years often wreak havoc on skin. Hydration, vitamin c, and other cleansers that will refresh as they cleanse and protect like those from c’Est beau 1872

Support Hobbies: Even hard-to-buy-for tweens and teens usually have some hobbies they would like some gear for. Try something like a Camelback Hydration Pack they can use for biking, hiking, or other sports. Or, try a Tapplock they can use to secure their bike or locker with a lock that can only be unlocked with their fingerprint so they don’t need to worry about forgetting a code or losing a key. The RoadwareZ cycling backpack is the first hands-free signaling backpack that allows riders to signal through the lights on the back with their voices. It’s great for getting to school or around town.

Cool Coffee Table Books: Show your tween or teen that you appreciate what they like. Gorgeous books like Art on Deck and The Art of Sneakers. Art on Deck explores the art on Supreme skateboard decks Exploring the history of Supreme’s artistic collaborations, from pieces with now-legendary contemporary artists including Kaws, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Christopher Wool, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince, as well as underground icons and includes photos, interviews and more. The Art of Sneakers is unique collection of works from 19 very different artists that created legendary sneaker designs.

Games: Tweens and Teens may have outgrown Candyland but they still like a good board game. Try Runes & Regulations: A Game of Suburban Sorcery for a fun game involving summoning mythical pets, casting powerful spells, and using enchanted household appliances, all the while dealing with the passive aggressiveness of a homeowner’s association.

Teen-Approved Fidgets: Tweens and teens are typically getting used to sitting down more doing more homework and reading. They will love these small, grown-up looking fidgets from Bruce Charles that Mom or Dad may want to steal for the office but will keep tweens and teens concentrating longer.

A Charge: Tweens and teens are likely perfecting the art of texting. Make sure they don’t run go phone-less lest you loose track of where they are. This MyCharger portable power bank is small, can plug into the wall so the power bank and phone can charge at the same time, and has extra cables so friends can power up together.

Stranger Things: Stranger Things is a hit with older tweens and teens and it sparked an interest in Dungeons and Dragons for many of them. Enter the Stranger Things-themed Dungeons and Dragons set which is perfect for introducing an entirely new generation of kids to Dungeons and Dragons via the Upside Down.

Mini-Backpack: Tweens and teens no longer rely on Mom & Dad to carry everything. Get them their very own catch-all like this adorable mini Unicorn Backpack from OMG Accessories. Get a coordinating wallet for when the time comes that they inevitably ask for a raise in allowance and need somewhere organized to keep their cash.

Bras for Teens: BraBar was formed specifically with teen girls in mind. A perfect fit can be ensured by measuring the band width and cup size so that teenage girls can learn how to get a bra that fits. Plus, they are cute and comfy and matching panties are available.

A Gratitude Journal or Family Recipe Book: This heirloom quality Write to Me gratitude journal is the perfect way to keep your tween or tween focused on how much they have to be thankful for even as they go through teen angst and face the struggles of growing up head-on. Or, set your teen up for always being able taste the comfort of home with a special family recipe book that they can start filling out now for when they fly the nest.

Google Mini: Tweens and teens enjoy things like listening to music and shouting to their parents from their rooms. Enter the Google Nest Mini that can do it all from playing music to helping them figure out what to wear and, of course, letting them communicate with you without ever leaving their room. Pair with a compatible game, like kNOW! which is a trivia game that is always up to date.

DribbleUp Smart Ball: Soccer and basketball players will absolutely go nuts over the smart balls from DribbleUp Ball that give them instant feedback on performance on factors like time, rep, and speed. Virtual coaches work with your child inside or outside through an app that can be used on just about any device.

Room Upgrade: Tweens and teens are usually ready for a room upgrade as they transition away from their “big kids” colors and tastes into something more sophisticated. A rug can make a big impact in brining a room up to date and up to t(w)een standards. Try a beautiful ombre rug that they will want to bring to college. Or, get a super-soft modern shag perfect for lounging and long nights staying up reading — or texting.

Music to Go: T(w)eens may carry their music in their pockets but when they want to listen with friend or playing sports they need something with more power than their phone. They will love this Braven rugged portable speaker that they can use to listen anywhere, anytime, with anyone.

Some New Wheels: Give your kid some speed with a new electric skateboard from Swagtron, like this model that doesn’t go above 10 miles per hour and is responsive to kids’ movements. Plus, the board automatically stops as soon as the rider dismounts so you don’t need to worry about a runaway board or your child not being able to stop in time. Plus, thanks to Giving is Swag you can get 5% off your purchase and Swagtron will donate 5% to a child in need. If you need more incentive, you can win a piece of swag signed by one of your favorite rock stars. For kids who go motor-less check out these scooters from Micro Kickboard with styles ranging from three wheels for the littlest scooting tykes to the ultra-versatile Rocket with wide wheels for greater stability and that folds up for easy storage and transport. Kick it up a notch with these scooter cones that work with anything with wheels to create an instant, interesting course wherever you go. Whenever kids hop on anything with wheels they need a helmet. Check out Nutcase helmets that come in every size from baby through adult sizes to ensure that noggin is protected.

Books: Poems to Live Your Life By curated by Chris Riddell contains poems by authors as diverse as Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Leonard Cohen, Lewis Carroll, John Keats, Christina Rossetti, Robert Frost, and Neil Gaiman. Every poem focuses on a theme that you t(w)een can turn to throughout life. The Last Human by Lee Bacon is soon to be a major motion picture. Let your kids read all about the world in which humans have been eliminated and society functions perfectly until a human girl is discovered before it hits the big screen. John Greene was named as one of Time’s 1oo most influential people and a box set of his books, including Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars make for great reading for teens. Newberry Award winner The Giver by Lois Livery has been adapted into graphic novel that makes this classic novel about a twelve year old boy who learns the secrets of his bland world that then bursts into color accessible to more readers with haunting illustrations by P. Craig Russel.

Better Sleep: It’s tough being a t(w)een when there is so much to do but you still need to get up early for school and sports. Enter the YNK Weighted Blanket that will help your t(w)een stay calm and fall asleep sooner and stay asleep longer. The Cooling Blanket is a good choice for use all year long but be sure to look at the other available options to find the right one for the not-quite-an-adult on your list. Or, for something wearable, check out the Comfy for a comfy wearable blanket for the kid who never wants to get out of their comfy bed or who falls asleep on the couch.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade